MIKE NIETO: A slam dunk for DePaul, Chicago

2013-05-16T19:15:00Z 2014-06-27T23:00:27Z MIKE NIETO: A slam dunk for DePaul, ChicagoMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
May 16, 2013 7:15 pm  • 

It appears to be the perfect private-public partnership.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his "Elevate Chicago" program Thursday which established a McCormick Place entertainment corridor, along with the redevelopment of Navy Pier.

It also brings 37,000 construction and 10,000 permanent jobs to the city as a hotel and restaurants are planned.

It includes a 10,000-set arena in which the DePaul men's basketball team will play its home games, starting in the 2016-17 season.

DePaul athletics director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, a Seton graduate, is excited about the venture, though the first shovels don't go into the ground until 2014.

"DePaul benefits and the whole city benefits from this," Lenti Ponsetto said. "Think of the jobs created and what that will do for the area around McCormick Place.

"This is a state-of-the-art facility and we are proud to be playing in it."

DePaul has been talking about moving from the 17,000-set Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont, but needed a place. This is a perfect fit, though it is not on-campus.

Land in Lincoln Park is scare and expensive. Forty years ago, you could have bought a block for a song, but with the gentrification of the area in the 1980s, Lincoln Park became hip.

The question is, can DePaul put a good product out?

It has struggled in the old Big East, though Oliver Purnell's team has made improvements the past two years. The new arena should help with recruiting, said Lenti Ponsetto.

"Just when we were talking about the new arena, I think it helped with our recruiting," Lenti Ponsetto said. "When you go from our campus to the new arena, you go through downtown, the most beautiful part of Chicago.

"If you are downtown, you are three El stops from Indiana (avenue) an Cermak (Road), a half-hour from our Lincoln Park campus."

She also noted for South Siders and Northwest Indiana fans, it is a lot better than taking the Illinois Tollway to the Allstate Arena.

"It opens up to them," Lenti Ponsetto said. "It will be easily accessible and they can make a night of it because they are not that far away. I am sure our alumni and fans in those areas are excited as well."

Purnell has a few years to get the program on the winning side and with the likes of Georgetown, Marquette and Creighton coming to town, a good product will sell the place out.

While a new venue won't guarantee success on the court, it does help in recruiting, which can make them better on the court.

 This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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