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Project that includes a new arena for DePaul more complicated than anticipated

Aug 1, 2013, 5:05 PM EST

Oliver Purnell

Last Wednesday it was reported that plans to build a new arena at Chicago’s McCormick Place, which will be home to the DePaul men’s basketball program as well as other city events, were approved unanimously by the Chicago City Council.

But that isn’t the case, according to the Chicago Tribune, which reported on July 28 that “city and McCormick Place officials will have to pry land from three prominent corporate entities with ties to the university, City Hall and Springfield” in order to begin the project.

And as fate should have it, one of the corporate entities the parties would have to negotiate with is DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame member Victor J. Cacciatore Sr., whose family is majority owner of Lakeside Bank.

To build a facility that will draw DePaul’s basketball games back to the city after a long run in suburban Rosemont, McPier will have to strike a deal with a man whom the university inducted into its Athletic Hall of Fame.

The parcel at 2141 S. Indiana Ave. is owned by Lakeside Bank, and Cacciatore still runs the longtime Chicago financial firm as chairman and CEO. He served on DePaul’s board for decades, starting in 1973, and has been a prominent fundraiser for the university.

His family’s contributions to DePaul exceed $1 million, including what the university called “the largest outright gift in DePaul athletics history” for upgrades to its soccer and softball facility that bears the name “Cacciatore Stadium.”

Why has this project become such a hot-button topic in Chicago political circles? One major reason is what’s been going on with the Chicago public school system. On July 24, Chicago Public Schools announced a new budget for the 2013-14 academic year that includes some $68 million in budget cuts.

As a result 49 schools were expected to be closed, and on Wednesday the Chicago Teachers Union saw its motion to halt the closing of ten schools denied by a Cook County judge. Over the next two days there will be public hearings on the new CPS budget, with a final vote to come on August 24.

Whether it’s the school system or the need to negotiate deals with business owners in the proposed area for the new arena, it looks as if things won’t move at the pace those in favor of building the facility would like them to.

A new arena to show off to recruits and donors will help DePaul on the basketball court, although how much of a boost the programs receive remains to be seen. But how long will the process take? That’s anyone’s guess right now.

  1. Mike Marshall - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    I categorically reject the idea that throwing money at Chicago Schools will “help”. They already spend nearly $12,000 per student every year. CPS teachers earn 20% more on average than teachers in the 50 largest school districts in the country, and the average teacher salary in Chicago is greater than $70,000/year.

    Is this the way it’s going to work? Every time the City wants to spend money to prop up one aspect of the local economy (…in this case, tourism/conventions), the CTU gets to cry poor, despite the facts?

  2. garyd7 - Aug 2, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    Glad to report the article is flawed. The City Council did not approve the Arena and they should not. We need to spend out city tax money wisely. A stadium that will not be used fully, next to a convention center that is not used fully and that has a 4000 seat auditorium that was just renovated (and hardly used), is a way to lose more money. The space could be used for restaurants, stores or another attraction to bring money and development to the area. The tax funds could be used to help our schools that need it, or to hire more police so we can cut down on overtime.

    This is a note from the Alderman of the 3rd Ward, for this part of Chicago, about this article:

    “The article is false. The vote was to give the city the eminent domain authority to take the land needed for the Headquarters hotel to be built on the southeast corner of 22nd and Michigan. There were specific parcels called out, none to be used for the proposed event center.

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