Chicago Eyeing Events Center?

A $300 million, 12,000-seat arena may rise at Chicago’s McCormick Place for DePaul University, with at least some help from taxpayers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was expected to announce at press time.

Two “mega” hotels, expected to boost the Windy City’s convention and meeting business, are apparently also part of the deal.

Sources told the Chicago Sun-Times that Emanuel would make the plan public “this week” – meaning the week ending May 18. No announcement was forthcoming at press time.

The financial plan calls for a “shared burden” of resources, the paper reported, “to be divvied up among DePaul University, private sponsorship, taxpayer money that is in a McPier Bond fund, and possibly city tax-increment financing money.”

But the secrecy and the resultant speculation also points to a long-rumored plan for a casino development in the area.
“If I was a betting person, I would say McCormick Place is where you’re going to find a Chicago casino,” an official who participated in the discussions told the Sun-Times. “I would guarantee you that’s where it’s going.”

One of the two “mega hotels” is tentatively planned for a site directly north of McCormick Place. A site west of McCormick Place is reportedly under consideration as the arena location.

Emanuel’s office was keeping mum about any specific announcement, however, aside from a non-committal statement sent to the paper by a spokesman for the mayor’s office. And it included no mention of a casino.

“Mayor Emanuel has stated repeatedly that a vibrant convention industry and the thousands of jobs it supports are critical to Chicago’s economic future,” the statement read. “When there is something to announce, we will announce it.”
But it did acknowledge something is afoot at McCormick Place.

“However, we can also confirm we are in discussions to create a state-of-the-art events center at McCormick Place, which would increase our ability to attract conventions and trade shows to the city, set up the city to host top-level sporting events of all kinds, and create many new opportunities for the Chicago Pulic Schools and its students.

“This will be part of a major, multi-faceted, coordinated effort to dramatically improve the convention and tourism industry in Chicago.”