Bulls: Practice center moving to Near West Side
Berto Center to replace a United Center parking lot; Entertainment complex on hold
11/16/2012 10:05 AM
The Bulls are doubling down on the Near West Side, moving their practice facility and team offices from Deerfield to one of the United Center’s many parking lots, the team formally announced Friday morning.
The move, rumored since this summer, marks another firm move towards transforming the United Center from an isolated island in the middle of the neighborhood into a vital piece of the community fabric.
The team’s new practice facility will be located on what’s now known as parking lot J, which sits south of Madison Street between Wood Street and the Pink Line tracks.
In June, when the team announced it would move from Deerfield’s Berto Center, Chicago Journal reported that lot J was a likely candidate for the new building.
According to a press release sent out Friday morning by the Bulls and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the 55,000 square-foot facility is expected to open in time for the 2014-2015 season. The team has already picked an architect and a construction company, and released a rendering of the new building Friday.
Moving the practice facility next to the United Center will allow the Bulls’ basketball operation and marketing staffs to work from the same area. Currently, the basketball operations group works out of the Berto Center in Deerfield while the marketing department works out of the United Center itself.
In the release, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf cited their desire to improve the neighborhood around the United Center in their decision.
“Investing in a modern facility for our players and coaches will help us to achieve our team’s number one goal — winning championships — while also playing an important role in the city’s ongoing redevelopment efforts in our West Side neighborhood,” Reinsdorf said.
He also credited Emanuel with the original idea.
“The Mayor stressed that the Bulls brand is important to the city, nationally and internationally, and that the Bulls represent the spirit and competitive grit of Chicago,” Reinsdorf said. “He thought centralizing our team assets inside the city limits would be a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to Chicago. We had been contemplating how to address the growing demands on our current practice facility for awhile, so the Mayor’s timing and ours made sense.”
The practice center’s relocation is one of several moves that could transform the area around the United Center. In February, Emanuel announced that Malcolm X College would get a new campus across Jackson Boulevard from its current building, replacing a parking lot often used for United Center events. Malcolm X’s old building is slated to become the new home for ChiArts High School.
But one key project is still up in the air: A proposed entertainment, retail and restaurant complex, pitched in May by Reinsdorf and Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz. Measuring in at about 262,522 square feet, it would sit directly between the United Center and the Bulls’ new practice facility.
A spokesman for the two owners said Friday morning that the project was still on hold. Sources told the Chicago Tribune that Reinsdorf and Wirtz are holding out in hopes of getting tax incentives for the arena extended.