Bulls moving practice facility to city
New building could replace another of United Center’s sprawling parking lots, complement proposed entertainment
06/13/2012 1:07 PM
The Chicago Bulls are leaving their practice facility in the north suburbs and moving a little closer to the House That Jordan Built, the team announced Wednesday morning.
After 21 years at the Berto Center in Deerfield, the Bulls will move the facility to the city. But just where the new Berto Center will sit remains unknown.
A source close to the situation said the practice center could replace one of the many sprawling parking lots surrounding the United Center on the Near West Side, part of a broader plan to redevelop the area around the arena.
If it moved near the United Center, the new Berto Center would join a retail, dining and entertainment proposal announced by the Bulls and Blackhawks in May. That plan would turn the lot immediately east of the arena, south of Madison Street and west of Wood Street into a 262,522-square-foot complex.
The source said the new practice center would not be a part of that project. However, it could sit on the parking lot directly east of the site.
It could help redevelop the area around the United Center, changing it from an island in the middle of the Near West Side surrounded by a moat of parking lots to a catalyst for the neighborhood. In Los Angeles, the Staples Center — home of the Lakers and Clippers in the NBA and the Kings in the NHL — has fostered a thriving entertainment mini-city known as L.A. Live.
In Chicago, demand for dining options near the arena has long been demonstrated by the long lines and packed bar on game days at the Billy Goat’s outpost a few blocks away at Ashland, Ogden and Madison. In recent years, West Loop bars and restaurants further east on Madison like Crossroads and Third Rail have made their name providing free shuttle buses to the arena for events. But few, if any, businesses capitalizing on the traffic have sprouted up west of Ashland.
And the retail/entertainment complex wouldn’t be the only other new project to take over a lot. Another of the lots serving the United Center, between Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street south of the arena, is slated to be redeveloped as well. The lot will be rebuilt as a new building for Malcolm X College’s new healthcare-focused curriculum by 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced earlier this year.
For their part, the Bulls did not say exactly where they would move their practice center, saying in a press release that they were planning to move it to “a downtown Chicago location” while adding that they were looking at a variety of locations around the city.
In a statement, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said Emanuel talked him into moving the Berto Center to the city.
“Mayor Emanuel has done a tremendous job promoting investment in the City of Chicago,” Reinsdorf said. “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. He thought centralizing our team assets inside the city limits would be a show of our ongoing commitment to Chicago. We have been contemplating how to address the growth limitations of our practice facility for a while, so the mayor’s timing and ours seems to make sense.”
There’s no timetable yet for the project, which would be privately funded, the statement said.
A new practice facility in the city would allow the Bulls to reduce commute times for their players on game days, the release said. Currently, the Bulls have mandatory shootarounds in Deerfield and then must commute to the United Center, often in rush-hour traffic.
Moving the practice facility to the United Center would also allow the Bulls’ basketball operation and marketing staffs to work from the same area. According to the Chicago Tribune, the basketball operations group works out of the Berto Center in Deerfield while the marketing department works out of the United Center itself.
“[T]he time is right for a move from both a basketball and a business standpoint,” Bulls President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Reinsdorf said in the statement. “Our basketball operations group has been incredibly resourceful, but there is no longer space available to grow where we are now. And, strategically, we are taking a more integrated approach to our business, and decreasing the physical distance between our two main facilities will naturally create more opportunities for collaboration among all departments.”
In a statement, Emanuel lauded the team’s move.
“On behalf of Chicagoans, I proudly welcome the Chicago Bulls back to the city,” he said. “From Michael Jordan to Derrick Rose, the Bulls have been intertwined with the city for decades and wonderful ambassadors for Chicago around the world. We look forward to welcoming the Bulls, their staff and their players back into the city and wish them continued success in the NBA.”