Three days after it was reported that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel would announce plans for a new project that would include a new arena for the DePaul basketball program the mayor did just that, unveiling plans with the hope of beginning construction in 2014.
The multipurpose facility (which authorities hope will be completed in time for the 2016-17 season) will seat 10,000 and house both Blue Demon basketball programs, with the school and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority sharing the construction costs.
DePaul’s men’s basketball program has played the majority of its home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. since 1980, and if the project goes through as planned it will bring the Blue Demons back to the Windy City.
While the new development can serve as a catalyst to rejuvenate the neighborhood the question is this: can it also help rejuvenate a basketball program that has struggled for years? That’s the hope amongst those who support the team and the school at large.
“This facility will bring the Blue Demons much closer to the largest segment of our fan base and will add significantly to the momentum that our basketball programs have been building in recent years,” said DePaul president Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. in the release announcing the project.
In three season under Oliver Purnell the Blue Demons have avoided losing 20 games or more just once, going 12-19 in 2011-12. Since the program’s last NCAA tournament appearance in 2004, DePaul has won at least 20 games in a season just twice: 2004-05 (20-11 under Dave Leitao) and 2006-07 (20-14; Jerry Wainwright).
With the return of Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin coinciding with a “new beginning” of sorts in the reconfigured Big East, can DePaul begin moving in the right direction in 2013-14?
They’re going to need to, because for all that having a new building can do for a program there’s no better sales pitch than a winning product on the floor. That goes not only for season ticket holders and donors but also for recruits.
On DePaul’s 2012-13 roster just four players were natives of the Chicagoland area, with sophomore wing Jamee Crockett being the most productive of the bunch.
Could this project ultimately help DePaul on the recruiting trail in their own stomping grounds? That remains to be seen, but it won’t hurt to have plans for a new facility to show off.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.