Two new sports facilities to benefit the Near South and West Haven communities
November 2, 2017

Graphic courtesy DePaul University
The newly constructed Wintrust Arena will bring concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment to the Near South community. The $170 million facilty seats 10,000.

By Rick Romano

The city’s Near South and West Haven communities are about to enjoy and play host to the sporting life in brand new ways.

Wintrust Arena, a $170 million, 10,000-seat facility, has opened at 200 E. Cermak Rd. as the latest jewel in the McCormick Square campus of entertainment facilities. It will host additional entertainment and be home to local college and professional basketball teams. 

After a November opening, in mid-December the Chicago Blackhawks anticipate dedicating their $65 million, 125,000-square-foot MB Ice Arena – Chicago Blackhawks Community Rink at 1801 W. Jackson Blvd. at Wood Street, just a few blocks from their United Center home ice. It will feature two NHL-size rinks as a community facility dedicated more than 90% to youth and adult hockey leagues.

For each venue, facility leadership explained its mission and tenants express enthusiasm for their new “home.”

Wintrust Arena

Facility manager David Kennedy, a veteran organizer of high profile events such as Taste of Chicago, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and various victory parades for the Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, and Cubs, said Wintrust is a much different assignment, though similar in needing to manage large crowds. His chief marketing officer, Barnaby Dinges, said they aim to provide family activities such as DePaul men’s and women’s basketball games and other entertainment.

“We expect to attract people from all over, but we also are within walking distance of neighborhoods, so many local people can attend,” Dinges said. “We expect to attract about 50 events a year.”

Dinges and 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell noted the arena also has helped revitalize nearby Bronzeville and Motor Row.

“We look forward to an exciting season of sports and entertainment,” Dowell said.

Coaches of teams associated with Chicago who have played home games at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena said they are excited to move those games back to the city. The DePaul Blue Demons men’s and women’s basketball teams and the Chicago Sky professional women’s basketball team will play at Wintrust.

“We are extremely excited to be at Wintrust, and there is a new energy and vibe,” said Greg Greenwell, DePaul University’s associate athletic director for communications. “We also helped open Allstate in 1980.”

Greenwell said Wintrust provides more than just a place to play home games.

“Wintrust is available for us to practice, and it has plenty of meeting rooms and all the amenities to run our programs,” he said. “We’ll also host  other programs there, such as graduation ceremonies. These were all the factors that we evaluated in making the decision to move.”

Also moving from the Allstate Arena is the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Chicago Sky. Amber Stocks, general manager and coach, likes the move.

“We are very excited to be playing in the city,” Stocks said. “The beauty of Chicago is that it is so big, with a great fan base. Wintrust has a certain vibrancy. It’s state-of-the-art, a place where the players’ talents can be showcased.”

Stocks added that the Wintrust partnership also will enhance her organization’s Sky Cares program that focuses on inspiring women, health and wellness, diversity and inclusion, and supporting military troops.

For more on the Wintrust Arena, log on to https://wintrustarena.com or call (312) 791-6900.

Graphic courtesy MB Financial
The MB Ice Arena-Chicago Blackhawks Community Rink will benefit the local community as well as the National Hockey League team.

MB Ice Arena – Chicago Blackhawks Community Rink

The MB Ice Arena-Chicago Blackhawks Community Rink will serve as both a practice facility for the Blackhawks and a recreational space for the community.

When the Chicago Blackhawks in early October announced a partnership with MB Financial Bank for the naming rights to the facility, chairman Rocky Wirtz reiterated “an unconditional commitment to give back to the community. The Wirtz family and the Chicago Blackhawks organization are proud of what this facility will mean to Chicago’s youth.”

Mitch Feiger, CEO and president of MB Financial, said the partnership with the Blackhawks is built on a shared vision “to build strong and vibrant communities where we live and work.”

In addition to the two NHL regulation-size rinks, the facility will house 22 team and public locker rooms, medical and rehab facilities, a public fitness training center, and a media center. Additional amenities include public school classrooms hosting health, fitness, wellness, nutrition, and physical fitness programs as well as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education offerings. The facility also will include a restaurant, coffee shop, rooftop deck, and space for public functions.

As part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ community outreach efforts, the MB Ice Arena will serve as a hub for youth hockey development programs, recreational leagues, and high school teams. Several two local youth hockey programs are set to use the facility. Chicago Mission AAA Hockey Club will call the facility their home rink. Its director, Gino Cavallini, said, “The state of the art facilities will provide us with the chance to further expand our training programs and continue to put Mission alumni in positions to succeed both on and off the ice.”

Saint Ignatius College Prep also will call the new rink its home. Athletic director Paul Ickes said the hockey program, a club sport, now will be able to have one home instead of spreading its practice and game times to multiple facilities.

“When we unveiled to our hockey families what was going to happen, people were excited,” Ickes said. “Not many young hockey players get this kind of opportunity. It’s not just the ice, it’s the whole environment—the meeting rooms, the ability to use video, and the opportunity to do a special event there at some point.”

Ickes also noted players will participate with the Blackhawks community outreach efforts for youth including learn to skate programs.

“This is an opportunity to be associated with one of the best franchises in all of professional sports,” Ickes said. “They have made the kind of major commitment which you don’t always see.”       

The Little Blackhawks Learn to play program, the Chicago Stallions, and the Chicago Jets programs also will use the facility.

For more on the MB Ice Arena, log on to http://www.blackhawkscommunityicearena.com/ or email ahahn@chicagoblackhawks.com.