The Chicago Bulls are leaving their practice facility in the north suburbs to move a little closer to the “House That Jordan Built,” the team has announced.
After 21 years at the Berto Center in Deerfield, the Bulls will move their headquarters, which houses the team’s practice space and basketball operations, to the city at a still-to-be determined location. A source close to the situation said the new facility could replace one of the many sprawling parking lots surrounding the United Center, part of the team’s broader vision to redevelop the area around the West Side 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 260,000-plus square-foot complex.
According to the source, the new center, though not a part of that broader plan, could sit on the parking lot directly east of the project site. It could also help redevelop the area around the UC, transforming it from an “island” in the middle of the Near West Side to a catalyst for the neighborhood. In Los Angeles, the Staples Center – home of the NBA Lakers and Clippers, and NHL Kings – has fostered a thriving entertainment mini-city known as L.A. Live.
In Chicago, dining options near the arena has remained in demand, demonstrated by the long lines and packed bar at Billy Goat’s Tavern, a few blocks away at Ogden and Madison, on game days . In recent years, West Loop bars and restaurants further east on Madison 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.
The proposed retail/entertainment complex wouldn’t be the only 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. By 2015, the lot will become home to a new building for Malcolm X College and its revamped healthcare-focused curriculum.
For their part, the Bulls did not specify where they would move their headquarters. A press release by the team stated they were planning to move it to “a downtown Chicago location,” adding that they were looking at a variety of locations around the city.
There’s no timetable yet for the project, which would be privately funded, according to the press release.
A new Chicago Bulls practice facility in the city, perhaps even on the West Side, would also allow the players reduced commute times on game days, team officials said in a press release.
Currently, the Bulls have mandatory shootarounds at The Berto Center in Deerfield and then must commute to the United Center usually during rush-hour. Relocating inside the United Center itself would also join the team’s basketball operations with its marketing department, whose staff is currently housed at United Center.
“[T]he time is right for a move from both a basketball and a business standpoint,” Bulls President and CEO Michael Reinsdorf said in a press statement. “Our basketball operations group has been incredibly resourceful, but there is no longer space available to grow where we are now.ÊAnd, strategically, we are taking a more integrated approach to our business, and decreasing the physical distance between our two main facilities…”
In a press statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel lauded the team’s decision to relocate.
“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.”
Ben Meyerson is editor of Chicago Journal