Chicago Bulls plan practice facility next to United Center - Dallas News |

Bulls plan practice facility next to United Center

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The Chicago Bulls announced plans Friday to build a new practice facility next to the United Center, four months after the franchise first decided that they wanted to move from the current spot in Deerfield to a location closer to downtown.

The new facility will be built in Parking Lot J, which sits east of the United Center across South Wood Street between Monroe and Madison Streets. The project is expected be finished in time for the 2014-15 NBA season.

"Today's announcement is the latest example of our long-lasting commitment to the City of Chicago and to our fans," Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "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.''

The Bulls have been practicing at the Sheri L. Berto Center in Deerfield since 1992, which they will now look to sell.

Mayoral spokesman Tom Alexander said there was "no tax incentive asked for or received" for the practice facility project.

A Bulls representative agreed that there has been "no resolution" of Reinsdorf's request for an extension of the property tax break for the United Center that expires in 2016.

"Nothing else has been resolved or discussed. The announcement [about the practice facility] is specific. It's separate and aside from any talk about a cap, certainty or tax formula. That continues until it expires" in four years, the Bulls source said.

A source familiar with the negotiations said the Bulls would not be moving forward on the practice center if they did not have at least the broad parameters of a deal involving future property taxes for the United Center complex.

"They're announcing the pieces separately, but the whole package [including the retail center] is all done. The taxes will go up, but they'll be capped," the source said.

Alexander dismissed that idea.

"I can tell you that this deal is an isolated deal and that absolutely no assurances have been made regarding the United Center or any other proposed deals around the United Center," he said.

To coincide with his decision to move the Bulls practice facility to Chicago and build a $95 million entertainment complex on the east side of the United Center, Reinsdorf wants the city and state to extend the lucrative tax break that has saved the Bulls and Blackhawks tens of millions of dollars on property tax bills assessed against the United Center.

The tax break, first disclosed by the Chicago Sun-Times in 1995, is due to expire in 2016. It all but limits real estate taxes on the $180 million stadium to $1 million-a-year, a fraction of the amount paid by Arlington International Racecourse and the Presidential Towers apartment complex, which cost the same to build.

Alexander insisted that the $1 million is an annual "minimum — not a cap" and that the overall property tax bill for the United Center is "based on a formula, but it's at least $1 million."

On the day the Bulls disclosed their plans to leave Deerfield for Chicago, Emanuel did not rule out an extension of the lucrative property tax break.

The mayor would only say he would "represent the taxpayers and make sure they're not taken to the cleaners" to help a professional sports franchise.

"There will no sweetheart deals and there has been no discussion. This was purely bringing the Bulls home in the off-season to sweet home Chicago….You are a Chicago basketball team. What are you doing practicing in Deerfield? Let the people of Deerfield come down to Chicago and spend some money…if you want to see them practice," the mayor said.

Reminded that there has been a sweetheart deal, Emanuel said, "I got that." But, he said the new round of negotiations would be on "a different set of terms" to protect Chicago taxpayers.

"No business has the same terms as they had 20 years ago…. And when we have that discussion, that's gonna be my attitude…"I'm not a pushover and I'm gonna make sure the taxpayers get a good deal," the mayor said.

"I'm glad that the Bulls are expanding. I'm glad they're gonna spend $95 million. I'm glad they're gonna create jobs and I'm glad they're moving the Bulls back. But, that doesn't mean you get what you got before."

The mayor also acknowledged the possibility of creating a new CTA stop that would serve both the United Center as well as a new Malcolm X College he plans to build adjacent to the old one now located east of the United Center.

"I'm proud we're gonna have what we have over at Malcolm X. It's not lost on me that [United Center stop] would be helpful, but we're not there yet on the resources," the mayor said.

Alexander was asked whether the Bulls' decision to build near the United Center means that DePaul University and the McPier Authority would build a separate basketball arena for DePaul near McCormick Place.

"DePaul and the Bulls have always been and continue to be completely separate endeavors," Alexander said.

"The mayor has been very clear: He would like DePaul to come back to Chicago to play basketball. But, there is no deal in place for that—at McCormick Place or anywhere else in Chicago.

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