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Designer appointed for DePaul University basketball arena in Chicago

The board of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) has appointed Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects to design the new 10,000-seat arena for the DePaul University basketball team at McCormick Place. The authority will own the multi-use arena and DePaul will be a tenant.

The $173 million arena will host general sessions for large conventions and trade shows and DePaul University basketball. The design calls for spaces for restaurants, coffeehouses and retail shops along its perimeter. The bowl is below ground, as are many back of house functions. A bridge will connect the arena, with its 22 skyboxes, to the convention centre.

Opening is planned for late 2016 to tie in with other plans for the McCormick Place entertainment district. The convention authority and DePaul will each provide $70 million for construction, and the city is expected to provide about $33 million for land acquisition.

Fred Clarke, Senior Principal of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects said:

We have designed a light, luminous event centre that we hope will be a good neighbour and a dynamic expression of the events that it will house. Its gently arching roof, visible from surrounding buildings and streets, will tie architecture to the image of DePaul basketball and McCormick Place events.

MPEA CEO Jim Reilly said:

The dynamic yet elegant design created by Pelli Clarke Pelli for the event centre fits perfectly into the fabric of the community. The firm’s innovative design provides a functional and flexible space that will make the event centre a wonderful complement to the convention centre. The quality and distinction of this design will support our goal of attracting new business and serve as a catalyst to further enhance the economic vitality of the South Loop.

The MPEA Board’s decision followed a two-phase Request for Proposals (RFP) process that sought “professionally respected and admired design architects” known for “striking, imaginative and innovative buildings” that “generate public enthusiasm and become major urban attractions.” MPEA asked that the facility be “sensitive and accommodating” to the surrounding neighbourhood. A nine-member evaluation committee oversaw the process, with three representatives each from MPEA, the City of Chicago and DePaul.

Five other architects competed for the project, worth $7.2 million: John Ronan Architects; Krueck + Sexton Architects; Ross Barney Architects; Grimshaw Architects; OMA/AMO Architecture.