While the Bulls spent the past season practicing at the spacious, state-of-the-art Advocate Center, enjoying two courts, state-of-the-art weight rooms and workout facilities, expansive locker rooms and top-tier training facilities — all right next door to the United Center — the Blackhawks crammed into a cramped locker room at bare-bones Johnny’s IceHouse West, a mile down the road on Madison Street.
They won’t have to for much longer, however.
The Blackhawks will build a new practice facility and community ice center on the current site of Malcolm X College, just south of the United Center, mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce on Thursday.
Construction of the 125,000 square foot complex, which will house two ice rinks, will begin next year and is expected to be completed within two years. Malcolm X College is relocating across the street next year. Providing a facility that can support youth hockey was a key facet of the project for Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz.
“I think it’s important – the youth hockey side of it is [one reason] we’ve been working with the city to build a practice facility in the city,” Wirtz said during the Stanley Cup Final. “As you know, we only have three or four indoor ice surfaces now. If generally a boy or girl doesn’t know how to skate, they’re never going to play hockey. I think it’s something that we as an organization can really promote. So we’re talking about building an indoor arena with two ice surfaces. Ninety-five percent would be for the community; somewhere around the United Center. We’re working with the city with that location. So I think that would be exciting.”
Last year, the Sun-Times reported that Wirtz was “reluctant” to green-light a practice facility — then planned to be about 70,000 square feet on the current site of Lot E, just northeast of the United Center — unless Cook County and the city agreed not to hike the amusement tax, which was at 12 percent. Wirtz has voiced his concerns over the amusement tax several times. Emanuel will announce the deal on Thursday.