Kapos: A peek inside the DePaul Blue Demons’ new basketball arena

SHARE Kapos: A peek inside the DePaul Blue Demons’ new basketball arena

Columnist Shia Kapos was taken on a hard-hat tour of Wintrust Area by John Nicolls, senior director of development at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. | Shia Kapos/Sun-Times

The $564 million McCormick Square project that includes the Wintrust Arena and Marriott Marquis Chicago hotel is two-thirds finished and on track to open in about six months.

I got a hard-hat tour of the development from officials with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

Noticeable right away is how close even the upper bowl seats are to the court. Games will be in full view, too, as you cruise the main concourse for concessions.

Maybe Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects have Leonardo daVinci’s Mona Lisa in mind, with eyes following you wherever you go.

“It’s going to feel more intimate than the United Center or Allstate Arena,” says John Nicolls, senior director of development at McPier. “Instead of seating that seems vertical, you’re going to feel like you’re in the game.”

The student section at the north end is close to the basket — better for tormenting opponents.

Masonite panels have been laid to protect concrete floor that will be exposed for concerts and events.

Outdoor work has been slowed some by winter winds, but Nicolls says the buildings will open virtually on time. The hotel debuts in August and the arena in September. A crew of 650 is working on the hotel and 150 on the arena .

Other features by the numbers:

A huge scoreboard (not yet up) is the priciest single item — about $1 million — of the $164 million arena project. A big-screen also will adorn the outside of the arena.

Season ticket holders’ seats are steps from the front door.

The arena will handle about 500,000 attendees each year for DePaul Blue Demon basketball games, concerts, sporting events and trade shows.

The venue seats 10,387, including seats in 21 suites and a separate VIP section.

The Marriott is connected to the arena and features 1,205 rooms, a bar and restaurant area, two 25,000-square-foot ballrooms that can be divided into smaller salons and some 46,000 square feet of meeting space. Fiber optics will run throughout the building and allow plenty of bandwidth in every room.

A walkway over Cermak Road allows easy access from the garage to the south of the event center and Marriott.

A park on the north will include a jungle gym, spray fountain and dog park.

And the landmark American Book Co. building will connect the new project to Hyatt Regency McCormick and feature a new restaurant.

Chance meeting with Rauner

Chance the Rapper says he’ll meet with Gov. Bruce Rauner on March 1. | Sun-Times file photo

Chance the Rapper says he’ll meet with Gov. Bruce Rauner on March 1. | Sun-Times file photo

Grammy winner Chance the Rapper tweeted Monday that he’ll meet with Gov. Bruce Rauner on March 1.

“I’m meeting privately with the governor Wednesday. The two of us will address funding education in Chicago. I’m eager to hear his ideas,” the Chicago rap star wrote.

After the Grammys, Rauner sent a congratulatory tweet to Chance, who said he’d “love” to meet.

The musician is comfortable talking to politicos. Chance’s dad is Ken Bennett, a former aide in the Obama administration who went on to work for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and is now an executive at Choose Chicago.

Celebrating birthdays in style

Maria Pinto | Provided photo

Maria Pinto | Provided photo

When big names reach big birthdays, the bubbly flows.

Maria Pinto, the fashion designer who’s dressed Michelle Obama and other stars, celebrated at Sepia with about 60 pals (the number in honor of her big day).

“Friends came from Spain and New York. It makes you feel appreciated,” she says.

Among the notables was her twin brother, Joseph Pinto.

Are they close? You bet, she told guests. A few years ago, while trying out Match.com for a date, guess whose picture popped up as a perfect match? Joseph Pinto! Funny story, but she quit the site soon after.

The theme of Pinto’s party was Triple D — as in drinks, dancing and dessert.

“They say 60 is the new 40. I’m counting on it,” she says.

So how old does that make Robbie Robinson? A managing director at Byron Trott‘s BDT Capital Partners investment and advisory company, he recently celebrated his big 4-0 at the Arts Club.

Former ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman threw a big surprise party for his wife, Vicki Heyman, too. The event marking her 60th was held at Morgan Manufacturing and drew some 300 guests, including ambassadors from around the country and a hundred friends from Canada.

Strutting their stuff for YWCA

Sam Toia | Provided photo

Sam Toia | Provided photo

Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Spencer Leak Jr., a vice president at Leak & Sons Funeral Homes, and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer will strut their stuff on the runway to benefit the YWCA Chicago.

The New Look of Leadership fundraiser is March 26 and honors business and community leaders who stand up for racial equality and the advancement of women.

Instead of standing at a podium, they’ll take to the runway.

Mika Stambaugh, a consultant with C-Strategies, and CBS 2 journalist Brad Edwards will emcee. Stambaugh also serves on the YWCA board.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.

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