Blackhawks give sneak peak of new $65 million practice center

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel chats with Blackhawks player Patrick Kane during a tour of the team’s community ice arena and practice facility, 1801 W. Jackson Blvd. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

With Chicago at the center of the hockey universe as host of this weekend’s NHL draft, the Blackhawks on Friday offered a sneak peak at their nearly-completed, double-rink practice facility that will double as a West Side recreation center.

Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz, super-star Patrick Kane, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman led reporters on a guided tour through a building Emanuel called the “new gold standard” for NHL training.

The 125,000 square-foot, $65 million center is expected to open in November on the site of the old Malcolm X College, 1801 W. Jackson.

For Kane, the new facility could make the difference between another Stanley Cup and last season’s first-round exit in the NHL Playoffs.

It includes the hockey equivalent of a batting cage: two “rapid shot” practice rooms where they can perfect their shots. The center also features a massive weight room and exhaust systems behind the locker room to dry off uniforms and equipment faster and cut down the odor.

The Blackhawks rink will be located on the east end of the building. The rink on the west end of the building will be “100 percent dedicated to community use.”

There will be a giant lounge and viewing area above so parents can watch their kids, then race over to the other side hoping to catch a glimpse of the real thing.

“There’s certain things in practice that you work on. But off the ice, you want to work on certain things, too. Whether it’s keeping your body in shape, or working on your shot or stick handling. I’m excited about those things,” Kane said.

He added, “You want to have everything there for you where you can just focus completely on hockey and focus on getting better. This is a place it seems like we’ll all love coming to.”

The 11-acre site is being shared by the Hawks, with four acres, and Rush University Medical Center, which is building a $500 million academic village on its seven acres.

Together, the Blackhawks and Rush paid $26.7 million for the land. That matches the value placed on the 486,526 square feet of land by the city’s third-party appraiser.

But only $24.3 million of that money was paid in cash. The rest will be a credit for “community benefits.”

The Hawks estimate that the community would have access to the two-rink facility 50 percent of the time. They have pegged the value of community benefits at $3 million over five years.

Wirtz said two rinks will accommodate the “explosion” of youth and women’s hockey triggered by the Hawks’ three Stanley Cup championships and still allow Blackhawks Charities to oversee year-round programs and clinics for under-privileged youths.

“I look at it like if you have the nicest house on the block and you’re never invited into that house. This is for the community. This is for everyone in the neighborhood,” Wirtz said.

Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during a tour of the team’s community ice arena and practice facility, 1801 W. Jackson Blvd. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during a tour of the team’s community ice arena and practice facility, 1801 W. Jackson Blvd. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Emanuel applauded the Hawks for going the extra mile for the community—again.

“Not just for the players. Not just for the coaches. But for the community and all the kids who aspire one day to be on the east rink, rather than the west rink,” the mayor said.


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