11-3-04 - Chicago - Aerial view of United Center and Chicago skyline - Photo by John J. Kim/Sun-Times

Bulls, Blackhawks owners seeking huge expansion of United Center

SHARE Bulls, Blackhawks owners seeking huge expansion of United Center
SHARE Bulls, Blackhawks owners seeking huge expansion of United Center

A big expansion is being planned at the United Center.

Owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Rocky Wirtz want to create a 263,000-square-foot retail-and-entertainment center on the east side of the stadium that would add four restaurants, four bars, a team store, an event space, team offices, parking, a terrace, an atrium and a green roof, according to Metropolitan Planning Council documents.

The estimated $80 million expansion would be paid for by the owners, but they want an extension on legislation that caps property taxes on the United Center until 2017, according to a source familiar with the proposal.

The new facility would be built on Lot H, known as the “Michael Jordan” lot for its statue of the Bulls legend. “He’d have a roof over him” with the new venue, which would link to the United Center via an atrium, the source said.

“It’s like a mall attached to a sports arena,” the source said.

The plan, which was first reported in Crain’s Chicago Business, has been percolating for a while, but Reinsdorf and Wirtz are preparing to talk up the proposal to city and state officials, according to the source.

The thinking behind the concept – which was analyzed by the Metropolitan Planning Council [MPC] – was that it would make money, create jobs, and “all they’re losing is the parking lot,” the source said. Adequate parking wouldn’t be an issue because the United Center would still have enough spaces, the source said.

One goal is to attract people to linger around the United Center. “It creates another visitor destination,” the source said.

The MPC said the proposal would create about 505 long-term service jobs and 289 short-term construction jobs and bring in additional state and local tax revenues.

Reading from a statement late Saturday, a spokesman for Reinsdorf and Wirtz said: “These are ideas and concepts that ownership has been discussing for a while. There are a lot of thoughts on the table and a lot of interest as to what it means to the United Center complex, and of course, the city of Chicago. Nothing is imminent, nor is anything out of the question. United Center ownership looks forward to discussing all of this in better detail in the proper setting at the proper time.”

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