Janis Foresees New DePaul Arena as `Wrigley Field---South'
May 17, 2016
CHICAGO - If Bob Janis' vision holds true, there's going to be a whole lot of celebrating, partying and most importantly---winning---going on in the South Loop come 2017 and beyond.
When the DePaul Vice President of Facilities Operations was asked about the impact of the McCormick Place Event Center and new basketball arena that is coming up fast, Janis knocked it out of the park with a terrific analogy.
"There is just going to be a whole new synergy and dynamic down here, and we're going to be right in the middle of everything," Janis said. "They are going to call it the DePaul version of Wrigley Field on the south end of the Loop."
Transforming the Blue Demon men's basketball program into a wintertime version of the insane winning taking place at Clark & Addison is every DePaul fan's dream. Consider some of the crossover appeal from the land of ivy to We Are DePaul.
The lyrics to the Cubs' song could be adjusted to: "Hey-hey, holy mackerel, no doubt about it---DePaul is on its way..."
A huge banner with a big blue W could be suspended in the upper reaches of the Event Center after every victory. Sports fans would flock to the South Loop not just to see the revitalization of a college basketball powerhouse, but also to soak up and enjoy the neighborhood ambience.
News surfaced just last week of plans to develop a robust neighborhood right by the Event Center that could include several thousand homes, millions of square feet for office space, stores and restaurants, public riverfront access, a Riverwalk and a community that will connect the South Loop with Chinatown.
"I think this new arena is going to do a lot for the South Loop area when you tie in the whole McCormick Place operation with the exhibition space and the hotel across the street with all the guests, tourists and exhibition crowd they bring in," Janis said. "There's also the restaurants inside of there and other things that are going to develop in this neighborhood."
Blue Demon women's basketball coach Doug Bruno had a comparison of his own.
"When I started at DePaul in 1968 as a men's basketball player under coach Ray Meyer, Lincoln Park looked exactly like this neighborhood where our arena is being built," Bruno said. "We are 2200 north and this area is 2200 south. To watch how Lincoln Park has developed, I really do believe that the south end of our city here at 2200 south is going to develop just like 2200 north."
The new arena is quite visible as construction is proceeding full speed ahead.
"Progress has, simply put, been great," Janis said. "We started a job back in the latter part of the fall, and as you can see behind me, this thing has progressed upward pretty quickly.
"All the work in the ground got done first and then we started moving the structure up in terms of the masonry you see at the corners. We've been putting up the steel over the last couple of months now, and roughly in the middle of June, we'll start installing the concrete seating.
"So, we're moving along pretty rapidly here. I'll call it slightly ahead of schedule. The weather has been great, and that is a big contributor to how well we've been doing schedule-wise with the progress we've made."
Men's basketball coach Dave Leitao was impressed during a May 6 event when his players and the women's team visited the site, handed out DePaul T-shirts and expressed their gratitude to the construction workers.
"It's going up so fast, and really, it's unbelievable to see not just the progress but also the future of our program," Leitao said. "Some of what has been talked about so long in abstract terms in now a reality. I think as they continue to build, especially during the summer months, it's just phenomenal to see where it is right now and especially, where it will be.
"There's a lot of excitement with the team, and now they got a chance to see it since they don't get down here very much. They were like kids at Christmas time. There's just a lot of motivation moving forward."
Construction got off to a fast start, providing momentum heading into the warmer months.
"We've come a long way in six months," said Jim Hermle, Clark Construction senior superintendent. "December was when we put our first piece of concrete in, and right now we're getting set to put the bleachers in. It's come a long way.
"Early on, we did a lot of good planning. Working with a lot of these guys and ladies before, you know what the expectations are. We go over things every week and what everybody has planned. I know I need to have this building ready by the deadline. It's working in phases and making sure you stick to it.
"A good thing is being able to call an audible if something is not working out. We had a couple of issues, but we worked them out and stayed on schedule."
Leitao has noticed a cohesive collaboration throughout the entire project.
"As we've talked about all along with Bob Janis and people from the city, it's a broad-based community effort," Leitao said. "It's not just DePaul and not just the city---it's everybody. It services so many different people on a lot of levels, and that means everybody has a part to play in it and they can't wait until it opens."
Janis said there is strong sense of teamwork and even some Blue Demon pride resonating through the construction site.
"I go to the site every couple of days and run into a number of construction workers on the job," Janis said. "I've got my Blue Demon jacket on and they'll come up to me and say: `Hey, DePaul basketball, I want to come to a game.'
"These guys are jacked and they are going to become Blue Demon fans. All the guys have DePaul stickers all over their helmets and we've given them DePaul T-shirts. They have the DePaul and MPEA (Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority) flags flying over the site."
Many of the men's and women's players got their first look at the new arena during the luncheon for the construction workers on May 6.
"I love driving through Chicago so I try to make a visit every two weeks, and it's exciting to see this arena go up," Bruno said. "Coaching is all about having a vision, and the mayor and city have a vision for this great building.
"Our players were impressed by how much progress is being made. We talk about it all the time in the office and with the team. We've always played a great schedule and can't wait to bring that degree of difficulty down to the Event Center."
Leitao is trying to pace himself as the level of excitement surrounding the Event Center continues to build.
"I've got to try and taper my enthusiasm a little bit because this is still some time away and there's so much that's yet to come," Leitao said. "But obviously, we think about it a lot. It is something that will create a lot of energy, a lot of buzz, and that opening weekend will be really memorable.
"It will have an impact on recruiting and it already has. To bring a recruit and his family down here to see the new arena brings it to life in its proper perspective that this is the building they'll be able to play in and prosper in. It really is something tremendous already."
The dream of bringing Blue Demon basketball back to the city is rapidly becoming reality.
"The credit for this tremendous project starts of course with the ownership of DePaul and the MPEA," Janis said. "The architects and designers obviously played a big role in terms of creating the right design and putting that design together quickly.
"Then, there is the critical decision of bringing in the right contractor which we clearly have in Clark Construction. We have all the right components on this job from ownership to design to construction."
Hermle has been all-in helping to create the next milestone in DePaul's storied basketball legacy.
"I started in November and was very excited," Hermle said. "It actually put a new meaning to going back to work.
"Working for the city, I've been a DePaul fan since the Mark Aguirre days. I've worked with a lot of these construction guys over the last 25 years, and it's a lot like a family. I know a lot of them, and it's just really exciting to build an arena like this."
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