DePaul's new arena is counterproductive


DePaul is being so DePaul-ish with the new arena plan being fast-tracked. Not only is it a bad idea, but it's also counterproductive financially for the city and the people who reside in it.

It is not simple to quantify only in words how absurd the DePaul athletic department is currently acting. While most of the issues they have to deal with are not overtly complex, somehow they have made everything they have done into forms of attempts at rocket science. From funneling basketball money to all sports, but hoops, to continuously showing the inability to care, all the way to this new arena deal, their athletic department only rivals the NCAA for having the inability to have any ability at all -- sans making money off other people at the expense of exploitation.

This brings us to the arena deal. Right now the Blue Demons play their home games at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. That in itself brings a slew of problems. Not only is the arena no longer "modern", but it is rather hard for students at the university to attend. Granted, it's only a half hour away, although, it comes with at least a five dollar train ride price tag, and the inconvenience of having young people having to leave the Windy City to go see a basketball game.

All of that is semantics, really. It doesn't matter if you, I or the athletic department thinks that the Allstate Arena is too far away. What does matter, though, is that the DePaul basketball programs needs a place to call home. The problem with that, however, is that the athletic department doesn't want to foot the bill. In fact, they want taxpayers to pay a very large portion of it and they are more than happy to tell you how grateful the taxpayers should be about it.

DePaul would like the city to use TIF money (a program that was originally designed to improve downtrodden areas) to build the school a new arena by McCormick Place. This has, unsurprisingly, angered many residents of Chicago. Why would they want to pay a large portion of the cost for a university who has shown a propensity to care more about making money, even if it is at the expense of the quality of their product?

The proposed arena in question is a 10,000 seat facility. A sports arena, mind you, that DePaul would only use for roughly 30 days a year, but cost $173 million to build. That is a lot of loot for a building that the university would barely use. Except, that is kind of the argument that the school actually uses as to why they shouldn't put that much money into a building that they want. They want the arena to not be used frequently and it should be at the expense of the people of Chicago, who would otherwise never suggest such a proposal.

Naturally, Chicagoans have protested the proposal. To give DePaul credit, they have representatives acknowledging and talking about the protests. Then, because DePaul, to take it away, Reverend Dennis Holtschneider -- DePaul University President -- has basically told everyone that they should be happy that DePaul is kicking in any money at all.

At a recent appearance by Holtschneider, he had a few choice words for people who were protesting the area outside of the City Club where he was speaking. Really, why he refused to reject the TIF funds the university plans to use to build the arena. Not only did he pass the buck by saying "the use of TIF funds are not up to him" (yet, he'll gladly use the money), but he also explained why DePaul's investment of $70 million, pay of rent and use of arena for only 30 days is somehow a favor to city and not the other way around.

The quote of that event, however, might be this bad boy:

"There is no way when people accuse DePaul of having somehow received benefit financially from that (TIFs), I think DePaul has been generous to Chicago," Holtschneider said.

Generous how? That the arena they want built, which they want the taxpayers to pay the brunt of, is a favor to the people of the city? That the people of the city want to see a horrible product put out at the expense of their wallets in a brand new arena? You know, I am not sure if Holtschneider or the administration as a whole has ever heard of the saying "you can't shine...", but to act like this new arena is somehow going to benefit the taxpayers more than the university is ludicrous.

There is an underlying problem that is more specific to Chicago than whether or not using tax-payer money to build a new arena is a good idea. It's the fact that the TIF money is desperately needed elsewhere. For programs and such that the TIF program was initially established for. What it was intended for was impoverished areas, public schools with no money and pretty much everything and anything that doesn't revolve around a university using $33.5 million in TIF money for a basketball stadium and another $21.5 million in TIF funds for buying land for the hotel (which is reportedly going to cost $400 million).

Even some of the students at DePaul are against using TIF money to build a new arena. It does make sense. I mean, born and bred or just loving DePaul for whatever reason is not enough to attend the university. Some of the public schools are not doing well in Chicago. Using money that could be used to enhance the education at those levels to instead build a fancy new basketball arena is counterproductive. How are those kids going to be able to attend DePaul if the educational system has already failed them before they could enroll?

This is far more than just a black and white issue. There are a large number of people who want the arena built. Who claim that the arena will not only benefit the institution of higher learning, but also the people of Chicago. The thing about that, though, is that those people are not wrong. It's just that the money is needed elsewhere, immediately, like way higher up on the priority pole than a new basketball arena should be.

At the end of the day it might not matter. Despite the protesters, use of logic by some and the general backlash the university has faced -- DePaul and the people who granted the TIF money are in a position to get what they want. The building of the arena has been fast-tracked and there is nearly no way to stop it now.

Good thing it won't hurt anyone. Well, except for everyone and everything in Chicago who could really use that TIF money for what it was originally designed to do. You know, help people who are not in a position to succeed. Not help people who are in a position to succeed, but choose not to just to make a dollar -- like DePaul.

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