Late Wednesday evening, news broke that the Chicago Blackhawks are in line for a new practice facility, located right next door to the United Center. Thursday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and Blackhawks president John McDonough were among those to officially announce the planned complex, and they provided some additional details.
First of all, the specs. According to tweets by CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers, Chicago Sun Times’ Mark Lazerus and Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc, Emanuel indicated the facility will cost $50 million to construct and will be privately funded. As we had previously known, the building will be approximately 125,000 square feet in size. For a point of reference, here is a building that is listed at 125,000 square feet, though obviously not used for hockey. There will also be two NHL-sized rinks within the facility, and the building will be located where the Malcolm X College currently stands — on a plot of land measuring 4 acres, according to a Kuc tweet.
Emanuel and Wirtz indicated this facility will have strong community ties and not be solely limited to Blackhawks practices and others team events. As Lazerus tweeted, the team estimates 94 percent of the building will be for community use. That’s a pretty significant commitment to the Chicago area so far as hockey goes.
And that appears to be the main goal, considering some of Wirtz’s words, though having a practice facility for the Blackhawks closer to the United Center is an obviously desire and benefit. A very telling quote from Wirtz, courtesy Lazerus’ Twitter feed: “Hockey’s future is dictated by the ability of kids to get on the ice.”
Da Windy City
The Blackhawks recently drafted Roy Radke with a sixth-round pick, and they latched on to Lemont native Scott Darling in goal. The Blackhawks are playing it smart here by trying to keep promising young players in Chicago to develop and, hopefully, grow a connection the team that can be used in the future, should these kids make it big.
Along the same line of thinking, Wirtz had another interesting quote at this press conference:
This is kind of a loaded quote, but what Wirtz appears to be saying is, “We’re finally offering young area skaters an opportunity to develop here and not have to leave for bigger facilities and better training. Oh, and you can be the next Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane by staying in the Chicago area.” Any teenager who sees that and is seriously working toward playing high-level hockey will be thrilled. And it should interest coaches and programs that may want to become involved with this facility.
The big men behind this plan are treating this as much more of a community development than a Blackhawks one. And that’s totally okay, and could help the team in the long-run anyway. Is it important that the Blackhawks have a facility that allows them to stay in NHL-caliber condition? Of course, and for $50 million that shouldn’t be an issue. And fans would surely like to know that they could still watch practices at this new facility, as they could at Johnny’s IceHouse West. But the real talking point with this complex is how it affects those in the community, and how it could make Chicago a youth hockey powerhouse.
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