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Chicago to renovate Navy Pier, build arena

CHICAGO (AP) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is announced a multi-million dollar renovation plan Thursday that includes remodeling Navy Pier and building a 10,000-seat basketball arena near McCormick Place that would be the home court of DePaul University's basketball teams.

In a news release on Thursday, Emanuel's office said the first phase of a $278 million project to renovate Navy Pier will begin in the fall and will cost about $166 million. The city will put up $110 of that and private restaurants and the Chicago Children's Museum will put up the rest.

The arena built near McCormick Place also will be used as a hall for conventions and trade shows. McCormick Place and DePaul will each put up $70 million to design and build the arena.

Construction on the arena is targeted to begin in 2014, and officials hope to have it ready in time for the 2016-17 season. The facility likely will be able to host 17 men's basketball and 10 women's games.

The arena could be a boon for a once-proud men's program that has struggled in recent years.

The Blue Demons are coming off their sixth straight losing season and haven't made the NCAA tournament since 2004. They are 30-64 and just 6-48 in Big East play in three years under Oliver Purnell.

But there was a time back when Ray Meyer was the coach and Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings were electrifying fans that the Blue Demans were the most popular basketball team in the city. That also was before Michael Jordan landed with the Bulls.

The DePaul men's team has played most of its games at Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont, Ill., since 1980, making it difficult for students and fans living and working in the city to attend. The small crowds and older arena probably weren't an easy sell for recruits, either.

Many fans were hoping DePaul would build an arena on or near its main campus in the vibrant Lincoln Park neighborhood, but finding landing in a densely populated area was no small task. The school reportedly turned down an offer from Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to play at the United Center.

The new arena at McCormick Place would be near several major highways and be reachable by train from DePaul's campuses in the city.