Chicago officials defend plan to add arena, hotel to McCormick Place

Officials say proposed casino wouldn’t fit on site

May 27, 2013

Tony Arnold

According to McCormick Place's website, the conventions and events it holds attracts close to 3 million visitors each year.

Chicago officials say a casino may not fit close to McCormick Place on the city’s near South Side. Illinois lawmakers are debating this week whether to allow Chicago to operate its own casino, and McCormick Place has been suggested as a potential site.

“The area where we’re talking about, which is on the North Side of McCormick Place, there really isn’t much in the way of land that would be big enough to encompass a full-service casino operation if we wanted to,” said Steve Koch, Chicago’s deputy mayor. He testified at a hearing in Springfield before some Illinois state representatives Monday.

The debate over a Chicago casino comes as city officials are lobbying for a new arena at McCormick Place, where DePaul’s basketball team would play.

Earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the ambitious projects as part of a renovation of the city’s top tourist attractions.

The mayor’s office estimates the 10,000-seat arena would cost $140 million, and would host DePaul University’s men’s basketball games, in addition to potential acts related to  trade shows at McCormick Place.

With the addition of the hotels, the total cost of the project is about $1.1 billion.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.