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Plenty of money for another Rahm boondoggle

Ohanian Comment: I don't give a fig about professional basketball but I do care about forcing the public to finance over-the-top sports arenas--while at the same time shutting down the neighborhood schools and mental health clinics. Mike Klonsky reveals Chicago's iconic position in dirty politics as usual.

Of course it's something else going on, not basketball.

by Mike Klonsky

I still teach at DePaul. I'm also a Chicago high school basketball coach, basketball junkie, and back in the day I was a huge fan of DePaul basketball.

I used to go regularly to the matchbox neighborhood arena, Alumni Hall, to watch the legendary Ray Meyer coach players he recruited right out of Chicago's Public League, like Westinghouse stars Mark Aguirre, Skip Dillard, Bernard Randolph, King's Teddy Grubbs, and Carver's Teddy Cummings. I watched excitedly as the Chicago city kids led the team to the final four in 1979. I saw city high school all-star games at Alumni Hall where Aguirre would face off against the great Isaiah Thomas from St. Joe's.

DePaul's program abandoned Chicago altogether in 1980, moving its games to suburban Rosemont to a bigger stadium where practically nobody goes. Look on the current DePaul roster and you won't find even one Chicago Public League player. Not a recipe for winning basketball nor for winning support from Chicago's fan base.

Mayor Emanuel claims he has to slash the CPS education budget by closing 54 public schools and nearly all of the city's mental health clinics to save money. But that didn't stop him from cutting a deal with the nation's largest, private Catholic university, to build them a new basketball stadium. Initial cost to the public, $100 million. And that's just capital costs. Arenas, like public schools, cost money to operate and maintain on an annual basis. That's so DePaul can play 18 games a year in its new digs.

Today's Sun-Times quotes Chicago-based sports business consultant Marc Ganis, who says heâs "stunned" by the mayor's decision.

A basketball arena attached to McCormick Place is financial folly, he said. "Not only is it ridiculous having an 18-event anchor tenant, but it's an anchor tenant that can barely sell 10,000 seats a game. It's not like it's a professional sports team or a well-established college basketball power. It's neither of those two. That's why there has to be something else going on. Because on its face, it's a foolish proposition."

Something else going on? Yes, you're right, Mr. Ganis. That something is more contracts and millions in public funds flowing to the mayor's friends and cronies. This time it's an even bigger boondoggle than the $86 million deal with UNO's charter school hustlers. Ganis is being too kind. It's not just "foolish." In the face of massive public school closings, nearly all in the city's black community, it's criminal.

— Mike Klonsky
Small Talk blog





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