Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand for last week’s groundbreaking of Chicago’s next new sports and entertainment arena by Pelli Clarke Pelli.
The 10,000 seat McCormick Place Event Center will add to the already vast McCormick Place convention facilities as well as be the home court for the DePaul University Blue Demon’s college basketball team. Designed by New Haven–based Pelli Clarke Pelli, the 300,000 square foot arena will be connected to a 51-story, 1,200-room Marriott hotel by Gensler, also currently under construction. Scheduled to open in 2017, before the 2017–18 basketball season, the Event Center will also function as a concert venue and convention space.
Filling an entire block, the arena steps back at its corners, providing outdoor gathering space. The building’s expansive glass facade is punctuated by intermittent corrugated metal–paneled pavilions enclosing the building’s services. Large digital displays weave from interior to exterior, broadcasting the night’s events, and animating the arena facade. The highly transparent entrances are meant to extend the arena’s experience out on to the public plaza and surrounding streets.
As a means of connecting the project more directly to the neighborhood, the main event floor as well as concourse will sit at street level. Along with the highly transparent façade, there is a possibility that some of the restaurants and concessions may be accessible from the exterior of the building. A reveal in the seating will also allow for a direct view into the event space and to student seating area from the street.
The building’s most noticeable design element is its curved membrane roof. The light-weight structure arches over the event floor and seating in an homage to other gathering spaces in Chicago, such as the Auditorium Theater and the Grand Ballroom of Navy Pier. The nature of the roof also allows for large gill-like apertures, which will be lit at night, broadcasting the arena into the city.