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Friday, May 16, 2014
Wirtz eyeing new Hawks practice facility

By Scott Powers

Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said Friday he would like to build a hockey practice facility adjacent to the United Center just as the Chicago Bulls are doing for basketball.

Wirtz said the facility would cost $30-35 million, which would be financed by the Blackhawks, and he would likely go ahead with the project if he could get assurance from the city of Chicago and Cook County that the amusement tax would not be raised in the next 5-10 years. The rate is currently at 12 percent with nine percent going to the city and three percent to the county.

“We’re not asking for TIF money, and we’re not asking for anything special,” Wirtz said on “Carmen & Jurko” on ESPN 1000 on Friday. “All we’re asking for is certainty going forward, and that is to cap these amusement taxes for the next five to 10 years. If we can get some certainty, then we can feel comfortable in reinvesting in the city.

“I think what we want to do is work with the city and county in how to promote business instead of trying to see how you can kill the golden goose who lays the golden egg.”

Wirtz said the training facility would benefit the Blackhawks and the community.

“In talking to [Blackhawks president and CEO] John McDonough and [general manager] Stan Bowman, both of them came to me and said, ‘I think it’d be really great if we could do it not only for the Hawks, but also to really catapult hockey within the city limits,’” Wirtz continued. “We have very few ice surfaces. It’d be terrific for the Blackhawks, but I think it would be great to grow youth hockey in the city because of the growth has come in the suburbs. But we have plenty of kids in the city I think would use the ice quite a bit.

“This might be something to really set ourselves for the future and for the next 20 years to be special and to grow hockey. I think it’s something that I think we want to do and I think would make a lot of sense to do."

The Blackhawks now practice at the United Center and Johnny’s IceHouse West, which is located less than mile from the United Center.