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Morning rumble: the boondoggle edition

DePaul and Rutgers are making offseason news for all the wrong reasons.

blurry, but a look at a DePaul crowd at game time.
blurry, but a look at a DePaul crowd at game time.
Norman Rose

In the offseason, it's hard to hide a bad idea.

Most arena plans tied to economic development are filled with dubious projections, pie-in-the-sky business impact figures, politicians who want to use public money to build a visible monument to their ability to "create growth", and a serious misunderstanding that the projects don't generate new money; they generally move where the money is being spent.

It turns out that the arena plan that DePaul is attached to has some whopper assumptions built in, including the way that all of those empty seats in the arena have been counted, per Crain's Chicago Business.

This past season, the official average number of fans that went to DePaul home games at Allstate Arena was even lower: 2,610 based on the Ticketmaster scan system, which tracks exactly how many people come inside.

That is far below DePaul's reported average home game attendance of 7,938 over those 16 home games. Over the course of the entire season, the school reported total attendance at Allstate Arena at 127,020. The actual attendance was 41,771.

The discrepancy comes from the Blue Demons counting tickets rather than people. Their reported attendance, said an athletic department spokesman, includes "a couple thousand" tickets the school buys for each game to block out seats for students, who can go to any DePaul athletic event "free of charge" if they pay a quarterly $25 student activities fee. Many of those students, however, don't go to the games. The school also counts complimentary tickets given to charities and other groups toward their attendance number each game.

...the economic impact study prepared by Mineola, N.Y.-based hospitality consulting firm HVS and commissioned by McPier to validate the demand for an event center appears to be based on DePaul's reported number, not the actual number.

First, a recap: DePaul is part of a plan from the Mayor of Chicago to redevelop Chicago's main convention center space, McCormick Place, into more of a destination* by including a hotel and a useable event space for concerts, large meetings, and other sporting events. DePaul is chosen because there is no way to lure the Blackhawks or the Bulls into a smaller indoor space, and they have wanted to move from the suburban Allstate Arena (by O'Hare Airport, just outside of the city to the northwest) to an urban location.

The City of Chicago has pledged $100 million for a college basketball team that will play 16-18 dates at home. The University turned down an offer to use the United Center for 10 years in favor of building its own space. Other standalone locations have been discussed closer to the congested area near DePaul's campus.

Even for a better college program - and we can double back to Louisville's arena financing issues, where the stated economic impact to the city has never been realized - city support for the building of an arena is not a money maker.

And the more that's revealed about DePaul's plan and their projections, the more obvious that the Blue Demons are a willing pawn in the city's ability to delude itself for something iconically notable and shiny.

*As someone who will be at a convention there in a few weeks, I can also tell you that despite its out-of-the-way location, McCormick Place brings in a LOT of conventions.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumYou know who's not having a good week? Rutgers, and the Parker Search Firm hired by Rutgers who located a new Athletic Director, Julie Hermann, with some verbal and physical abuse in her past from her days as a volleyball coach and as an assistant AD.

Here's a hit. And here's a hit. And the Asbury Park Press puts in a roundhouse with including the 70K price tag for the search. The search was felt to be too fast, too rushed. And George Dohrmann, who packs the Ali-level punch, gets a body blow here.

And a personal story about new Rutgers AD from one of the volleyball players who stood up to Hermann that Christie seemed not to believe.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_medium Also: Epic ownage on this response to a blog post about Maryland's soft draw in the BB&T Classic down in Washington D.C. EPIC. (We all need to write less quickly and do our research in the blog writing world. Though these quick opinion pieces - content generation for sports networks, including this one - are often more opinionated than factual. Maybe we should label these "conversation starters"? The writer does defend himself well.)

Bonus: Arrogant comment thread of the week (and I say this as someone who felt out of place when young, and in some schools: Freakonomics link