The Allstate Arena is a great example of a multi-purpose arena. The venue is versatile, has wonderful acoustics, beautiful scoreboards and video boards and a good sound system. Basketball, hockey, soccer, wrestling, concerts, and more have been hosted here in Rosemont. There is plenty of parking and the facility is near Chicago’s largest airport, O’Hare International.
Unfortunately the arena is not very close to one important place in Chicago, the campus of DePaul University. Consequently, the building remains largely empty and without the character that an on-campus facility would provide. In fact, Sullivan Athletic Center the home of DePaul’s successful women’s team, would be an ideal location for some of the Blue Demon’s lesser opponents with a capacity of 3,000 on DePaul’s south loop campus.
Although improvements have been made in the past couple of years to help brand the interior of the Allstate Arena for Blue Demon home games, the place just doesn’t seem like home.
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Many of the concession stands in the concourse of the Allstate Arena are closed during DePaul basketball games, but you can still find plenty of good options, although at a slightly inflated price.
Connie's Pizza is a good choice, and a favorite of Chicagoans. The pizza is expensive ($6.75) for sausage, pepperoni, or plain cheese. This is an especially good choice if you're there early and the pizzas are freshest. Other selections include hot dog ($5.50), nachos ($6-$8), Polish sausage ($6.50), or soft pretzel with cheese ($5).
Pepsi is the soda provider, and these are also expensive ($6 for a souvenir size or $5 for a regular). The one nice thing for fans about going to this off campus facility is that it is one of the few in college basketball to serve alcohol. Draft beers are $7.50 and mixed drinks ($8-$12), wine ($7.50-$8), and frozen margaritas ($8-$13) are also available.
Overall, the food is pretty good by similar standards, but certainly overpriced.
When set up for basketball, the Allstate Arena is reminiscent of the home of another Big East team, the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Bradley Center. The major difference between the two is the downtown versus suburban location and the total lack of fan support at a DePaul game.
For seating you will find blue plastic seats with lightly padded bottoms. The legroom is less than average, but it is nice that the seats feature cupholders. The center-hung scoreboard has video boards on four sides which are utilized for game play and replays when the ball is stopped. A well done montage of DePaul highlights is played before the game, capturing the attention of fans and players alike.
Behind the upper deck seating areas, at half court, there are two scoreboards on opposite sides which display the numbers of the players on the floor as well as their points scored and fouls.
The 17-member "Screamin' Demon" Pep Band does a good job, augmented by a better than usual sound system to help amplify them, although their lone piccolo player seemed to be a little close to the microphone for my ears.
Overall, the atmosphere could be really good, if only there were some FANS!
If you are in Chicago for a business meeting or convention and find yourself stuck out at one of the numerous hotels near O'Hare, then the Allstate Arena is ideally located. This is urban sprawl at its most, well, sprawling. A stop at the nearby Harry Caray's Restaurant for one of their signature steaks or burgers is a good choice. There are also a few well-known chains within walking distance including Starbucks, Chipotle, Panda Express, IHOP, Chili's, Culver's, and Potbelly Sandwiches.
College basketball without an active student section, is like swimming without water. You can hardly call it college basketball without this critical component almost entirely absent. There is a small section reserved for the students that is depressingly empty.
Along the sides of the lower seating area, there are also plenty of empty seats, and if it wasn't for the pep band and the game itself providing some entertainment value, then this place would be as dead as a mortuary.
The DePaul Blue Demons are the original and in some ways the primary tenant in the Allstate Arena, but without that student presence, this will never truly be a college basketball arena.
Parking will cost you a whopping $13, far too much for the experience that you'll have inside. Students do have the option of taking a bus out to the arena, leaving about 90 minutes before tipoff from the Lincoln Park and near South loop campuses.
The arena is easily found and accessed from the I-90 expressway, and the traffic in and out for DePaul basketball is very easy to manage.
Inside the arena, concourses are wide and it is easy to find where you are going, although there are some irregularly shaped corners throughout the concourse. Recently, they have added some banners of great DePaul players who went on to play in the NBA including names like Rod Strickland, Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings, Tyrone Corbin, Dave Corzine, Quentin Richardson, and of course George Mikan. A large banner is also present to give fans a brief history lesson on DePaul basketball over the years.
The good news is that there are plenty of good seats available. Unfortunately DePaul chooses to utilize Ticketmaster for their ticket sales operations, adding to the total cost of attending a game. Tickets on the end of the arena in the upper deck are only $11, but other tickets go for $22 for lower end seats, and $37 for one of the better lower seats within the middle of the floor. Students get free tickets as long as they are willing to endure the Chicago traffic on the bus ride to Rosemont.
Concessions are overpriced and parking is overpriced. When you don't end up with that electric atmosphere that you hope for at a college basketball game, then you are left feeling less than satisfied with the overall experience.
One extra point for the efforts that have been made to provide some DePaul branding throughout the concourse, thus making this actually feel like the home of Blue Demon basketball, and also recognizing the history of this program. The Final Four banner (1943) and retired numbers hanging in the corner (Mark Aguirre #24, George Mikan #99, and Coach Ray Meyer) also attempt to remind spectators of the history.
Another extra point for the cheerleaders, which number more than 20 strong. It's too bad that they outnumber the students in which they are trying to lead in cheer.
Chicago loves its sports and it should be a place where basketball can thrive. Until DePaul makes the decision to inhabit a venue more connected to the city and its campus, the chances of returning to relevance is slim. More importantly, providing an exciting live sports experience for fans seems to be impossible.
The Allstate Arena is the prototype "Multi-use" facility. Currently it is the home to the DePaul Blue Demon men's basketball team, as well as the WNBA Chicago Sky, AHL Chicago Wolves, and Arena Football League Chicago Rush. Beyond that, the venue has hosted numerous concerts and other events since its' opening in 1980.
While it can be described as flexible due to its wide range of hosting abilities, it can also be described as somewhat stale, lacking a clear personality. My biggest complaint though is not that it's a multi-use facility, but that it lacks any real student presence. Located in the northern Chicago suburb of Rosemont, the Allstate Arena feels like an extension to an airport or shopping mall, not a highly energized college environment.
The University opened McGrath Arena in 2000 on the DePaul Lincoln Park campus, but unfortunately it only seats 3,000 fans so it is unsuitable for Big East basketball (it is however a great venue to see women's basketball).
Until DePaul finds a more interesting home, it is difficult to imagine a time when DePaul basketball returns to the glory it saw under Ray Meyer. If you have some time to kill before a flight at O'Hare, or are stuck in a hotel for a conference or convention, then you may want to go to a DePaul basketball game, but I wouldn't recommend going out of your way.
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