WEST LOOP — The Bulls got dumped on and upstaged at their own groundbreaking.
In remarks at a ceremony Monday breaking ground for the Bulls' new practice facility adjacent to the United Center, Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened by cheering the Blackhawks and Steppenwolf Theatre.
"First, Saturday's game for the Blackhawks was a tremendous game," Emanuel said, referring to the win that sent the Hawks into the Stanley Cup Finals. "I want the entire Blackhawk family to know everybody's excited about Wednesday night and the rest of the season.
"I also want to do a shoutout to Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre for their accomplishment at the Tony Awards," Emanuel quickly added, referring to Steppenwolf's win for best revival and best actor Tracy Letts in their production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"This is not only a great sports town, but it's also a great theater town," Emanuel said, going on to talk about "the city being champions, all across both in theater as well as on ice as well as in our schools."
Even the Bulls' own radio play-by-play man, Chuck Swirsky, serving as master of ceremonies, opened by cheering the Hawks and their President John McDonough, in the audience for the groundbreaking.
Officials eventually did get around to talking about the Bulls' new practice facility, which will be constructed a block east of the United Center on what is now a parking lot. The new building will be 60,000 square feet and paid for entirely by the Bulls.
Bulls' Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called it a "historic day ... bringing the Chicago Bulls back totally into the city," after practicing for decades at the Berto Center in Deerfield. He thanked the mayor for encouraging the move, quoting him as saying, "If we are indeed a Chicago team, we belong in the City of Chicago."
"It's great for our players," said coach Tom Thibodeau, adding the "state-of-the-art" practice center would streamline everyday operations and aid in keeping the team healthy — a continuing concern with the recovery of Derrick Rose.
Vice President John Paxson said it would enable the team to unite its basketball operations with the front-office dealings.
Emanuel credited the Bulls — without mentioning the Hawks this time — for spurring the economic revival of the Near West Side with the United Center, and said the new practice center continues that.
The building is scheduled to be completed in a year, before the 2014-15 National Basketball Association season.