NEAR WEST SIDE — Ald. Walter Burnett is hoping you might start running into Chicago Bulls players on the Near West Side soon.
That's because after training at the Sheri L. Berto Center for more than 20 years in the suburbs, the team has opened a state-of-the-art 60,000-square-foot training facility right across from the United Center, Advocate Center Chicago Bulls Training Facility.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, team executives and Burnett Jr. (27th) convened Friday at the facility at 1901 W. Madison St. for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The move to the city, Burnett said, is another step in the resurgence of the Near West Side.
"You're going to have more Bulls players in the community," said Burnett, who admits he is more of a fair-weather Chicago sports fan. "You're going to have more folks going to the restaurants and the stores. It's going to make more people comfortable to come over here because they see that these guys are over here so they may start moving back to the neighborhood."
He added: "It brings positive traffic to the community, and more eyes to the community. I just think it's wonderful."
Burnett said the Chicago Blackhawks, who practice at the nearby Johnny's IceHouse, are looking to build their own facility adjacent to the United Center as well.
When Michael Jordan joined the team, the Bulls practiced at Angel Guardian, a former orphanage in Rogers Park, before moving to the Multiplex in Deerfield in 1985.
In 1992, the Bulls moved to the Sheri L. Berto Center in Deerfield, which is where they've been practicing until now.
"My first meeting with the team was at Angel Guardian," Reinsdorf said to reporters Friday. "You couldn't even stand up straight in what was called a locker room."
The new facility has two full-sized basketball courts, expanded locker rooms with therapeutic hydro-pools, a designated media room and an updated weight room, among other features, according to the release.
It is also outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and energy efficient technologies, which allow players and coaches to use a single device to control the electricity and temperature of each room, according to a news release.
It will also house front office staff and executive offices.
The building is not open to the public. The Bulls did not say whether they would hold any open practices, like the Blackhawks occasionally do.
But its location in the city — Emanuel, Ald. Burnett (27th) and team executives agreed — is both beneficial for the players and community members alike.
"The people in Deerfield were really great to us, but I think being in the city is really a plus because we are the Chicago Bulls, not the Deerfield Bulls," Reinsdorf said. "And we've also been a partner for the last 20 years [in] the rebuilding of the West Side, and this is just another piece that rebuilds the West Side."
Margie Norton, a Bulls investor who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, said the facility is "wonderful."
"I've been going to the United Center for a while, and all of a sudden, it's like, 'Wow!'" Norton said.
Ricardo Guthrie, who has been watching the Bulls play since he was 4 years old, also praised the new facility.
"With it being right there, it looks like they'll have a better chance at interacting with the fans," said Guthrie, of Palos Heights.
When asked if the new facility will inspire the Bulls to take home the championship this year, Reinsdorf said it's not that easy.
"They do have to play against teams that want to beat them," Reinsdorf said "But I think the players are going to enjoy this."
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