Northwestern Basketball Battle Logistics Establishing Home in Rosemont

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Northwestern basketball is coming off the most successful season in school history with realistic expectations of going even further this year.

To get there they must overcome a major hurdle of playing their home games in a different arena way off campus. Welsh-Ryan Arena is being renovated, meaning it’s AllState Arena for the Wildcats this season.

“We have to make it our home, we have no other choice. There are no excuses; that’s our home gym this year,” Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins said at Northwestern basketball Media Day.

“Let’s make it our home court, let’s have it be the best home court it can be. I’m hoping people will come out and support the team.”

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All State Arena has over 17,000 capacity, well more than double the 8,117 of Welsh-Ryan, so when you draw 2-3,000 people for those early non-conference games against low-majors and really low-majors, the atmosphere takes on a completely different dimension.

From Welsh Ryan to Allstate it’s about a 40 minute drive, in light traffic, which means it’ll be about an hour to an hour-fifteen to an hour thirty minimum during late afternoon, early evening traffic. Public bus takes you there in an hour and a half, in ideal traffic situations, which of course never exist in Chicagoland on any day during the hours of 1-9 pm. There is no expressway between W-R and AA so this is a serious logistical issue.

At least when you get there, alcohol will now be served, and that’s a huge plus. Ready to fight rush hour traffic to reach a destination adjacent to one of the world’s busiest airports for a 6, 7 or 8 pm weekday tip-off?

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At least for the weekend games, the traffic conditions won’t be nearly as bad.

The best way to reach the temporary home of Northwestern basketball is to take the blue line to Rosemont, which is the last stop before O’Hare. However, you still have to walk a mile and a half to the arena from the L stop, or rely on the suburban Pace buses, which are erratic to say the least. Walking 1.4 miles from the L is no big deal of course for many fans, especially on the nights when the winter weather is more mild.

However, it won’t be an option for some fans, and definitely not doable on those nights when the mercury dips into the teens and single digits.

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The university will run shuttles on game nights from Evanston to Rosemont and back for students, and they will depart from the team’s practice facility this season, Blomquist Gymnasium.

You don’t want fans dealing with the grand theft time burglary that is driving on those Chicagoland roads. Horrible traffic puts everyone in a bad mood and that’s very important because you need good atmosphere in the old barn.

“We’re planning on making a handful of trips out there over the next 30 days, based on their availability,” said Collins.

“We’re gonna have an event out in October, an inter-squad scrimmage, just to go how it’s like on game day. I’ve picked the brain of some of the DePaul staff, how they handled it.”

The DePaul Blue Demons are moving out of the arena, and despite the fact that they are a truly atrocious and utterly invisible program, and have been for decades, they still somehow got a brand new arena in the city.

Few were willing to fight nightmarish traffic and commuter headaches to watch the horrible product they put on the court, so you didn’t have any atmosphere at all for Blue Demons games.

“We’ll do everything we can, with shuttles with helping out our students,” Collins continued.

“The staff at All State has been fantastic. They have met with us, asked us what we need.

“When it comes time to play there I think you’ll see it’s going to be a Northwestern basketball setting. We’ll try to get as much purple in there. For now it’s about living and learning, seeing what it’s like.”

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Rosemont is a city trying to establish itself as a sports destination. They have the Chicago Wolves, a minor league hockey team in the AHL, as the primary tenant of the 39 year old arena, and just recently they announced a new unaffiliated minor league baseball franchise, the Chicago Dogs, who will commence play nearby in May.

Of course, when it comes to memorable sporting events in Rosemont, and especially so in AA Arena/the Rosemary Horizon, nothing tops the Miracle on Mannheim in 2005.

When Deron Williams hit the three that completed the epic Illinois comeback in the 2005 Regional Final against Arizona, the moment, and the evening was the most electric sporting event I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime working this job.
It was a different planet from every DePaul game I’ve attended in that building.

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Northwestern basketball knows what it takes to try and establish that kind of electricity, or at least come remotely close to it – winning.

With their top five scorers and six of their top seven top minutemen returning, the Wildcats are experienced and accomplished. They should only get better.

“I’ve said it since day one, if you play well and you win, I think it’s like the old Field of Dreams (mantra).”

“If you build it, they will come…you can do a lot of gimmicks and promotions, and our people do all of that; but at the end of the day if we’re a good team, and playing well and a fun team to watch, then I believe that it’ll become a great environment,” said Collins.

“That’s what we did at Welsh-Ryan last year, you saw it. Those crowds were as good as anything I’ve seen in the country. It’s been a good partnership so far.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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