DePaul Blue Demons' AllState Arena: A Disappointing Venue
Review originally posted on www.stadiumjourney.com
The All State Arena is the prototypical “multi-use” facility. Currently, it is the home to the DePaul Blue Demons 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 All State 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.
FANFARE Score: 12
Food & Beverage: 3
The one advantage of not being located on a college campus is that there is beer and alcohol available for those who enjoy a cold one with their sports (Budweiser, Bud Light, and Guinness on tap, with several other bottled options).
Pepsi products are available in souvenir cups, although the price tag of $5.75 leaves something to be desired. There is an adequate selection of offerings, including Connie’s Pizza, but nothing that is going to blow you away.
I was surprised, and somewhat dubious, when I saw the reported attendance of 7,512. The facility seats 17,500 for basketball, and it seemed to be about 10-20 percent filled to me. There were so many empty seats that I didn’t even bother trying to find my ticketed seat. On the plus side, sightlines are good as long as you don’t end up on one of the ends, which feels far removed from the action. Keep to the sidelines (north and south sections) of the arena for basketball.
The acoustics are good, and it can still get relatively loud in the arena. Unfortunately for DePaul fans, there hasn’t been too much to cheer about over the last several years. Sitting beneath Final Four banners (1943 and 1979) help, as do the retired number banners honoring players George Mikan and Mark Aguirre, and legendary coach Ray Meyer.
In the end though, this feels like the wrong home for DePaul basketball, and has no charm.
There is a large strip mall next door to the All State Arena that contains a Target and several chain restaurants. Options include Chipotle, Chili’s, Cold Stone Creamery, IHOP, Panda Express, Steak n’ Shake, and Subway. Also within walking distance is a Potbelly’s and a Starbucks. This can either be interpreted as a wide variety of options, or a dull lineup of generic options. From my tone, you may be able to guess my perspective.
I chose to grab some grub at a nearby Harry Caray’s restaurant (less than a mile away). To be fair, this is a chain as well, but one that is restricted to the Chicago area, so it feels a bit more special. Also, Harry Caray’s serves up some of the best steaks in the city. While you certainly will get lighter in the wallet (steaks range from $30-45), you will walk away feeling satisfied.
The student section was one of the most pitiful examples of such a gathering as I have witnessed. Anytime the number of members of the pep band is greater than the number of students in the student section, then you have a weak student section (the band was decent I should add).
What’s worse is that the public address announcer introduced the student section as the “sixth man” during player introductions. Either they have a sick sense of humor, or they are blind, and calling attention to the group was outright laughable.
There are a few diehards in the crowd, but for the most part, the spectators are sparse and predictable.
The good news is that it’s easy to get in and out of the arena, and there is plenty of parking available in the parking lot. The bad news is that parking costs $11, and there are no real options besides coming by car. Bathrooms are reasonably clean, but seemed tucked away, especially in the upper levels. The only access to the upper level is by steep staircase or astonishingly slow elevator.
Return on Investment: 1
My $20 ticket, $11 parking, and $6 soda brought my in-arena total to $37. The lone merchandise stand offered t-shirts starting at $15, DePaul mini basketballs ($12), and DePaul pennants ($10), none of which I particularly liked. Overall, it would take someone paying me to go back to a DePaul game anytime soon.
There is nothing extraordinary about attending a DePaul basketball game. A trip to the All State Arena is a trip to blandville.
Paul Swaney is a Co-Founder of Stadium Journey.
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