NEAR WEST SIDE — The Blackhawks are planning a massive, $65 million expansion of their Fifth Third Arena training complex on the Near West Side.
The team is buying vacant land at 303 S. Damen Ave. — next door to Fifth Third Arena — for the 135,000-square-foot expansion, team representatives told neighbors at a May 17 community meeting. They’ll make improvements to the arena, which is a community ice rink that also serves as the team’s practice facility.
The team will add two hockey rinks for the Blackhawks and club teams, 180 parking spaces, a park for neighbors and a Divvy station at the arena.
Sara Guderyahn, the Blackhawks’ vice president of Social Impact & Outreach, told meeting attendees the park will have a space for local artists and the community. The project is expected to create 260 construction jobs and be completed in 2026, she said.
“We believe sports programming can change lives,” Guderyahn said. “This rink is the heart of the Blackhawks org, but it’s more than that. It’s how we think of the benefits of sportsmanship and how we create a safe space for our West Side neighbors.”
The development still needs City Council approval.
The Blackhawks are buying the land from Rush University Medical Center for $23.5 million, a deal that was approved by the City Council in April. As part of the deal, the hospital will put $6.3 million from the sale toward development of the Sankofa Wellness Village.
The Sankofa Wellness Village is a sprawling development project in West Garfield Park aiming to create infrastructure — including a health center, business incubator and more — that will increase the quality of life and life expectancy of neighbors.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) has said the expansion will bring much-needed jobs and resources to the community.
“The Blackhawks’ expansion of the Fifth Third Arena practice facility will make the surrounding neighborhood safer,” he said in an April statement from the city.
Neighbors at the meeting said they are happy about the development, but they want more visibility from the Blackhawks. One parent said they would like the team to be more active in the Black community and help youth teams with the cost of hockey equipment.
“Our kids aren’t exactly riding on the ice, and the cost of accessing the sport is way out of our budget,” one woman said. “I would like to see if there’s a real plan for that.”
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