Plan Commission approves new Blackhawks practice facility

The Chicago Blackhawks clear a big hurdle.

The Chicago Blackhawks practice facility and community hockey rink set for the site of Malcolm X College received approval from the Plan Commission on Thursday, reports Chicago Tribune's John Byrne.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has said it will cost the city about $8 million to tear down the Malcolm X building, which is being replaced by a new campus nearby. The Hawks and Rush will pay about $24 million for their part of the land, for a $16 million net to the city.

The administration has said the land was appraised at $26.7 million. After Thursday's hearing, Blackhawks senior vice president for marketing Peter Hassen said the team also will provide free use of the rink to students and other benefits that he estimated as worth $3 million over the next five years. It's unclear how the team arrived at that figure, and the Emanuel administration told the Tribune when the deal was announced last year that the city would not independently verify the value of the benefits package.The Hawks facility will be privately funded and cost approximately $50 million.

Construction of the 125,000-square foot facility, which will have two NHL regulation-szed rinks, is expected to begin later this year and should be completed within two years. The college moved across the street to its new campus this month.

Hassen pointed out that the Hawks will only practice at the site during the season, and then only when the ice sheet at the United Center isn't available. He said the practice rinks will be available for community use "more than 50 percent of the time," but would not be more specific.

Johnny's IceHouse West has served as the Hawks' practice home since February 2010. The team's current contract with the facility runs through June 2017, which gives a general idea of when the move to the new building will occur.