Amid rumors that costs for a planned event center near Chicago's McCormick Place had skyrocketed 75%, the city's Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier) on Tuesday awarded a $164-million contract for the facility, about 17% greater than originally budgeted.

The contract, awarded to a team led by Clark Construction Group, Chicago, also calls for construction of a $391-million hotel in efforts to transform the area into an entertainment district and boost prospects for McCormick Place, the city's premier convention center. Among other uses, the 10,000-seat event center will host basketball games for DePaul University's Blue Demons.

The center, designed by New Haven, Conn.-based architect Pelli Clarke Pelli, fell under scrutiny in recent weeks after local media accounts indicated costs had ballooned to $250 million due plans to locate the playing court 22 feet below grade, a concession to residents who lobbied to limit the height of the structure.

Plans released Tuesday scrap the subterranean structure, relocate the court at grade level and lower the height of the structure's roof trusses. The final building height will exceed that of the original plan by 12 feet.

Despite increased costs, McPier and DePaul will remain 50-50 partners in funding the center. “DePaul has built or extensively renovated more than a dozen buildings the last 15 years, and is quite familiar with the process of adjusting budgets or design plans as actual construction plans become known,” the university indicated in a Tuesday statement. “We remain committed to the larger project and look forward to help create a building of which the city can be proud, and doing it a cost effectively as possible.”
Groundbreaking could occur as early as next spring.