The United Center, which opened for the 1994-95 NBA, is across the street from the site of Chicago Stadium on the city's West Side, but until the 1995-96 season, it felt light-years away in history.
The old stadium had character, from the standing-room-only upper balcony to the hard seats, narrow aisles, and down-home charm. The scoreboard was old and outdated, and the players, emerging from the small locker rooms, had to duck to get upstairs to the floor.
But the stadium had mistique, the kind of atmosphere that comes from moments such as June 14, 1992, when Michael Jordan - standing on the press table with tears in his eyes, a cigar in his mouth, and a bottle of championship trophy high to the cheering throng. Chicago Stadium's noise was incredible, and when the lights were turned down for the introduction of the Bulls, it was simply electrifying.
The world's greatest basketball player retired in 1993, before United Center opened, vowing that he loved the old stadium too much to play across the street. The Bulls retired his number (23), erected a bronze statue of him in the lobby of their new arena, and carried on without him. But on March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan decided he missed basketball and rejoined the Bulls in their opulent new arena. Apparently the high-tech replay scoreboard and 21,711 plush, theater-style seats haven't cramped His Airness's style too much - he got the Bulls to the 1994-95 MVP en route to the Bulls' fourth NBA championship in six years.
The football-bowl shape of the arena provides good sight lines even in the farthest seats, and with the addition of "illustrated man" Dennis Rodman to their team, Chicago fans have plenty to look at - and cheer about. The triumvirate of Rodman, Jordan, and Scottie Pippen has been called the best combination in the game. In just two years the United Center has become the site of sports history and has guaranteed a place for itself in Chicago's heart.
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
February 20, 2001
|United Center Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 8|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 7|
|Bonus: Michael Jordan Statue|| 2|
|Total Score|| 60|
February 21, 2001 - The United Center was opened in 1994 to replace the aging Chicago Stadium. Sitting at the opposite side of Madison Avenue from where the old Stadium existed, this facility dominates the surrounding neighborhood in its sheer size and fact that there is little more than empty lots for parking in the immediate area surrounding it. This building was constructed during the midst of the Bulls heyday of the 90's when the team was the hottest ticket in town and by the looks of the size of this place they built a venue large enough to accommodate as much of the demand as possible.
In the lower concourse you will find Fandemonium, the main souvenir outlet for Bulls and
Blackhawks merchandise. Also there is a private restaurant for season ticketholders (The
Locker Room) and a public one (The Windy City Grill)... this amidst a wide selection of
concessions of almost every type of food one could ever want!!!
The Club concourse features the Chicago Stadium Club, a Harbour club style buffet
restaurant where the walls are adorned with all kinds of prints and memorabilia from
events that occured at the Bulls and 'Hawks old stomping grounds. The rest of the club
concourse has plenty of upscale food and merchandise concessions as well as lounges
with plenty of room to pull up a nice comfortable chair, put your drink on a table and watch
the game on one of several monitors. And even in the upper concourse you will find the
wide selection of food and drink available in the building's pricier areas.
Not only is there seating for 21,500 fans in three main levels, there are suites above each
of those three levels (total of 212). Despite three years of Bulls players that masquerade as
an NBA team and a few years of mediocrity on the ice this building still sells its Bulls games
out on a regular basis and draws a healthy crowd for the Blackhawks. We must admit
though that the sold out building we sat in for the Bulls game only appeared to be about
three quarters full. There must be plenty of Bulls season ticket holders who won't part with
their tickets for fear that the glory days will return!!! (Fat chance!) Also newly added to the
bowl is an LED Daktronics display board which circles the bowl between lower and club
levels and between the club and upper levels. Outside of the Xcel Energy Center in
Minnesota this arena has the most extensive use of this technology of any venue we have
seen. As famous Chicagoans Siskel and Ebert would say "two thumbs up" from us!!!
The Bulls and Blackhawks are two of the most respected and historic franchises in all of
sports and the cloth that hangs here reflects that. No silly 6th man banners here as the
Bulls and 'Hawks proudly display their great achievements (NBA Titles,Stanley Cups etc.
etc.) and honor their greatest players such as Stan Mikita and Michael Jordan (WHO?).
The Bulls and Blackhawks are famous for events that occur before the game begins. The
Bulls were amongst the first to begin the widely used concept of turning out the lights and
blasting the music at full bore while introducing the Bulls team to the court. To use another
catch phrase here, always imitated, never duplicated. And if there is one place to catch the
playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, make sure it is at the United Center before the start of
a Blackhawks game. Here the fans cheer loud and wildly throughout the singing of our
national anthem and it is truly a unique moment to experience.
Things That Caught Our Eye
One jumbotron skit was something called a "Kiss Cam" in which the screen showed a
couple together in the audience and the idea is to get them to kiss on-screen. Most
couples usually do oblige, however some do need a bit of goading from the fans. The two
guys wearing Redwings jerseys did not oblige.
"Sing for your Supper"- this is a contest that pits two people in different rows against each other in a karaoke contest. The winner gets dinner for his/her entire row free. BUT GET THIS, the rest of the fans in the audience that are judging have three options to choose
from. They can choose either one as the winner or they can also choose neither if the two
contestants do not live up to standards and everyone goes home hungry. This was the
result the night we were there!!
The day of the Blackhawks game we happened upon a terrific establishment called Cheli's
Chili Bar, on West Madison, about a mile from the United Center. This "Cheers" style pub is owned by none other than Chris Chelios himself and is run by Chris' parents and sister. We
spent the entire afternoon there and the Chelios family treated us like kings. What warm
and terrific people!
This is a wonderful building with amenities so plentiful that you would have a difficult time finding a venue with more things to see, do, and eat than this one. As far as game presentation is concerned, the Bulls do more of the things now typical of today's fan
experience (tossing t/shirts into crowd, 3 live bands in the concourses, face painting etc.)
while a Blackhawks game reminds you more of when a game was simply that, a game. Peter
for one found this rather refreshing as Andrew tended more to enjoy the in game
entertainment and accepted it at part of the total experience. An outstanding venue, albeit
quite a bit oversized in our opinion.
May 28, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Levy Restaurants is taking over concessionaire responsibilities at Chicago's United Center. The contract was held by Bismarck Enterprises Inc., which was founded by Peter Wirtz, the younger brother of Rocky Wirtz who owns the Blackhawks. Peter Wirtz plans to continue the company, but it will be focused on consulting rather than operations.
MAJOR RETAIL DEVELOPMENT PROPOSED FOR UNITED CENTER
May 1, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures
Chicago, Ill. - Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is leading a venture that plans to build
260,000 square feet of restaurants, bars, a team store and event space in the sprawling parking lot east of the arena, according to documents obtained by Crain's Chicago Business.
Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz would be part of the venture, which could include team offices, parking, a terrace and a green roof.
The new retail structure on the H Lot would be connected to the east side of the arena with an atrium-like entrance similar to the one at Wisconsin's Lambeau Field, home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers.