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Chicago Stadium
Chicago Stadium

  Venue Resources  
Address 1800 W. Madison Street
Chicago, Il 60612
Weather
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  The Facility  
Opened March 28, 1929
Closed 1994
Demolished 1995
Ownership
(Management)
Arthur Wirtz
(Arthur Wirtz)
Cost of Construction $9.5 Million
Capacity 17,317
Luxury Suites None
Club Seats None
  Other Facts  
Former Tenants Chicago Bulls
(NBA) (1967-1994)
Chicago Blackhawks
(NHL) (1929-1994)
Chicago Sting
(MISL) (1980-1988)
Population Base 10,000,000
On Site Parking Unknown
Nearest Airport O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
Retired Numbers #4 Jerry Sloan
#10 Bob Love
#23 Michael Jordan
#33 Scottie Pippen
## Phil Jackson
## Jerry Krause

Championships 1st

1991
2nd

1992
3rd

1993

Sources: Mediaventures

Chicago Stadium

The City of Chicago owes its thanks to a man named Paddy Harmon for the existence of the Chicago Stadium. Paddy was a local sports promoter who wanted to bring big-time hockey to the Windy City. Harmon was convinced that professional hockey would thrive in Chicago and set off to an NHL meeting in Montreal where expansion was being discussed. Harmon was disappointed to learn that Major Frederic McLoughlin had beaten him to the punch in his quest for Chicago's NHL franchise.

Harmon then shifted his focus. He figured that if he couldn't own the team, he would at least own the building in which they would play. After investing $2.5 million of his own money into its construction, Harmon borrowed the remainder of the $7 million Chicago Stadium construction costs from "friends" who would later force him out of the operation and leave him to die penniless.

The Chicago Stadium opened to the public on March 28, 1929 with a boxing match between world light heavyweight Tommy Loughran of Philadelphia and world middleweight champion Mickey Walker of New Jersey.

The Blackhawks would play their first game at the Chicago Stadium nine months later. On December 15, 1929, Chicago defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 before 14,212 fans - 6,000 more people than the largest hockey crowd ever assembled at the Blackhawks' previous home, the Chicago Coliseum.

Like the United Center that came after it, the Stadium was considered state-of-the-art architecturally when it was built. It boasted a 37,000-square-foot main floor, a 185 foot ice surface from end to end (that's actually 15 feet shorter than the current regulation length), and over 16,600 seats - 8,000 more than Madison Square Garden, which was the largest sporting venue at the time. One of the most impressive innovations was the Stadium's modern ventilation system, which delivered 600,000 cubic feet of fresh air to the building every minute.

Sadly, Harmon was only able to see the pleasure the Stadium brought to the public for just over a year. On July 22,1930 hee was returning from his summer home in Crystal Lake when he lost control of his Packard sedan while driving along Northwest Highway. Harmon died with less than three dollars in his pocket and to his name. His last wish - to be "laid out" at the Stadium - was granted. Friends paid for his funeral, and the Stadium was draped in black and purple as hundreds of people paid their respects.

The Stadium was, of course, a multi-purpose venue. It was a mecca for boxing. A veritable Who's Who of the sweet science fought there: Max Baer, Carmen Basilio, Primo Carnera, Ezzard Charles, Jack Dempsey, Gene Fullmer, Kid Gavilan, Rocky Graziano, Jake LaMotta, Sonny Liston, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore, Floyd Patterson, Sugar Ray Robinson, Barney Ross, Jack Sharkey, Ernie Terell, Joe Walcott, and Tony Zale. Muhammad Ali won the Golden Gloves light heavyweight title there as Cassius Clay during the Golden Gloves 1960 tournament.

Chicago Stadium
The Stadium played host to many political conventions. Republicans and Democrats both came in 1932 when President Roosevelt first uttered the term "New Deal." Roosevelt returned in 1936 and 1940. Both parties held conventions at the Stadium in 1944. Four days after he attended a Stadium rally organized by Mayer Richard Daley, John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Countless singers and entertainers performed at the Stadium, from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope to Elvis, John Denver, the Rolling Stones, Kiss and Chicago. It was also home to the "Greatest Show on Earth," Easter sunrise services, the Hollywood Ice Revue (starring Sonja Henie), the Bulls before Michael Jordan, the Bulls with Michael Jordan, The Chicago Opera, the roller derby, and the rodeo. The Stadium was used for bicycle races, college basketball games, professional wrestling, indoor soccer, and track and firld events. The Stadium was even used for Mayor Anton J. Cermak's funeral in 1933.

11,198 people witnessed the first professional football game held in the Stadium on December 18, 1932. The Chicago Bears beat the Portland Spartans 9-0 for the league championship. Bronko Nagurski passed two yards to Red Grange for the only touchdown scored on a shortened 80-yard field. Wrigley Field, the Bears' usual home, was iced over, so the game had to be moved to the Stadium, where one kickoff almost sailed through a window onto Wood Street.

The Blackhawks played their final regular-season game at the Stadium on April 14, 1994. Among those present were all four of the Hall of Famers whose jerseys had been retired: Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Glenn Hall, and Tony Esposito. The Blackhawks lost to Toronto 6-4, but advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs against the same Maple Leaf team. In the first round of the Western Conference quarterfinals, the Maple Leafs prevailed four games to two. The last hockey game ever played at the Madhouse on Madison was on April 28, when the Leafs won 1-0.

Courtesy the Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Stadium was the largest sports arena in the world when it was built with a seating capacity of 25,000 persons. This building had the enviable reputation as the loudest rink in the world. It was a place where you think every game was the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. From the moment the incomparable Wayne Messmer sang the opening lines of the national anthem, barely audible above the roar of 18,000 plus Blackhawks fans, to the final buzzer, the most electric arena in the league had a truly unique atmosphere - one you felt.

"The top arena in the NHL was Chicago Stadium," said Brian Burke, former general manager of the Hartford Whalers, "I would be surprised and amazed if anyone said differently. If you can't get up for a game in Chicago Stadium, you can't get up for a game. The fans are great, adn the excitement begins with the U.S. national anthem."

Not only was the West Side sports palace home to the most rabid hockey fans in the circuit, it also boast the largest theater organ in North America, which thunders its sound throuigh huge wooden baffles in the ceiling. The greatest ever built, with a volume of a military band of 2,500 pieces. "There's no question about it: For young players or an old coach there's great excitement in Chicago Stadium," said Bryan Murry, former coach and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. "The atmosphere is incredible. The look and size of the facility keeps everybody so close to the action. There's something very special about it."

"Everything they say about that building is true," former Detroit winger Paul Ysebaert agrees. "It's tough to play in there. You have to weather the first 10 minutes before you can accomplish a game plan. If you can be composed in getting the puck out of your own end and if you come up with big saves in the first part of the game, you stand a chance. The first part of a game in there is a big key."

From Brian P Smith: Just want you to know what it meant to me to find your website. As a lifelong Chicago Blackhawks' fan, I attended over 100 games at old Chicago Stadium. My best memories of my teens and twenties are from nights at 1800 West Madison.

Some reminiscence you would appreciate:

My friends and I would often get down to the Staidium as early as possible in the afternoon, usualy for the big Sunday night games, in order to buy as many tickets as we could afford. The only hope you had for tickets on game day was in the second balcony. In those days, old Wally Gunzo, himself a former Hawks goalie and for years and years the owner of Gunzo's hockey shop, the exclusive Blackhawk supplier, would himself man the early ticket booth at the Stadium. Sometimes Wally would recognize one of my crew (or me), on account of how much time we used to spend hanging around Gunzo's during the week. We would augment these tickets with whatever other tickets we could scrounge up from contacts and people we worked with. The idea was to have as many tickets as you could get (more than four was a real score) in order to participate in the great scalpers, open-air market. I can tell you from rich experience that, although Chicago Stadium's reputation for what went on inside the building is great, the goings-on outside the building were on equal par - and, in a few of the club's lean years - surpassed the excitement within.

"WHO'S GOT TWO!?!?" would ring out from the crowd. They gathered regularly along Madison Street, just about where you could first pull-in to Red Top parking. The louder the cry, and the earlier, would signify that demand for tickets was high. The big Sunday night games would have Montreal in town, maybe the Flyers. You could feel the excitement building. Prices would rise with the anticipation of face-off. You developed your instincts hard and fast for just how long to hold out for a better price; you listened closely for your buddy - in the car, radio on - to let you know "they're singing." Holding out any moment past the Anthem greatly increased your risk of having to unload in a falling market as demand vanished with the drop of the puck (depending on who was in town). I can assure you that many a skilled Chicago commodities trader working today at the great Chicago Board of Trade or Mercantile Exchange cut his teeth outside the Stadium. I point to my own experience out there as a key part of how I ended up a stockbroker currently with Merrill Lynch. I only wish the stock market was as fun as those unforgettable nights in Chicago at the old Stadium. May it rest in peace.

On March 27, 1998 Mark J Thornton writes:
My Dad, Frank Thornton, was the stadium supper from 1967 until he had a stroke and retired in 1977. During this time our family lived, breathed and coped with the goings on of this great building. I worked with the building engineers in the summer and spent a 6 month period as a stationary engineer during the fall of 1972. It is still hard for me to believe that they would allow this building to be torn down. I spent nights walking the lower level on my rounds. My dad told me there were ghosts in the lower levels but I never believed him until I spent 6 months on the 4:00 pm to midnight shift.

The tunnel, the fan rooms above the second floor balconies, the piano bar behind the ticket office that was shut down the night Brian Topping broke up with Sonia Henie (closed off for 30 years). The place had a soul, and they would all come out at night.

During his years at the stadium my dad was involved with the opening of the Sonia Henie storage locker, the piano bar, and the refurbishment of the old fan rooms where a 2000 ton Carrier water chiller was added for air conditioning.

August 7, 1998 - I've got exclusive footage of the removal of the Barton organ including interviews with various people all unedited on broadcast betacam. About 8 hours over a period of 90 days! I'm trying to raise $15,000 to edit all this tape and present it for sale on VHS. There was so much outrage during the demolition of the Stadium and now we want to save a piece of history with this project. Email me if you have any money to contribute or intrest in helping to raise some money.

Dale Pfeiffer
Up above the lights and the scoreboard was a world that few in Chicago knew existed. This was the location of the various pipes and speakers for the stadium pipe organ. It was a maze of maple boxes and tubes all located within a 20 by 20 room high over center ice. The room was connected by catwalks that led over to the four corner fanrooms. Access to these rooms, and the organ "speaker house" was via a ladder out of a storage/slopsink room on the second balcony level. Few people that worked at the stadium ever got up to the fanrooms, and fewer yet ever got over to the "speaker house." Entering the "speaker house" was like being in a time warp. The room was filled with old newspapers and magazines from as far back as the forties. It was the perfect place to bring something to read and leave, and it really showed. It was also filled with discarded cigarette wrappers and coke and various other soft drink bottles from a bygone era. Passing through this room during a hockey or basketball game, it was hard not to stop and start reading the papers. I was born in 1951, and most of the papers then (1972) were older than I was.

Outside on the catwalk was the greatest view of the ice that anyone could ever imagine. You could see the plays taking place like on a coaches chalkboard. I remember watching Bobby Orr once from this vantage point. He literally skated rings around everyone. It would have been a great to have a camera, but if you ever dropped anything, it would have been right on one of the players or the ice. I was always afraid of dropping my flashlight.

The old fanrooms were like a scene from an old Flash Cordon movies (circa 1930). They design was called "water wash" in which the air was run through a water spray system which raises its humidity, but lowers its temperature. It worked well when it was designed because the hockey season ended in the late winter or early spring. But turned the place into a fog bank during the final game of the Stanley Cup finals with Montreal in May of 1971. A modern HVAC system was installed in the stadium because of this condition and this game. No more Jacque Lemaire slapshots from the blue line getting lost in the clouds.

My dad had an office in the northest corner on the main floor. He had been the building supper for the Chicago Furniture Mart, but was moved over to the Stadium by the old man (Art Wirtz) in 1966. The condition of the Stadium was so bad that nobuddy wanted to go to the games. He re-did the bathrooms in red Italian tile and cleaned the place from head to toe. Many said it was the best they had ever seen the stadium, and his ice was the best in the league, per the league president. My dad ran a crew of 20 to 30 people and I remember stories on all of them. I'd love to right a book about the place. I was in my early twenties when I worked there and the stories and the incidents are in my mind like they were yesterday. These were the last healthy days my dad had before his stroke and he absolutley loved the work he did and the building. He also worked with a real cast of characters. Joe, Harvey, Bud & Gene, Dela, Spyder, Tommy. What a group, what a Stadium. I can't believe they torn it down. I still have a brick from the ruins, and a brass presser guage from one of the old DC sets in the boilder room that were used for the old spot lights. It was Chicago, it was a past that belongs to all of us who remember.

On November 2, 1998 Ralph W. Emerson III" wrote: My Father helped design and build the old organ and was the first to play it at it's dedication circa 1930, 1931. I have pictures of myself (age 6 months) sitting on his lap at the great organ. He played it for many years until he left Chicago in the late '30's'

He was probably the only person who ever played that organ to it's full potential.

Now it's gone...along with the Stadium....how very sad....

On December 12, 1998 Dennis Gruse wrote: Your page just stirred up all kinds of nostalgic memories for me even though I've been away from the Chicago area for the most part since moving to the South in 1979.

I remember going to the Stadium even as a high school kid with my uncle each year to see the Daily News Relays, back when track was still a major attraction away from Olympics time.

And how about those college basketball double headers. Like the year Loyola went all the way in the NCAA and played in a double header with two other major ranked teams to an overflowing standing room crowd. I stood through all of the first game and much of the second before some seats became available for my group. The next day's paper carried a crowd photo showing fans even sitting above on the steel beams.

There were many other great college games and teams playing there too that I saw in the 60s and 70s, such as UCLA's early John Wooden teams with kids like Gail Goodrich and Adolph Rupp's many times champion Kentucky Wildcats. I believe they wore the NCAA champ number on their wamup suits.

I remember seeing Paul Westphal glow with a Southern Cal team that otherwise flickered.

The memories go on and on, including the game I had highly coveted tickets for that was to highlight a young player from UCLA who still called himself Lew Alcindor. It was his first year of college ball, and his abundant scoring was packing the stadiums. But frigid temperatures made it uncomfortable to risk traveling into the stadium's declining neighborhood and risk that the car might not start when we finally got to it after the game. So, like many others that night, I stayed at home. I still regret it some 30-plus years later.

Yes, the stadium was the big site for big college games back then. Likewise, college basketball was big for the stadium too. For back until the Bulls came, there were no pro games played there.

Of course, the Stadium had a few drawbacks by then. I've already mentioned the neighborhood's deterioraion. Coming in from the Western suburbs, we always felt our car was safer leaving it in the suburbs where the CTA el route began and getting off at the stadium exit--back then we worried more about our vehicle's safety than our physical security. And you always prayed that your seat didn't leave you trying to look around one of the beams. Later, when I had a connection for comp tickets on the floor, I'd get cold feet from the hockey ice that remained under the temporary court's flooring.

A little known fact about the Old Statium: In 1932, it was the place where the First indoor NFL game was held.

On September 15, 2000 Arthur E Salwin wrote: I grew up in Chicago and was an avid BlackHawks fan. Used to listen to Stanley Cup playoff games at night with my radio under the pillow or the covers so my parents wouldn't know I was still awake.

What you forgot to mention on the Hockey web site for the old Chicago Stadium was the old scoreboard. It had dials all over it, some seemed to run backwards, and the announcers for the visiting teams could never figure it out. They never knew how much time was left in the period or on the power play because they couldn't read the clock. They'd give estimates, which was really funny. Anyway, your Web site picture shows the stadium with the modern scoreboard. Is there one available with the old scoreboard, or even a closeup of it? Do you know if it was destroyed, or is it sitting in a museum somewhere?

On August 13, 2001 Gordie0019@aol.com wrote: Last october, the blackhawks unveiled "Badge Of Honor", a statue on the site of the stadium. On the south side are six Blackhawk players through time {1926-2001}. On the east and north sides are every blackhawk players name engraved. In front of the players there is a 75th anniversary plaque. on the other side there is a Chicago Stadium plaque. On top there are three blackhawk logos.

On December 12, 2009 Boyd Zander wrote: My brother and I went to the last hockey game in the old Chicago Stadium, 4/28/94. We were up in the thrid balcony corner. Of course, after the game we didn't want to leave and had to be asked to leave. Anyways, at the end of the broadcast, so I heard, I believe is was Darin Pang, offered an epilouge form the ice and the camera rose from him into the third balcony corner zoomed in and supposedly there was my brother and I. I've tried to get a copy of that last closing moment of the Blackhawks broadcast in the stadium but I have failed on account I don't have contacts or know where to look. To have such a vidoe would be an awesome memory.

Would anyone happen to have this video or know where it could be obtained? Anything you could offer would be appreciated.

Chicago Bulls

International Amphitheater
International Amphitheater

1966-1967
Chicago Stadium
Chicago Stadium

1967-1994
United Center
United Center

1994-Present

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Coliseum
Chicago Coliseum

1926-1929
Chicago Stadium
Chicago Stadium

1929-1994
United Center
United Center

1994-Present


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