The Chicago Winter Sports Scene Has Taken Over The Near West Side

Michael Jordan statue United Center atriumSince 1929, the Near West Side of Chicago has been the setting for the city’s preeminent sports arena. From 1929 through 1994, the iconic Chicago Stadium sat on West Madison Street, two miles west of downtown Chicago. Then, beginning in 1994, the United Center opened its doors immediately southwest of the now torn down “Madhouse on Madison.”

The 23-year-old United Center (UC) is the largest arena in the United States, based upon square footage (960,000).  

United Center aerial shot

The sheer size of the structure has become even larger, thanks to the addition of the new atrium space, which features the corporate offices of the Bulls, Blackhawks and Levy Restaurants, along with the famous Michael Jordan statue, that has been moved indoors to this year-round, open to the public setting (upper right). A Bulls and Blackhawks merchandise store is also open year-round, as part of this new setup.

The exterior of the UC features statues of Blackhawks greats Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, with pieces of art honoring Bulls legends Scottie Pippen and Johnny “Red” Kerr present within the halls of the massive edifice.

Chicago sports fans can check out to see how the experts feel about the Bulls chances against the Timberwolves on Friday and the Blackhawks probabilities versus the Wild on Saturday.

In an interesting development, the entire Chicago winter sports scene is now headquartered in the Near West Side neighborhood, with the Bulls moving their basketball operations into the nearby Advocate Center in 2014, after many decades practicing in the northern suburb of Deerfield, Illinois.

Advocate Center, Bulls practice facility

After moving from the northwest suburb of Bensenville (IL) to the very close by Johnny’s IceHouse West in 2010, the Blackhawks now practice at the brand new MB Ice Arena, located two blocks south of the UC.

MB Ice Arena Blackhawks practice facility

The UC, the main hub of this winter sports hotbed, seats just shy of 21,000 for basketball and a little under 20,000 for hockey. In addition to the building’s 167 luxury suites, the UC is home to numerous premium clubs, including the Chicago Stadium Lounge on the Lexus Club Level, a 225-capacity food and drink option on the arena’s 200 level.

Chicago Stadium Lounge United Center

The Ketel One Club, BMO Harris Club, Budweiser Champions Club, Governors Room and Skyline Room also provide luxury options for patrons willing the spend some extra money.

With Chicago being one of the great dining cities of the world, its no surprise that the United Center offers a wide array of unique concession options. In addition to normal stadium fare, “Chicago style” Vienna Beef hot dogs, “Chicago style” deep dish pizza, “Chicago Style” sausage, as well as barbeque, kosher and vegan food options are present.

Plus, fans can enjoy local favorites like Goose Island Beer and Gibson’s Steakhouse, both of which have a presence within the UC concession areas.

Since opening its doors in 1994, the UC has been the home of three Bulls championship teams (1996-1998), along with three Blackhawks title teams (2010, 2013, 2015).

Other notable events that have taken place in the arena include numerous Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournaments, the 1996 Democratic National Convention and Oprah Winfrey’s final two shows of her historic daytime television program. Both shows were filmed and aired in May of 2011.

The United Center is co-owned by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz. 

The arena sits two miles west of downtown Chicago, 0.5 miles north of the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and one mile west of the Kennedy Expressway (I-90).

Fans can travel to the arena via train with nearby stops available on the Blue, Green and Pink CTA lines.