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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
When I think of Allstate Arena, I think of the quintessential multi-use facility. I've been there for concerts. I've been there for college basketball and WNBA basketball. I've been there for hockey. When I journeyed to Allstate Arena to see the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League, I admit that my expectations were set for an average experience.
I admit that I haven't quite bought into the Arena Football League as a means to get my summer football fix, but I found the Chicago Rush game that I attended to be the most enjoyable Arena League venue I have seen thus far. That being said, there are still some major flaws that keep this pretty close to what I expected going in.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food is a bit overpriced at Allstate Arena, but you will find a pretty decent selection. Concession stands were not open in the upstairs seating area, so if you have a ticket in the upper stands, make sure you grab your grub before ascending to your perch.
My personal favorite when I'm at Allstate Arena is the Chicago Dog ($6) it is basic, but with high quality and regional relevance. Near the North Gate you will find the Exchange Street Sausage Company where you can choose from several dog options, including the San Antonio, New York, Milwaukee, and Maxwell Street.
Pepsi is the soda vendor and a small costs $5, or for a dollar more you can grab the souvenir size ($6). A Budweiser or Bud Light can be found ($7), or you can kick it up to the "premium" option of Shock Top ($8).
If you are one of those fans, who loves to see the whole lights-off, exploding-fireworks, spotlight player introductions, then you will want to be sure you are in your seat about 20 minutes prior to a Chicago Rush kickoff. The Rush really amped up their opening act, complete with 15 or so "Adrenaline Rush Cheerleaders."
The music played throughout the game is more of a current pop feeling, rather than the constant heavy metal that I experienced north in Milwaukee at a Mustangs game. I thought it was a good backdrop to the fast-paced game.
The team was founded in 2001, and has had decent success, winning the Arena League championship back in 2006. The banner hangs alongside retired numbers of John Moyer (#99) and Bob McMillen (#44). The former being a defensive lineman, and the latter being the team's current head coach.
The parking lot across the street houses a Target and several chain restaurants including Chipotle, Panda Express, Steak & Shake, IHOP, Starbucks, Potbelly's, and Subway. I have found through trial and error that the best place to spend some time before or after a game at Allstate Arena is at Harry Caray's. It is about a mile from the arena, so you will need to drive, but you are able to find great food in a comfortable bar setting.
I noticed right away that many of the fans were wearing their Chicago Rush gear, always a good sign of the loyalty amongst the fans. Not surprisingly, you'll find quite a bit of Chicago Bears gear as well. Even though the arena had a lot of empty seats, the crowd was really responsive to swells of momentum, and got down right loud during a key 4th down defensive stop.
Parking is $11, and with almost no other choice available to you, that becomes very hard to swallow. There is a public transportation option by taking the Blue Line train to the Rosemont stop and then taking a PACE bus to the arena, but that is a bit too convoluted for my liking.
Inside the arena, you'll find mostly wide concourses, but if you walk around the entire arena, there are some weird twists and turns. Bathrooms are very large so you shouldn't have to miss any game action just to beat someone in line to the john.
Unfortunately tickets are offered through Ticketmaster, so you can expect to pay those lovely asssociated fees that you may be accustomed to. Front row seats can be a fun experience at an Arena Football game as you may become a part of the action, or catch a ball, which is yours to keep. Those tickets will cost you $69 after fees, but may actually be worth it, as long as you are in the front row. Other seats range from $14-$42. My advice would be to go for the cheap seats and sit in the upper deck. If the crowd is small, you can move down to where you like, but I like the view from the upper deck.
The parking is clearly too expensive, the food is slightly too expensive, and the tickets are slightly too expensive as well. Unless you are a diehard Arena Football fan, then sit upstairs if you want to get the best return on your sports entertainment investment.
One extra point for the mascot, Grabowski. He's a very ordinary looking mascot, dressed in football gear, but he does a great job of making his way through the crowd and interacting with as many fans as he can.
I'll award one additional point for an interesting promotion conducted the day of my visit. After the first Chicago Rush touchdown, teddy bears were vaulted on to the field from all directions. The team partnered with the Red Cross, and encouraged fans to bring new Teddy Bears which were then donated to children and families who had been through a disaster. It was an amazing outpouring, and I wish I would have documented it better in a photograph, but I was unaware it was happening beforehand.
I obviously like going to sporting events, and I would go to a Chicago Rush game again in the future. I can't say that it presented me with a lot of highlight memories, but if you just gotta have some football during the summer, or if you're in the area, then this may be an experience that is worth checking out.
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