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United Center

Chicago, IL

Home of the Chicago Blackhawks

4.1

4.2

United Center (map it)
1901 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60612


Chicago Blackhawks website

United Center website

Year Opened: 1994

Capacity: 19,717

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A Championship Hockey Experience

One of the original six in the National Hockey League (NHL), the Chicago Blackhawks continue to have a vibrant, passionate fan base whose affection for their team permeates the venue and sets the tone for an impressive game day experience.

The Blackhawks began play in the United Center in 1994 after spending 65 years in the historic Chicago Stadium. There’s still mixed reviews about the changing of the venues with fans hanging on to their old memories and experiences in the former venue to the comfort of the new (now 21 years or so old) United Center.

The Chicago Bulls and all their history also play at the United Center. The venue is used for concerts (Neil Diamond, Rush, U2, Bette Midler, etc.), All American basketball games, UFC martial arts, and many other entertainment events.

Attending a hockey game here has become unaffordable for the average fan and family especially after the Blackhawks recent Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013 but it is a spectacular time.

4.1

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    5

There is a plethora of dining and drinking options at the United Center, including seven restaurants and 35 concession stands. More concession stands are on the 100 level than the 300 level so fight the crowds and check the 100 level first for the better choices.

Classics such as hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, etc. ($6.50 - $10.50) are offered throughout the arena. Coke is the soda provider ($5.75/$6.25) at the United Center. There are healthy options including turkey sandwiches, salads, veggie cup with hummus, and veggie burgers which range from $5 - $9.

DiGiorno's has pizza slices ($6.50) chicken parmesan, foot long sausage, and Italian beef ($10.50 - $14.00), with Bud/Bud Light ($8.50) and premium/craft beer ($9.50). Sweet Baby Ray's smoke house offers pulled pork and smoked turkey sandwiches, brisket sandwich and baby back ribs. Although expensive ($12 - $14.50) this is the place I'd recommend. The aroma is sensational.

Goose Island Pub (a popular Chicago brewery) on the first level offers their own draft beers and a variety of sandwiches including turkey, roast beef, corned beef, and Cuban.

These listed are just the tip of the iceberg. The United Center has something for every palate and diet (vegetarian, gluten free, kosher, sweet treats) with restaurants and full liquor bars on all three levels.

Caution: The variety is fabulous; the prices are quite high so be prepared to fork over some cash if eating and drinking at a Blackhawks game.

Atmosphere    5

The quality experience of attending a Blackhawks game is incredible. It starts with an entertaining video montage of the Blackhawks history as well as current players intertwined with the stitching of the logo that is masterfully done.

The scoreboard/video board displays valuable stats rarely seen at other NHL venues. It includes not only the goals scored, shots on goal, penalty times and period but also provides the reason for the penalty, and it provides a list of the players currently on the ice and the number of shifts they've had, the average shift time, and total time on the ice. It's heaven for those who like to keep score of the game and for those who like stats in general.

The seating consists of three levels with suites in between; however there are no cup holders and leg room is minimal. The temperature is comfortable inside; a sweat shirt or jersey will be ample.

It's a bit difficult understanding the PA announcer (however, having that fantastic scoreboard with all its stats and information displayed, one can easily follow the game). There is not a whole lot of racket and noise/music between stoppages of play and between periods. One can easily make friends with their neighbors without having to yell at them to converse.

Neighborhood    3

The United Center is located on the western side of Chicago about three miles from Grant Park. The reputation is that it's in a rough neighborhood but I had absolutely no issues checking out the nearby restaurants.

Two recommended restaurants within walking distance (1/2 mile) are the Park Tavern and the Billy Goat Tavern. The Park Tavern offers a wide array of brews and food. Even though it is only ½ mile away, it does offer a shuttle bus back from the venue after the game. That's helpful on those cold, windy Chicago evenings. The Billy Goat Tavern, made famous from the Saturday Night Live skit, offers traditional beers and sandwiches. Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger. No Pepsi, Coke. No Fries, Cheeps. It does get extremely crowded prior to a Blackhawks game.

The closest hotel to the arena is the Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC (a little less than a mile).

If you have plenty of extra time before the game, check out the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, located a couple of miles away in the Little Italy neighborhood on Taylor street. There's also a great array of restaurants along that strip if you want to fill up on some pasta pregame.

Fans    5

Blackhawks fans rank up there with the best of them. One spectacular tradition the Blackhawks fans have is to applaud, cheer, and whistle wholeheartedly as Jim Cornelison belts out the Star Spangled Banner. And it's done throughout the entire national anthem. It's quite a moving experience.

The arena sells out for Blackhawks games and is usually 109% of capacity especially after the team's recent Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013.

The fans show true passion and dedication for their Blackhawks starting with standing in line (in the bitter cold) greater than 30 minutes prior to the doors opening, continuing with the national anthem tradition, standing up and applauding all great plays throughout the game and staying through the entire game.

A fan wearing the opposition's jersey will be amongst polite, friendly folks so no need to worry about being ill-treated. Just soak in all the fervor and intensity of these fans as you watch the game.

Access    3

Because of the sell outs, the concourses are too small for the crowd and are jammed pack with fans and are not easy to traverse prior to the game, between periods, and after the game. Concession lines back up the flow of traffic as well. If you're claustrophobic and don't like crowds this may be a tough outing.

The gates open 90 minutes before face off which you'd think would be a nice treat. Even so, going through security is quite painful as they wand each and every individual causing long queues getting into the venue. And there is no indoor waiting; it's all outdoors. And when it is 25 degrees with winds at 15 mph with gusts up to greater than 25 mph it makes it miserable waiting to get in. Obviously, temperatures may vary depending on day and time of year visiting the United Center. Recommendation is to check temperature and winds before heading early to the game as you may not want to be standing in the frigid temperatures waiting to get in.

Because of the large crowds, expect a long wait time to enter the restrooms between periods. After the end of the game, the lines are reduced.

If driving, parking will cost you a bundle if you want to be close to the United Center, but if you're willing to walk a few blocks, there are bargains to be found. For $40 you can park right next to the arena. Move across the street and the price drops to $29. A half block further you move into "unofficial" parking and the cost goes to $22 - $25. Another option is to pre-pay for parking in the area ($9 - $10) and walk a little over a half mile to the arena.

Public transportation is available via the train or the 'L' as it is known in Chicago. The nearest Green Line stop is at the corner of Lake & Ashland and is about 5/8 mile walk to the United Center.

Return on Investment    3

YIKES!!!

This is one expensive hockey arena. It's too expensive..., if you can even get tickets.

Depending on the game, more than likely you'll have to go to a third party site like Ticket Monster or StubHub to get tickets and do expect to pay more than face value. NHL Ticket Exchange is another option but expect to pay more than the face value.

There usually are general admission seats for $37 ($44 with Ticketmaster fees) if ordered online. These are standing room only and circle the very upper level of the seating area.

Concession prices are more than other NHL arenas as are souvenir item prices. Yet, there is a fine variety.

Extras    5

There are several statues located outside the United Center worth checking out. There's the famous Michael Jordan statue, the Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita statues (both which actually have color in them; something that's uncommon for a statue), and The Badge of Honor - a 75th anniversary tribute to the Blackhawks.

There are plenty of souvenir stands in the venue with the main store located near sections 116-117. On some ticket stubs, a 10% off coupon is given for this store.

The ceiling is adorned with Blackhawks conference championship banners as well as proudly displaying five Stanley Cup banners. It also displays the many Chicago Bulls championship banners across its rafters.

There's an area on the concourse for kids to make signs and the video scoreboard proudly displays them during the game.

Extra credit is deserved for the Blackhawk fans.

Final Thoughts

My assumption prior to visiting the United Center for a Blackhawks game was that the fans would be a bit rough. Was I ever mistaken as they are one of the most ardent, yet friendliest fans at any NHL venue I've visited. I'm glad I attended a game here but be forewarned; it is one expensive night out.

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Crowd Reviews

United by Stanley

Total Score: 4.29

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 5

For years after the United Center opened in 1994, the Chicago Blackhawks were the "other tenant" in the building. As the Bulls declined into mediocrity, the Blackhawks rose in prominence, hitting its zenith with its first Stanley Cup championship in nearly 50 years in 2010. Today the United Center is a hot ticket when the Blackhawks are in town, and a filled standing room only crowd a common sight.

Great Building!!!

Total Score: 4.00

  • Food & Beverage: 1
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 4

Great atmosphere for a game, along with awesome fans! I am a season ticket holder and the only negative is the food! It has really gone down hill over the past few seasons! Last year they actually stopped giving out straws. Highly recommend eating at WestEnd or the Twisted Spoke. MUCH better food and at a much more fair price. Parking is great. The UC lots are fine, best bargin is the Malcom X lot for $20. It is secured with UC security, so you always feel safe. All in all a great building!

Amazing

Total Score: 4.00

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 3

Visited United Center for one of the Stanley Cup playoff games against the Nashville Predators, and all I can say is WOW!!! The Crowd was absolutely amazing dont know if it was just the intensity of the game or not, but after every goal the crowd erupted louder than any crowd Ive ever experienced. Was a blast and look forward to any future visits to the arena.

UC of Chicago

Total Score: 4.00

  • Food & Beverage: 0
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 4

The National Anthem sung by Opera Singer Jim Cornelison ,the crowd gets deafening as he sings. (ex): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_nQ-GNdo3E&feature=related

This replaced the grand lady on Madison.

My $0.02

Total Score: 4.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 5

I gave the Food category 4 stars because I always feel like I'm getting raked over the coals as far as prices. Usually, I grudgingly get just a soda and grab a meal before the game. Otherwise, the stadium is as great an experience as you can have, though I do miss the old Chicago Stadium. If you keep your eyes open, you may spot owner Rocky Wirtz in the concourse talking to fans. He is very approachable. Enjoy the experience!!!

United Center Review

Total Score: 4.43

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 5

The food and beverage choices are unmatched by any venue I've previously visited, although they are a bit on the pricey side. The atmosphere during Hawks and Bulls games is electrifying and breathtaking. However, it is located in a rough neighborhood on the West Side. Fans are the most passionate in either league, hands down, no contest. If you buy your tickets online from StubHub they'll most likely include parking passes, and if you get there early enough you'll park right outside the UC itself. Great food, great game and great people to be around and to quickly make friends with make this a wonderful return on your investment. Who knows? Some of my friends met their wives there. I'll give this 5 extra stars for the great tradition of cheering and clapping through the Star Spangled Banner, the thunderous applause when the booming goal horn blasts and the sounding of Chelsea Dagger when the Hawks score one of their many, many goals. Completely agree with this review.

Great Hawky Rink

Total Score: 3.71

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 3

The Blackhawks won another Cup and their fans are now spoiled and annoying. One guy complained constantly about the team despite their great record. He wasn't alone, there was booing during a win. There is plenty of free street parking within a 5 minute walk and an CTA stop at Ashland on the Pink and Green Lines if you are coming from the loop.

Tickets are very expensive though, with the lower rows of the upper deck running over $100 now. Standing room is just $37 and might work better if you can get in early. Plenty of resellers on the street. Of course, the Jordan, Hull, and Mikita statues are key photo ops. I only looked at one concession stand but it had great options at reasonable prices and I was happy with what I bought.

United Center

Total Score: 4.86

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 5

Madhouse at Madison is one of the most intense venues I've ever been to. From the beginning of the national anthem to the final second of play, its an absolute blast.

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Local Food & Drink

The West End Bar & Grill  (map it!)

1326 W Madison

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 981-7100

http://www.westendwestloop.com/#2

Billy Goat Tavern  (map it!)

1535 W. Madison

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 733-1932

http://www.billygoattavern.com/

Park Tavern  (map it!)

1645 W Jackson Blvd

Chicago, IL 60623

(312) 243-4276

http://www.parktavernchicago.com/

Local Entertainment

National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame  (map it!)

1431 West Taylor Street

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 226-5566

http://www.niashf.org/

Lodging

Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Chicago  (map it!)

506 West Harrison St

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 957-9100

http://www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/chicago/chiwh/hoteldetail

Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC  (map it!)

625 S Ashland Ave

Chicago , IL 60607

(312) 491-1234

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chidm-chicago-marriott-at-medical-district-uic/

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