Credit Union 1 Arena – UIC Flames
Photo Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.42
Credit Union 1 Arena 525 S Racine St Chicago, IL 60607
Year Opened: 1982
Sparking A Flame in Chicago
The UIC Flames are members of the Missouri Valley Conference and play their home games at the Credit Union 1 Arena. The building opened on campus in 1982 as the UIC Pavillion but changed names in 2018 after a $9.3 million naming agreement of 15 years.
It is a multi-purpose venue with lower and upper bowl seating, but only the lower level is open for Flames games. The horseshoe-shaped concourse does not allow fans to walk around the entire arena, but it does offer a majority of unrestricted views of the court from the lone concourse.
The building features a distinct halo-shaped ribbon board that displays the score and a video screen at the open stage end of the building for player stats and other information. There are also ribbon boards above the lower seating bowl.
This venue has been home to the team for over 40 years, and it has hosted the NCAA Tournament three times in 1998, 2002, and 2004. The school's best years were when the late Jimmy Collins guided the Flames to 9 winning seasons between 1996-2010.
Food & Beverage 3
There is one concession stand open called the Racine Street Grill. The food offerings include hot dogs, fries, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, pizza, nachos, pretzels, and popcorn. Ice cream and cotton candy are available for the sweet tooth, and Pepsi products are sold in 24 and 32-oz sizes. In a separate beer kiosk, Goose Island 312 is available in 20 oz cans.
The hot dogs appear to be boiled but are quite large. The Prices range from $5 to $7 for food options, while beer prices fetch up to $12 apiece. There is not a lot of variety, but more than enough to satisfy a craving during a game.
The Flames do a nice job providing a collegiate atmosphere for its fans. It includes a court area dressed up nicely with school imagery, Chicago city images, and player introductions surrounded by sparklers. Cheerleaders and a dance team entertain fans during breaks in the action, along with a small band behind the net.
Sparky is the team’s mascot, and he is very entertaining, shaking hands with fans and doing backflips on the center court with the cheer team. Fans are provided comfort with movie-style recliner seats at one end, along with three rows of court-side seating.
The Impact Courtside Club, located in the open area courtside, provides fans with catered food, a bar, comfortable cushioned seating, and flat-screen televisions. This area also features retired jersey numbers and past championship banners.
Little Italy is only half a mile from the campus but not within walking distance of the arena. However, they are worth visiting before or after the game for a meal. They include Tuscany on Taylor’s, The Rosebud’s, and Conte Di Savio deli and Italian market.
The Haymarket Pub & Brewery is on the other side of I-290 and offers pub favorites, a wide variety of craft beers, pizza, and regional favorites. There are a couple of small, local favorites south of the arena: Al’s #1 Beef for Italian beef sandwiches and Jim’s Original, which is home to a Maxwell Street Polish with grilled onions. Busy Burger is a trendy spot for burgers and sandwiches.
UIC Flames games don't sell out, and fan interaction depends on the score of the game. If it is a blowout, there is not much noise, but if it's back and forth (especially against an in-state rival or cross-city foe), there’ll be plenty of chatter.
The game we attended saw the Flames build a 14-point lead and be in full control until midway through the second half. This is when Illinois State mounted a comeback to cut the deficit to 4 points. The result was the ISU fans making more noise, but it quickly shifted to the UIC crowd once the Flames pulled away.
The Credit Union 1 Arena is near the intersection of I-90 and I-290. The parking deck is adjacent and an east walk to the entrance. Inside the building, the concourse offers fans access to the seating bowl, concession stands, bathrooms, and the main lobby. The arena is on campus and accessible by CTA buses, rapid transit trains, and the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Union and Northwestern commuter train stations are also nearby.
Return on Investment 3
The price of tickets is $15 per game, and parking is $5. However, concession prices are a bit high for the MVC, but that is no fault of the university. A beer is $12, and a hot dog is $5, perhaps a tad high for a Flames game, but perhaps prices are established for all events held at the former UIC Pavillion.
Sparky is the official mascot and is active, social, friendly, and energetic. There is an open view of the court from the concourse, so fans won't miss any of the action. For an event in Chicago, the parking garage costs $5, an amazing deal.
There are many options for college basketball in Chicago. A UIC Flames game at Credit Union 1 Arena is an affordable experience and offers enough amusement. It is worth a visit when in town.
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com