- Eric Hasman
NOW Arena - Windy City Bulls
Photos by Eric Hasman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.29
NOW Arena 5333 Prairie Stone Pkwy
Hoffman Estates, IL 60192
Windy City Bulls website NOW Arena website
Year Opened: 2006 Capacity: 8,700
Bulls at Now
The NOW Arena (originally known as the Sears Centre, Sears Centre Arena) is a multi-purpose 11,800-seat arena (8,700 for basketball) in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Hoffman Estates is a northwest suburb 25 miles (40 km) from Chicago (approximately a one-hour drive from downtown Chicago). The land formerly contained the former Poplar Creek Music Theater. Since 2016, the arena has been home to the Windy City Bulls, the Chicago Bulls affiliate in the NBA G League. The arena has a horseshoe-shaped seating area (seating on three sides of the court).
Food & Beverage 2
The arena has two main concession stands in the building. One on each side of the arena. Prices at the stands are reasonable for arena fare. There is not much of a selection here.
A review of the prices for the most popular items includes chicken tenders with fries ($7), Italian beef ($6), nachos ($5), pizza ($5), cheeseburger ($5), cotton candy ($7), pretzel ($5), Vienna beef hot dogs ($4), Dippin Dots ($5 or $7), popcorn ($5), and candy/cookie ($3). The arena carries Coca-Cola brand beverages including bottled sodas ($6), lemonade ($5), and bottled water ($4). The best of this limited menu is the beef sandwich.
Alcohol choices are pretty good in the arena. Domestic beers are Coors, Miller and Leinenkugel ($7), 3 Floyds Zombie Dust ($10), and Blue Moon ($8). Mixed drinks are $10, hard seltzers are either $7 or $14 depending on the brand.
Note, buy your food early or wait until after the game starts because the lines are long and don’t move fast.
The inside of the arena is bland. In the concourse area, no paintings or references to former teams who played there on the walls. However, there are a couple of banners hanging from the rafters for events held there. The concourse area is wide so you are not bumping into people as you navigate to your seats. There is nothing to get excited about in here. The seats are close to the court and there is not a bad seat in the house. A “lounge” area (with no concessions) is open to the public if it is not rented out for the night. This is a good place to watch the game.
There is a kid’s area on the open end of the arena which has a blowup pop-a-shot and slide and other activities, which is a delight for the young ones.
Kid's Area at NOW Arena, Photo by Eric Hasman, Stadium Journey
The “gift” shop is a pop-up area that is bigger than I expected. They have a great selection of t-shirts and hoodies (from about $25 to $75), etc. There is not much in small stuff like magnets, cards, etc… One interesting item I saw was game-used basketballs ($100).
If you are looking to get a picture or autograph of “Gus T. Bull,” the mascot, you can pretty much forget it. He doesn’t go into the crowd much. There is a selfie station which is cool. You get to choose your background and then the picture will get e-mailed to you. Oddly, one of the backgrounds is not the Windy City Bulls court.
One scoreboard is on the open end of the arena. The size is normal for this sized arena and the information displayed on the board during the game is informative.
The activities between time outs are the usual stuff like a local cheer / dance team doing a routine. Of course, the game day operations provide some basketball related contests too.
There is not much of a neighborhood near the arena. A couple of strip malls are a few blocks from the arena that has a few restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Coopers Hawk, Kyoto Japanese, Pinstripes, and Rookies Bar and Grill.
If you are looking for food and drink before the game the place to go is Rookies. They have a diverse menu at reasonable prices.
The closest hotel is a Holiday Inn Express, about a half mile from the arena.
The fans there are mostly parents with their young kids. While the place was about half full at the time of this review, the crowd was dead. Very few people are “into the game.” There is little excitement about the product on the court.
The arena has more than 4,700 parking spaces around the facility. It is very easy to access the Now Arena from I-90 via exits at Sutton Road or Beverly Road. If you arrive later, the parking lot lines can be long.
Walking or taking public transportation, rail or bus, to the arena is not a viable option as the public transportation spots are far from the arena.
Parking is $12 which is steep for developmental league basketball.
Return on Investment 3
Ticket prices for Windy City Bulls games are $10 in the sections at the end of the courts and $20 for the sections even with the court, which is the majority of the seats. Floor level tickets range from $50 to $100 depending on the location.
An extra point is for the Spin the Wheel game. Though it is pricey at $10 a spin. There are some really good prizes such as a bobblehead, t-shirts, scarf, foam finger, ticket vouchers, and a “mystery box” (which on this night included a t-shirt and fitted hat.
Spin The Wheel at NOW Arena, Photo by Eric Hasman, Stadium Journey
The arena gets an extra point for having two banners for the All-Elite Wrestling All-Out events held there. The pro-wrestling company had its first pay-per-view event in this arena.
While the atmosphere is not very exciting, based upon reasonable pricing and decent basketball, if you are a basketball fan, this is a good night out. Just be prepared to run into and hear a bunch of kids.