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  • Greg Venuto

United Center – Chicago Blackhawks


Photos by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

United Center 1901 W Madison St Chicago, IL 60612



Year Opened: 1994

Capacity: 19,717

 

Blackhawks Hope to Take Flight At United

The Chicago Blackhawks, one of the NHL’s most storied franchises and winners of the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015 have fallen on hard times. The team, one of the league’s “Original Six”, founded in 1926 will not make the playoffs again this year for the fourth consecutive season and sixth out of the last seven.


But better days appear to be ahead as Chicago, a member of the Central Division, won the Draft Lottery in 2023 and selected phenom center Connor Bedard. The 18-year-old wonderkid has been impressive this season until sidelined by a broken jaw in December. The speedy centerman is back in the lineup and expected to be a staple at United Center for years to come.


The Blackhawks have hoisted six Stanley Cups and countless other conference and division titles since entering the league. They sport a list of Hall of Famers notably Glen Hall, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Tony Esposito. The retired numbers that hang from the rafters are 1 (Hall), 3 (Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson), 9 (Hull), 18 (Denis Savard), 35 (Esposito), and 81 (Marion Hossa).


The Blackhawks made Chicago Stadium (nicknamed Madhouse on Madison) their home until January 1995 due to the NHL lockout and then moved across the street into the United Center. The facility is the largest in square footage in the United States and has a capacity of 19,717 for hockey (with room for 3,000 more fans willing to take standing-room-only tickets). There are 167 executive suites, 34 club boxes, and 5 super suites in the facility. The arena is owned jointly by the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks.


Food & Beverage 4

There are four stands around the stadium dubbed Chicago Dish that offer some of the local Chicago favorites including the Chicago Dog, Vienna Polish Sausage, Garrett Popcorn plus french fries, chicken tenders, and ice cream. Pepsi Products ($6.75 for a small soda) are served at United Center. Remember never, ever put ketchup on a Chicago Dog or risk the wrath of the locals.


Beer concessions are provided by Chicago’s own Goose Island Beer Company. Goose Island’s Blackhawks Pale Ale is back for its second season and is available in 16 oz. cans. A can of beer is $10.75, domestic drafts $12, and $13.50 for imported. Bottled water is $4.75.


Rocky's Bar offers a unique and inviting experience in honor of the late Chicago Blackhawks Chairman W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz.


One of the nicest additions is the Pepsi Grab N Go and The Dashery Markets. The locations are powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology.


Atmosphere 5

The madhouse is probably best described as a funhouse in 2024. The fans still fill the seats but losing has taken the passion down a notch. The fanatics do pump up the noise for the anthem as they cheer throughout Jim Cornelison’s fantastic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. That tradition began on May 9, 1985, before Game 3 of the playoffs versus the Edmonton Oilers.


When the Hawks hit the ice for warmups and each period, three loud blasts of the goal horn are heard without any introduction from the Public Address announcer. The Allen Organ, a replica of Chicago Stadium’s famous Barton Organ, is fabulous and accompanies the anthem. The music played during breaks is played at a reasonable decibel level and the crowd responds well to Tommy Hawk the mascot who appears on the Jumbotron for many of the contests during breaks in the action.


The main entrance to the stadium is at Gates 2 and 3 on the north side (gates open 90 minutes before the event) and is impressive as fans walk through a large atrium lined with banners and the Michael Jordan statue with the Madhouse Team Store on the left. There is a stage with a band playing and a bar to your left as you enter the lower bowl.


Guests can enter the arena with a small purse or personal bag up to 10x6x2. No backpacks or other bags are allowed. Exceptions for guests with required medical equipment will be provided. Bag check is available in United Center Parking Lot J on Wood and Monroe Streets.


As fans enter the arena it is illuminated vibrantly in Blackhawk red. The views of the ice appear to be unobstructed with the only drawbacks being no cupholders and the concourses are a bit narrow. There are three levels of seating and two levels of suites.


United Center's acoustics were designed to amplify noise to replicate "The Roar" – the din that made Chicago Stadium famous, especially during hockey games. The designers originally estimated that the United Center would be 80% as loud as the Chicago Stadium had been. To amplify noise, they placed angled steel panels around the top level to reflect noise into the arena's bowl


The massive center scoreboard was unveiled in 2019 and at the time was the largest in the NHL or NBA. The HD video board at center ice provides crystal clear views on relays and great graphics packages. The statistics are all-inclusive and not only show who is on the ice but also how much time they have played and how long their average shift is. A 360-degree ribbon board keeps fans updated on out-of-town scores and info on upcoming events.



Neighborhood 3

The neighborhood surrounding the United Center is designated as the Near West Side. It lies to the west of downtown Chicago and is just north of I-290 (known as the Loop Highway). It was seen as unsafe in the past but is rapidly gentrifying.


The closest hotel to the United Center is the Hotel Chicago West Loop which is about a half-mile walk. There is a Hyatt Place and Courtyard Marriott (near Rush University Hospital) just under a mile away.


The Billy Goat Tavern (of “Cheezborger…no Pepsi” fame back in SNL’s glory days) is the official pre and post-game hangout of Blackhawk fans. The original location opened in 1934 but no longer exists.


The immediate surrounding area is lined with parking lots with few entertainment or dining options. Bacci Pizzeria and Barn Hockey Bar are two nearby possibilities. More of the restaurants are east of the United Center on West Odgen Avenue.


Fans 4

The Blackhawk fans are noted for being loud and loyal. Most of the fans are decked out in Blackhawk jerseys and attire.


During the game, which is typical for fans of a last-place team, the locals often chirp about their team and seem to be waiting for bad things to happen. The building has lost some of its raucousness since its Cup runs which ended in 2015.


The building is typically sold out but losing and inflation knocked the Hawks down to 95.5% of capacity through December. In 2021, the Blackhawks consecutive sellout streak ended at 535 games.


One popular site for Blackhawk fans and visitors alike is the Madhouse Store. The 10,000-square-foot retail space is co-branded with both Bulls and Blackhawks gear. The store is equipped with interactive technology which allows fans to design their jersey or hat. The store is open daily to the public from 10-5.


Access 4

While traffic is often an issue, access from I-290 is rather straightforward, take the Damen Avenue exit (#28A) and then Damen Avenue north to Madison Street. Turn right on Madison and the United Center will be on your right. From I-90 East take the Madison Street exit and take a right on Madison. The building will be on your left.


The train (better known as the L for Elevated) offers three options as the Green, Pink, or Blue lines stop in the vicinity. The Blue Line is a half-mile walk from the Illinois Medical District stop and the Green or Pink lines are 0.6 from Ashland and Lake. There is also the 20 Bus that stops just outside the building on Madison and the 19 express bus to downtown following the game.


The train is $2.50 and the bus is $2.25 per ride. A new stop (0.4 miles away) is being built on the Green Line at Damen and Lake and will open middle of this year. That stop shaves about 5 minutes off your walk from the previously mentioned stops. There is also an enclosed Uber zone to wait for your ride located just north of the arena on Madison and Wood.


Return on Investment 3

In 2022, the Blackhawks were ranked 5th most expensive according to the Fan Cost Index at $573.76. Fan Cost Index comprises the price based on four average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking, two game programs, and two least-expensive, adult-size adjustable caps.


On the plus side, there are upper bowl tickets available for upcoming weekday games against lesser-known opponents for as low as $29 on Ticketmaster not including fees ($50.29 at checkout). Parking is fairly reasonable with lots nearby between $23-40 and food prices are typical for an NHL venue.


Extras 4

The rafters are an impressive sight with 6 Stanley Cup Banners, 4 for Conference Championships, 2 for earning the President’s Trophy, and 16 for Division Championships. Then there are the retired numbers and all of the banners for the Chicago Bulls.


The origin of the Blackhawk's name and iconic logo is worthy of one point. The original owner of the team served in the 86th Infantry Division, which was nicknamed the “Blackhawk Division” during World War I. The division was named for Black Hawk, a prominent member of the Sauk Indian nation based in Illinois.


The team was named in his honor. The iconic logo of the team was designed by the wife of the original owner in 1926 and has never been changed or updated. In a pregame video, the Blackhawks honor the many local native American tribes that have called Illinois home for centuries.


One point is for the Blackhawk's goal song The Fratellis's hit single, "Chelsea Dagger", which is most prominently associated with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. The song, a staple since 2008-09, is played at the United Center after every Blackhawks goal and win.


The United Center, which hosts the Chicago Bulls, has activities scheduled for an average of 200 nights a year. The facility is one of the largest indoor concert venues in the area Olivia Rodrigo, Nicki Minaj, Tim McGraw, Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Chicago’s own Sebastian Maniscalo are all slated to perform this year. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Midwest Regional will be held at United Center in March of 2026.


Final Thoughts

United Center is a must-see venue for sports fans and hockey enthusiasts alike. If the Hawks can trend upward led by Bedard a Stadium Journey to the Windy City will be even more memorable and could ignite the United Center to madhouse status once again.


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