United Center is an indoor sports arena located in the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The United Center is home to both the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL). The arena is named after its city-based corporate sponsor, United Airlines.
The plan to build the arena was created by then Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. The United Center's predecessor was the Chicago Stadium, the original "Madhouse on Madison", which was demolished after the new arena opened for business on August 18, 1994. The first-ever event at the United Center was the WWF event SummerSlam (1994). Due to the 1994–95 NHL lockout, the Blackhawks did not move in until January 1995.
The east side of the stadium features statues of Michael Jordan (known as "The Spirit"), Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, while a statue of various Blackhawks sits to the north on Madison Street, where the Chicago Stadium was located.
The Bulls and Blackhawks operate the United Center through the United Center Joint Venture, a 50/50 partnership of the two teams. It covers 960,000 square feet (89,187 m2) and is located on a 46-acre (19 ha) parcel, west of the Chicago Loop. The arena is the largest in the United States in physical size, though not in capacity. Its exterior bears a striking resemblance to that of Chicago Stadium. It seats 19,717 (not including standing room) for hockey, 20,917 (not including standing room) for basketball and up to 23,500 for concerts. The United Center hosts over 200 events per year and has drawn over 20 million visitors since its opening. It is known for routinely exceeding seating capacity for Bulls and Blackhawks games.
United Center's acoustics were designed to amplify the noise level in order to recreate "The Roar" – the din of noise that made Chicago Stadium famous, especially during hockey games. During hockey season, an Allen Organ that is a replica of the old arena's famous Barton organ is used; recreating the old organ's notes took two years.
The building is 140 feet tall, and cost $175 million to build, mainly consisting of concrete and 3,500 tons of steel. While the Blackhawks and Bulls had long planned on getting another arena, issues with both the real estate market and the early 1990s recession made the project only take off once financing was provided by an international syndicate, with funding by banks from Japan, Australia and France. The planning had 216 luxury skyboxes, and as of the 2009–10 renovation, the stadium has 169 executive suites on three levels.
Both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls play here during their seasons with some of their games happening on back to back nights. With this, the hardwood floor for the Bulls games is laid across the top of the ice that the Blackhawks play on. The floor is put together like a puzzle and taken apart when the Blackhawks have a game.
In addition to 82 Bulls and Blackhawks games each year, the United Center has hosted other sporting events such as University of Illinois basketball, the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament (from the first tournament in 1998 to 2001, then in odd-numbered years from 2003 to 2007 and again in 2013 and 2015, the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament (hosted four times, including 2011), the Roundball Classic, and the Great Eight Classic.
The arena was the Bulls' home during their second run of three consecutive championships, hosting the 1996, 1997, and 1998 NBA Finals. The Bulls won the 1996 and 1997 series in the sixth game at home, but won the 1998 series at the Delta Center, now known as Vivint Smart Home Arena, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The United Center was also the site of the World Wrestling Federation pay-per-view SummerSlam in 1994 – the first major event held inside the building, and also the only major event held in the building by WWE. It also hosted the last of World Championship Wrestling's annual Spring Stampede pay-per-view in 2000.
The arena has hosted the Stanley Cup Finals three times: in 2010, 2013, and 2015. The Blackhawks won the first two Stanley Cups on the ice of their opponent in the sixth game of the series (Philadelphia's Wachovia Center in 2010 and Boston's TD Garden in 2013). However, they won the 2015 series against the Tampa Bay Lightning at home in the sixth game, the first time since 1938 the Hawks clinched the Cup in Chicago.
On the weekend of March 5–6, 2011, the Professional Bull Riders made their Built Ford Tough Series debut at the United Center. It was their third Chicago-area visit, having previously visited Rosemont's Allstate Arena in 2006 and 2008. The event at the United Center presented a unique scenario as instead of dirt, white crushed stone was used to cover the arena floor.
The Blackhawks announced that hockey legends Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita would receive bronze statues in their honor outside of the United Center during the 2011–12 NHL season.
The Illinois State High School Hockey Championships are hosted at the United Center yearly for the Blackhawk Cup.
On January 28, 2012, the Ultimate Fighting Championship held its first nationally televised event at the arena: UFC on Fox. UFC on Fox 2 was the UFC's 2nd live prime-time event on Fox. The headlining fight was former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis, with Evans winning by unanimous decision. The UFC announced in mid-January 2015 that the United Center would be host of UFC on Fox 16. The United Center also hosted UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson in 2013 and UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Thomson in 2014, making it the fourth straight year the United Center had held a UFC event.Concerts
With a seating capacity of 23,500 for concerts, the United Center has been a home to many concert performances. Kanye West, Madonna, U2, Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, Sir Paul McCartney, Janet Jackson, The Who, Pearl Jam, Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige have all had sold out shows for their concerts in this arena, as well as Dave Matthews Band, who released its 1998 show at the venue, entitled Live in Chicago 12.19.98 at the United Center.Family events
The United Center has also provided a Chicago home for Barnum & Bailey Circus (last performance was 2016) and Disney on Ice, which occur once per year; the Bulls and Blackhawks have a tradition of taking a two-week road trip when the circus is in town.Television events
On May 17, 2011, Oprah The Farewell Season: Oprah's Surprise Spectacular was taped at the United Center. The program aired on television on May 23 and 24, 2011. Pictures from the event are displayed inside the arena entrance on the wall of Gate 4.
The United Center was also the venue of the 1996 Democratic National Convention, where the Democratic Party nominated as its presidential and vice-presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the incumbent holders of the respective offices, who would be re-elected as a result of the general election held that November.
New for the 2009–10 season, the United Center’s 300 Level features a renovated concourse with 144 flat screen televisions, new food and beverage stations above select seating sections and two new bars that open up to panoramic views of the arena. During the 2010 off-season, two additional bars with panoramic views of the arena were added along with the other two. After the 2012–13 season, a third panoramic LED bar was installed around the 300 level, replacing the famous "Welcome To The Madhouse" signs.
The United Center includes:A variety of new menu items provided by the United Center’s new food and beverage provider, Levy Restaurants.
A new concession stand and seating area located in Section 326 called “Backstage. ”This area replicates the atmosphere of being backstage at a United Center concert and will include photos of music acts that played at the United Center along with a specialized menu from Levy Restaurants.
New concession stands and bars located at the top of the 300 Level on the north side of the arena to provide fans sitting in that area with easy access to food and beverage service.
Two new novelty areas carrying merchandise unique to "The Madhouse on Madison".
New concourse food stations with increased seating.
New video systems featuring photography, video and animation on the concourse walls which will create images and specialized programming for each individual event.
A new court was added to the UC for the 2015–16 season and includes multiple changes. The iconic bull head logo at center court has increased in size by 75% and the image of a basketball that was previously behind the logo has been removed. The “CHICAGO BULLS” text on the endlines has been changed to the font used in the official Bulls logo to make the court design more consistent with the Bulls brand, and the same font has been applied to the “Bulls.com” and the “@ChicagoBulls” text on the north apron of the court. The lines on the court have been changed from red and white to all black to emphasize the bold colors of the Bulls brand. The four stars from the City of Chicago flag have been added to the south apron of the court to highlight the team's civic pride and incorporate the “Chicago Basketball” branding campaign.
The following banners hang from the rafters of the United Center honoring past and present Bulls and Blackhawks.
Championship banners1974–75 Midwest Division Champions
1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1995–96*, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2010–11, 2011–12 Central Division Champions
1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98 Eastern Conference Champions
1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998 NBA World Champions
A banner with the number 72 is hung below the 1995–96 division title to denote the Bulls then-record 72–10 season.
Championship banners1969–70 East Division Champions
1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73 West Division Champions
1975–76, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80 Smythe Division Champions
1982–83, 1985–86, 1989–90, 1990–91, 1992–93 Norris Division Champions
2009–10, 2012–13 Central Division Champions
1970–71, 1972–73, 1991–92 Campbell Conference Champions
2009–10, 2012–13, 2014–15 Western Conference Champions
1990–91*, 2012–13* Presidents' Trophy Champions
1934, 1938, 1961, 2010, 2013, 2015 Stanley Cup Champions
The banner with the years 2012–13 is hung below the 1990–91 Presidents' Trophy banner, marking the second time the Blackhawks have won the trophy.
United Airlines paid about $1.8 million per year until 2014 for its naming rights. United merged with Continental Airlines in October 2010, retaining the former's name, as well as the latter's logo and corporate look. The stadium continued to use United's tulip logo for the duration of the 2010–11 season. For the 2011–12 season, all the previous United signs were replaced with the new globe logo. Two new lit signs on the east and west ends of the arena saying "United Center" with the United globe in the middle were revealed below the upper level suites complimenting the former "Madhouse" signs on the north and south sides.
In December 2013, it was announced that an agreement had been reached to keep United's naming rights for the stadium for another 20 years. The United Center will see a series of updates and upgrades to the interior and exterior of the building. New signage, additional LED boards, and other elements have been added after reaching this agreement. LED screens have been installed on the north side of the arena along with a panoramic LED board on the 300 level, eliminating the "Welcome To The Madhouse" sign.
Anheuser-Busch has also established a sponsorship. They are partners with both the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks and have gained rights to signage inside the arena along with a pub.
23,129 (With standing room)
22,428 (With standing room)
Hockey: 22,690, October 25, 2009 against Detroit Red Wings