United Center will require vaccination or negative COVID test to attend Blackhawks, Bulls games

The policy, announced Thursday, also applies to all other events at the United Center.

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Fans at the United Center will need to follow new requirements this season.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Fans attending Blackhawks and Bulls games at the United Center this season will have to be vaccinated or present proof of a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry.

The policy, which was announced Thursday, also applies to all other events at the United Center.

‘‘The decision . . . is representative of the continued commitment to providing the best environment for a safe return for all fans and employees,’’ an arena spokesperson said in a statement. ‘‘This new entrance process will go into effect for all future events and will remain in place until further notice.’’

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Masks also will be required inside the United Center, in accordance with current city policy. Tickets will remain paperless.

And a controversial bag ban that went into effect for the few Hawks and Bulls games open to fans late last season remains in place. Only wallets smaller than 4-by-6 inches will be allowed into the arena; all other bags and purses are barred.

The vaccination policy applies to attendees ages 12 and older. Children ages 2 to 11 won’t have to show proof of a negative test or vaccination but will need to wear a mask.

The United Center made ‘‘additional investments . . . to increase air flow within the arena’’ this offseason to further prevent COVID spread, as well.

The arena’s ventilation system circulates 100% outside air and now completes 8.6 full fresh-air exchanges per hour. That translates to 19.5 cubic feet of fresh air circulated per person per minute, well above the national requirement of 8.0. And filtration of air in the arena also has been improved, with new filters now filtering out 90% of particles.

The Hawks’ first preseason home game is Sept. 29 against the Red Wings, and their regular-season home opener is Oct. 19 against the Islanders. The Bulls’ first preseason home game is Oct. 5 against the Cavaliers, and their regular-season home opener is Oct. 22 against the Pelicans.

The United Center’s requirement for entry won’t apply to players. But ESPN reported an NBA memo distributed Thursday proposes that unvaccinated players might be restricted to separate sections of the locker room, team plane, buses and more, apart from their vaccinated teammates.

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