When the United Center opened in 1994, it was a massive monolith in the midst of an urban wasteland. Streets were unsafe. Lots were unpaved. Buildings were unused.
“To say this was a blighted area was maybe an understatement,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said.
On Wednesday afternoon, a sparkling new office building and fan atrium was unveiled on the east side of the arena, the latest step in the revitalization of the West Side.
In honor of the new atrium’s opening, the ribbon cutting is performed by Esther Cox-Murphy Manager of Switchboard of the United Center. | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times
The atrium will soon include restaurants and a team store, with the goal to make it a 12-month destination, in Wirtz’s terms. It also provides an indoor, climate-controlled space for fans to visit the Michael Jordan statue, and to use the ticket windows. With the Bulls’ Advocate Center opening last year, and the Blackhawks’ new practice facility and community ice center set to open in December, the United Center is more campus now than arena.
“Can you imagine going to the box office and not freezing your you-know-what off?” Wirtz said. “It’s going to be good.”
Emanuel heaped praise on both the Blackhawks and the Bulls for giving back to the community and firing up the economic engine on Madison Street.
“My police officers used to work this area 20 years ago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “And every time we come up here, as we did Sunday night to see the hockey game, they’re in awe of the transformation of the neighborhood.”
The Michael Jordan display is now available to view at the newest atrium on the east side of the United Center. | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times