Fans in UC as US emerges out of COVID shadow


United Center to allow fans to return Image: United Center

The United Center (US) has received the go-ahead from the City and State Government officials to greet fans back to the arena fold for the National Hockey League (NHL) team Chicago Blackhawks and the National Basketball Association (NBA) team Chicago Bulls home games beginning May 7th, 2021, as the United States – the country which has borne the maximum brunt of COVID-19 – is slowly coming back on its feet with the vaccine rollout.

The ‘United Center’ stated that the teams will each host fans at the arena at approximately 25 percent capacity, starting with the May 7th Bulls game against the Boston Celtics and May 9th Blackhawks game against the Dallas Stars. Ticket information will be released by the teams directly, alongside more detailed FAQs on the modified gameday experience and new health and safety protocols outlined below.

The 23,500-capacity United Center (The UC, The Madhouse on Madison) is an indoor arena on the Near West Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is home to Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL).

The Chicago Blackhawks are a professional ice hockey team based in Chicago (US). They compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Central Division. They have won six Stanley Cup championships since their founding in 1926.

The Chicago Bulls are an American professional basketball team based in Chicago. The Bulls compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the League’s Eastern Conference Central Division. The team was founded on January 16th, 1966, and played its first game during the 1966-1967 NBA seasons.

The Boston Celtics are an American professional basketball team based in Boston (US). The Celtics compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the League’s Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. The 19,580-capacity TD Garden in Boston serves as their residence.

The Dallas Stars are a professional ice hockey team based in Dallas (US). They compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Central Division. The team was founded during the 1967 NHL expansion as the Minnesota North Stars, based in Bloomington, Minnesota. The 20,000-capacity American Airlines Center serves as their home ground.

The ‘United Center’ quoted Chicago Bulls President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Michael Reinsdorf and Chicago Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz as stating, “The health and safety of our fans, players and staff remains our top priority and we would like to thank the Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker, Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot, the State of Illinois and City of Chicago Department of Public Health for their partnership in bringing fans back to the United Center.”

The duo further stated, “Throughout the pandemic, this collective group has worked tirelessly to find ways for our facility to help support our community through regional and national relief efforts. Fans can be confident that same effort and attention to detail have been at the forefront of plans for their return, and we – especially our players – are excited to have their energy back inside the United Center on gameday.”

As part of the United Center’s reopening to fans, the arena and teams are implementing increased health and safety protocols at every step of the fan’s journey on gameday in accordance with all NBA, NHL, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State and local guidelines.

Leaving nothing to chance

  • Pre-Arrival Health Screening: New for the 2021 Season, the Blackhawks and Bulls are partnering with Health Pass by CLEAR to help fans enter the United Center and confirm their COVID-19 health screening requirements before the game. Within the app, all fans will be required to complete the quick health questionnaire within the 12-hour window leading up to every tipoff or puck drop (in ice hockey, an act of dropping a puck between two opposing players in order to start or restart play);
  • Mobile Ticketing: All tickets for both teams will be distributed as mobile tickets to aid in the contactless entry process. Paper tickets are a total ‘No’; and
  • No Bag Policy: To minimize touchpoints, bags will not be allowed in the arena this season regardless of their size, with limited exceptions to be made for medical bags or diaper bags.


COVID-appropriate behavior

  • Mandatory Mask Policy: All guests entering the United Center over the age of two are required to wear a face covering that completely covers their nose and mouth. Permitted masks must be worn at all times while inside the arena except when actively eating or drinking;
  • Distanced Seating Locations: Ticketed fans will be seated in pods of two or four individuals, spaced six feet apart to stick to physical distancing guidelines;
  • Streamlined Path of Travel: The arena will be split into dedicated ingress and egress points based on ticket location. Guests will also have suggested parking options to assist with streamlined entrance and exit considerations. Upon entry, fans must go directly to their seating level where they can access concourse amenities including concessions, retail locations and restrooms devoted to their area only; and
  • Cashless Transactions and Reduced Contact Concessions: The United Center will be cashless for the remainder of the 2020-2021 seasons to support contactless payment for food and beverage or retail purchases. Social distancing measures such as physically distant queues, designated dining areas and the suspension of beer vending in the arena bowl will also help reduce contact during the food and beverage experience.


Foolproof arrangement

Additionally, the United Center has taken the following steps to provide an ambience that minimizes the spread of coronavirus as fans enjoy the game.

  • Outside Air Flow: The arena’s robust heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system ensures 100 percent outside air circulates through the facility resulting in more than eight full air changeovers per hour, which has been fully reviewed by the Chicago Medical Society;
  • Increased Staff and Cleaning Frequency: Additional, highly trained staff is on site to maintain strict cleaning and sanitation protocols, including continuous cleaning of all entryways and high-traffic touchpoints as well as disinfecting occupied guest spaces before and after use;
  • Specialized Disinfecting Equipment: Electrostatic sprayers containing CDC-approved disinfectant spray will be used prior to each gameday across all fan paths of travel, and all surfaces in the venue are cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant solutions throughout the arena; and
  • Hand Sanitation Stations: Hand sanitizer dispensers are located throughout the United Center.

The United Center is going through the process of achieving WELL Health-Safety certification by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), signifying to everyone entering the space that evidence-based measures have been adopted and third-party verified. The arena is also pursuing Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR™ Facility Accreditation, the gold standard of outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for prepared facilities. The GBAC STAR means the United Center has established and maintained a cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program to minimize risks, has the proper cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques and work practices in place to combat biohazards and infectious diseases, and has highly informed cleaning professionals who are trained for outbreak and infectious disease preparation and response.

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