By Joseph G. Phillips, Chicago Crusader Sports Editor
In a recent announcement made by both organizations, the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks said the United Center received permission from city and state government officials to welcome fans back to the arena for Bulls and Blackhawks home games beginning Friday, May 7, 2021.
The teams will each host fans at the arena at approximately 25 percent capacity, starting with the May 7 Bulls game against the Boston Celtics and the May 9 Blackhawks game against the Dallas Stars.
Ticket information will be released by the teams directly, alongside more detailed FAQs on the modified game day experience and new health and safety protocols.
“The health and safety of our fans, players and staff remains our top priority and we would like to thank Governor Pritzker, Mayor Lightfoot, the state of Illinois and City of Chicago Department of Public Health for their partnership in bringing fans back to the United Center,” said Chicago Bulls President and COO Michael Reinsdorf and Chicago Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz.
“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 game day.”
According to both organizations, the Blackhawks and Bulls will take a phased-in approach to hosting fans. Beginning May 1, the teams will host a few hundred players’ family members and team-invited guests only before welcoming the general public back to the arena on May 7.
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 game day in accordance with the NBA, NHL, Centers for Disease Control, and state and local guidelines.
BEFORE COMING TO THE ARENA
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.
Mobile Ticketing: All tickets for both teams will be distributed as mobile tickets to aid in the contactless entry process. No paper tickets will be distributed.
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.
AT THE UNITED CENTER
Mandatory Mask Policy: All guests entering the United Center over the age of two are required to wear a face mask 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 adhere to social-distancing guidelines.
Streamlined Path of Travel: The arena will be split into dedicated entrances and exit 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 dedicated to their area only.
Cashless Transactions & Reduced Contact Concessions: The United Center will be cashless for the remainder of the 2020-21 season 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 vending in the arena bowl, will also help reduce contact during the food and beverage experience.
For more information on the Bulls and Blackhawks welcoming fans back to the United Center, visit www.UnitedCenter.com.
Joseph Phillips is a Chicago native, who has been a sportswriter for over 15 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.