Home improvements at the United Center
There’s so much to be excited about at the United Center these days.
Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks not only reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002, they advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals, and look to be a pretty good bet to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. The Chicago Bulls also made their way back into the playoffs, where they battled seven hard fought games against the then defending World Champion Boston Celtics in arguably one of the greatest NBA playoff series’ ever—one that included an incredible seven overtime periods. The upstart Bulls are also a team on the rise and a solid pick to make it back to the postseason this year.
And between all the action on the ice and the hardwood, there’s been no shortage of star power taking over the United Center on any given night, ranging from Beyonce to Bruce. Of course, this comes as no surprise to both Bulls and Blackhawks season ticket holders who have experienced the benefit of being first in line as first-class amenities meet world-class sports and entertainment since the first day the United Center opened in 1994.
So what’s your pleasure? Are you a party person who likes to be surrounded by other equally enthusiastic folks? Or would you rather spend an intimate evening with just a couple of your closest friends or perhaps enjoy a cherished night out with that special someone? Do you like to be wined and dined? Play games between games? Relax and get energized at the same time? Well, if you’ve answered yes to any of the above, you’re at the right place. The United Center has taken great strides to cater to everyone’s needs and wants.
If you haven’t noticed the changes, just take a look around. While so much exciting action has been taking place on the floor, its surrounding seating options have developed some impressive showmanship of their own. There’s simply something for everyone—such as the plush Executive Suites, the popular Harris Club, the newly-minted Theater Boxes and the hottest spot in town—the Madhouse on Madison up on the 300 level.
“First and foremost we are lucky to have two owners in Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls) and Rocky Wirtz (Blackhawks) that are not only willing to keep the United Center resources up to date, but stay ahead of what is considered cutting edge,” states Terry Savarise, Senior Vice President of Operations at the United Center. “Combine that with two aggressive marketing groups focused on what is best for every spectator, and it’s a win/win for everyone.”
With the popularity of the standard 12-seat suites built in the early 1990s (not only in most NBA arenas, but also the NFL, MLB and NHL), many have enjoyed the camaraderie of friends, family, co-workers and potential clients in their own personal havens. The United Center was no exception. But trends have changed over the years. Not everybody needs as much space as they’re given in a traditional suite. “We wanted to offer a seating product that would deliver a suite-like experience to fans who didn’t want or need the 12 to 14 seats typically associated with suite ownership,” explains Steve Schanwald, Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the Bulls. “So the plan was to try and think outside the box to give fans what they specifically wanted and perhaps more than they even dreamed.”
Downsizing doesn’t mean cutting quality. Take the recently established Harris Club designed to give fans a suite-like experience at a fraction of the price. On the west end of the building, 18 club-level suites were renovated into one plush surrounding offering a lounge-style atmosphere that allows you and your guests to move freely about, and enjoy bigger-scale amenities than would fit in a private suite. Frank Fernandes, who has had both Bulls and Blackhawks season tickets for the past 25 years, jumped at the opportunity to purchase additional seats in the Harris Club when it officially opened its doors last season. “I’m the type of guy who likes to socialize and then get serious late in the game. Plus, I’m also kind of claustrophobic, so it’s really nice to have plenty of room to walk around in the Harris Club.”
As a member of the Harris Club, Frank and everyone else will get to see all Bulls and Blackhawks home games while taking advantage of such amenities as a pool table, numerous sofas and luxurious seating, large HD flat screen televisions, Nintendo Wii, and reserved parking. And best of all, just before you’re ready to sit down and concentrate on the action, you can visit the delicious Chef’s Table expertly prepared by the United Center’s outstanding culinary team. Then, take your plate to your seat, set it on the specially designed bar in front of you and settle into a reserved seat overlooking the action. Drinks are also included from the three enormous bars located within the Harris Club.
Should you be in the mood for a more intimate setting, you can’t go wrong with the latest addition to the United Center roster—the Theater Boxes. Located directly opposite of the Harris Club on the east side of the building, these private boxes offer perfect views of Blackhawks and Bulls games, as well as high-profile concerts and special events. “The Theater Boxes are more of an upscale private experience,” explains Toth. “And just like the Harris Club, it’s all-inclusive.”
For starters, your very own table awaits you in the formal lounge where you and your guests will enjoy a lavish buffet. There are also two large bars to help satisfy any thirst. When the game or event begins, you’re just a few steps away from your own private box that includes four seats and a pull curtain behind you for the ultimate in personal entertaining. Wait service at your seat also means you’ll never have to miss a moment of the action. And two parking passes are included with every Theater Box.
Dominick Fashoda of Norkol Inc. who has shared a lower-level suite with his boss, Larry Kolinski, for the past ten years, decided to switch to the Theatre Boxes this year. “It’s really a nice setup,” expresses Fashoda. “Not only is it more private, but to be able to have a box with only four people is much more economical for me and my situation. It gives us a great feeling that not only are we seeing an exciting event, but we’re able to entertain our customers in a very special way. And you really can’t beat it when it comes to concerts. The view is absolutely fantastic.”
But if you enjoy being around a lot of folks, there are a number of other choices you can select from throughout the building. The staple Executive Suites can’t be beaten for multitasking on a game-by-game basis. Close an important deal or bond with a loyal customer one night, and enjoy some family time the next. You’re literally right on top of the action, yet you can also move freely among your party. “I would compare the United Center’s Executive Suites to throwing a party in your family room,” states attorney Greg Lafakis, of Liston & Lafakis. “But instead of everyone sitting and watching TV, the action is right in front of you—live.”
Arthur J. Theriault, an executive vice president of marketing with Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, has enjoyed his Executive Lower Level Suite since the United Center first opened and says he has witnessed plenty of history in the making over the last 15 years. “We’ve been here through all the highs and all the lows, and we’re excited to return again this year because both the Bulls and Blackhawks are working their way back up,” explains Theriault.
The 12- or 14-person Executive Suites include tickets to every Bulls and Blackhawks home game including all preseason, regular season and playoff games, the right to purchase up to eight additional tickets, a private suite entrance and elevators, four parking passes and of course, full-service catering.
If you’re not quite ready to commit to a full season, the United Center also offers quarter season (11 Bulls and 11 Blackhawk games) and half-season (22 Bulls and 22 Blackhawk games).
Sometimes, fans might like to host a special celebration, be it a birthday or anniversary party, or to thank an exceptional team of co-workers for a job well done. For these unique occasions, the United Center has a number of Executive Suites that can be rented on a per-event basis. The 20-person suites are perfect to host a group gathering. For the ultimate in entertaining, there are also 38 and 76-person Super Suites available, as well as the 80-person Bud Light Legends Lounge. These Super Suites boast a range of amenities, including a full service bar with a private bartender and a 1,000-square-foot lounge. The lounges are also easily converted to fully functioning meeting rooms, providing the perfect venue for meetings or presentations. And the all-inclusive food and drink packages offered make entertaining a no brainer. Just show up and let the fun begin.
“These products have proven to be very popular,” says Schanwald. “And the timing couldn’t have been better, given the challenging economic circumstances companies and individuals have found themselves in for the past couple of years.”
The Madhouse on Madison
Still on the fence about what to do? The United Center offers a few more options to ponder. This season, the hottest destination at the UC is taking place up in the 300 level. Branded as “The Madhouse on Madison Street” this newly renovated floor is no doubt where the party is going to be taking place.
“Think the bleachers in Wrigley Field,” explains Schanwald. “They are among the most coveted seats in the park. We want the fans sitting up in the 300 level to know we don’t take them for granted and that their experience is very important to us. They have a definite role to play in the outcome of games with their passion and energy. We wanted to deliver to them a spectator experience that is as good as, or better in some ways, than the fans seated down on the 100 level.”
If you haven’t been up to the UC’s third level in a while, you probably won’t recognize the new digs. Two new open-air bars that won’t hide the views of the court or the rink, trendy new concourse food stations with increased seating, numerous HD flat screen televisions, a new lighting system featuring photography and animation on the concourse walls, and floor to ceiling windows to show out-of-town guests just how spectacular the views of our Chicago skyline really are. “We’re trying to reverse the trend that the best tickets in town are always down low and feature the best perks,” says Savarise. “We wanted to incorporate a little more balance throughout the stadium. Level 300 can be just as rewarding an experience as levels 100 or 200.”
If you’d like to inquire further about these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, visit the United Center website at www.unitedcenter.com or call the United Center’s Premium Seating Department at 312.455.4500. If you’re interested in purchasing individual or group seats and experiencing what life is like up in the Madhouse on Madison, contact a Bulls ticket representative at 312.455.4000.
With the Bulls and the Blackhawks at the top of their games, there simply is no better time to experience greatness in person. But it’s not always about the victories. As Savarise puts it best, “Hopefully, win or lose, we’ve created an atmosphere that keeps everyone coming back.”