Chicago has no shortage of iconic sports stadiums. Soldier Field is one of the most storied and historic stadiums in professional football, and Wrigley Field might be the most famous ballpark in the world. But none of these can claim to have been the place where Michael Jordan changed the sports world forever. Home of the Chicago Bulls, The United Center is the primary indoor sports facility in the city. Its iconic Michael Jordan statue and dozens of championship banners make it a premier sports arena.
While it was built in the 1990s, the United Center’s amenities and facilities have been kept up and maintained nicely, as it’s still one of the best arenas in the country to see a show or game. In recent years, the United Center has become one of hockey’s temples. Deemed the “Madhouse on Madison,” Chicago Blackhawks fans were treated to a three-time Stanley Cup-winning dynasty that solidified the franchise as one of hockey’s most important organizations.
Sports are hardly the only thing to see at the United Center. Concerts are held throughout the year, with everyone from Radiohead to Harry Styles performing. Comedy shows, the circus, and other events like Michelle Obama and Oprah’s famous panel have been held here.
There are plenty of reasons to check out what’s on at the United Center when you’re visiting Chicago. If you happen to have your luggage on you before the show, you’ll want to find a secure place to store your belongings before heading in. Chicago’s most reliable luggage storage in Chicago is Bounce, which has dozens of convenient locations throughout the city, including the trendy neighborhoods surrounding the United Center.
United Center bag policy
The United Center bag policy is quite clear and allows small purses and clutches smaller than 10"x6"x2". Backpacks are strictly prohibited, but there are exceptions for diaper bags and baby carriers. All luggage and briefcases are prohibited as well.
There is a bag check available at Parking Lot J, but limited capacity and crowd issues make it less than ideal. Bounce’s Near West Loop Storage Spot is within walking distance of the United Center and is situated in Chicago’s trendiest nightlife and dining hotspot.
United Center food policy
All outside food and beverage are strictly prohibited according to the United Center bag policy. Exceptions can be made for medical reasons or for small children, but these will need to be approved by Guest Services officials.
The United Center was an early adopter of bringing in local restaurants and companies to expand the concession offerings. Goose Island Brewery, Big Star Tacos, and Lillie’s Q Barbecue are all notable companies offering premium food and beverage at the stadium. There are also vegetarian, kosher, and vegan offerings throughout the stadium.
There is a strict United Center policy prohibiting tailgating throughout the parking lots, but there are amazing dining destinations in nearby neighborhoods like the West Loop, Wicker Park, and Taylor Street (Little Italy) that are worth exploring for a pre-game meal.
United Center transportation
There’s no need to worry about how to get to the United Center. It’s located on the near west side of Chicago. It’s not far from The Loop and is near buzzy areas like the West Loop and the UIC Campus. It’s relatively easy to reach via public transit, driving, and rideshare. The official address is 1901 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60612.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has a well-connected public transportation system consisting of buses and “L” trains. The arena is easily accessible by taking the #20 Madison bus as well as the #59 Damen bus. The nearest train station is Ashland Station, which serves the Green and Pink lines. This is about a 15-minute walk to the United Center.
The CTA recently announced an expansion of the Green Line train that will run just outside the United Center, which will make it very convenient to get to the stadium from the rest of the city.
If you are driving, the United Center is very conveniently located. Major highways, like I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway) and I-90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway), are all within a few minutes. Massive parking lots surround the venue, but they can get crowded during events, and traffic is an issue for getting in and out of the area. If you’re going to park, it’s advisable to bring cash.
Taxi and rideshare
Services like Uber and Lyft are very convenient for getting to and from the United Center. They can drop you off just outside the arena, and there are designated ride-share pickup points, as well as taxi stands. These are convenient, but you may have to wait a while because of the crowds.
Depending on your location, walking to the United Center may be an option, especially if you are staying in nearby neighborhoods. Just ensure you plan your route and consider the distance and weather conditions.
United Center camera policy
Luckily, the United Center camera policy allows cameras and video recorders, as long as their lenses do not exceed 6” when extended. Cameras with detachable lenses, GoPros, drones, tripods, and selfie sticks are not permitted at all.
United Center rules
Any air horn or noise-making item is strictly (and understandably) prohibited. Banners, signs, or flags aren’t officially allowed in the stadium, but there is evidence that exceptions have been made (still, it’s inadvisable to bring one). Electronics like iPads, laptops, laser pens, or laser products of any type are not permitted. While child-carrying packs are allowed, large strollers need to be checked in at the Guest Relations booths located at Gates 2 or 6.
Entering the stadium
For games and concerts, the United Center policy specifies that gates will open 90 minutes prior to tip-off, face-off, or the start of the performance. You’ll want to check your ticket or the promotion’s website to confirm when the gates will open - just in case.
The United Center has gone completely cashless, with the exception of walking vendors. Otherwise, concessions and merchandise will need to be purchased with a credit or debit card. Mobile pay options are also available.
There are no longer any restrictions regarding vaccination status for entry to the United Center, and masks are no longer required.
The United Center has been the stage for some of the most legendary athletes of all time, so it’s a fitting bucket-list arena to visit. Before the game, make sure to explore the city’s superb culinary and nightlife scenes. There are plenty of rooftop bars and patios to hit up when the weather is nice, and there are so many Chicago foods to try that you’ll want to sample as much from the restaurant scene as you can.