After violent fights broke out at the United Center during a Safe Summer League basketball tournament, organizers have moved the event to a local high school.
On Wednesday, the championship games of the league will be held at Crane High School in the city’s Near West Side neighborhood, and after the brawl, it could become the permanent new home of the tournament.
Before the games were played, tournament organizers denounced the violence that caused Monday’s cancellation.
“There was United Center security and we had our own security,” Near West Side Community Development Corporation Director Earnest Gates said. “We haven’t had problems in nine years.”
The fights were organized on social media, according to Gates, who said teens used social networks to meet face-to-face. Organizers had no prior knowledge of the fight, Gates said.
“If we had known, we could have put something in place to prevent it,” he said.
The United Center has hosted the event the last five years, but now it appears the event will be moved to a smaller location.
“To shift the fault of this to anyone other than those who caused it is an insult to the overwhelming majority of people who were there with good intentions,” the United Center said in a statement.
It was estimated that 10 to 15,000 people were attending games at the United Center. Only 2000 people can fit inside Crane High School.
For Gates, the sad reality of the situation is that the violence could potentially rob kids of the chance to play basketball at an iconic venue, and he became emotional while discussing the impact on those players.
“You have to see the look on those kids’ faces to appreciate what we do,” an emotional Gates said. “So if we take that away from them, it’s a problem.”