United Center

Bulls, Blackhawks to Begin Hosting Limited Fans at United Center

Bulls, Blackhawks will begin hosting fans at United Center originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Beginning May 7, the Bulls and Blackhawks will begin hosting a limited capacity of fans for games at the United Center, the teams announced Thursday morning.

Each team will host spectators at "approximately 25 percent capacity" with a mandatory mask policy, distanced seating and contactless concessions. Guests will also be required to complete a health screening in the CLEAR app before arrival.

The Bulls' first game open to the public will be May 7 against the Boston Celtics, the first of four remaining home games on the schedule from that point on; the Blackhawks' will be May 9 against the Dallas Stars, after which just one home game remains. Beginning May 1, both teams will host "a few hundred" player family members and team-invited guests as part of a phased reopening.

“The health and safety of our fans, players and staff remains our top priority and we would like to thank Governor (J.B.) Pritzker, Mayor (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,” Bulls President and COO Michael Reinsdorf and Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz said in a statement. “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.” 

The Bulls become the 28th NBA team to open itself to the public, leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers as the only teams not currently hosting fans. The Blackhawks are the last United States-based NHL team to welcome fans back.

Beginning in early March, the Bulls began allowing close family and friends of players and coaches to attend games. In late March, the United Center appeared to begin preparations to bring fans back, hanging “Welcome Back” signs on walls, installing new temperature-monitoring technology and opening concourses that vendors typically inhabit

But a rise in COVID-19 cases stalled those plans, which Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called “solid” in an April 20 press conference. The Cubs and White Sox have both been allowing a limited capacity of fans for their (outdoor) games since the start of their seasons, but the Bulls and Blackhawks have yet to host any.

Now, they will, in context of a grand loosening of capacity guidelines for Chicago industries writ large as the city's COVID-19 positivity rate declines. In addition to spectator events, including sporting events at the United Center, operating at 25 percent capacity, restaurants and bars (lesser of 50 percent and 100 people), conferences and conventions (lesser of 25 percent or 250 people), indoor places of worship (25 percent) and farmers markets (25 percent) also received updated capacity guidelines, according to a release from Lightfoot's office.

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