Chicago Venue Guide: Everything You Could Ever Want to Know About United Center Seating
Where to sit, which tickets to get? There is barely any seat that I would consider bad at the United Center, although some seats are bound to appeal to you more than others. Here’s a rundown of seating at the physically largest indoor arena in the U.S., our beloved United Center.
Basic Seating Info
The Levels of Seating The 100 level has 19 rows, the 200 level (Lexus Club level) has 8 rows and the 300 level has 17 rows in most sections, only 15 rows in a few sections. The 300 level, nicknamed the Madhouse on Madison, has around 45% of all permanent seats, followed by the 100 level with around 33% of all seats and the 200 club level with just 22% of the permanent seats. This may help explain why there are always more options in the 300 level when you’re looking to buy. The only level not accessible to everyone is the Lexus Club level – you need to have a 200 level seat to get on this level. But you can bounce around the entire arena otherwise and check out all the awesome food and souvenir kiosks, celebrity appearances, contests, events, displays etc. There’s a lot going on in the United Center every single time you go.
Where in the row is my seat? As far as seat numbers go, the United Center seats “follow the sections” and seat number 1 in any section will be on the aisle with the lower section number. For instance. if you are sitting in section 102 seat 1, you’ve got an aisle seat and the section on the other side of the aisle is section 101. To state the obvious, a high number seat will be nearer the higher section number.
Where’s the Standing Room Only section? As the name implies, standing room means no seat and it isn’t section specific. The only place that the United Center allows you to watch the game when you have a SRO ticket is behind the last row of any 300 level section. Go early and good luck!
The Seats Can Disappear and Reappear Some of the permanent seats are fixed on movable modules which allows the maintenance crew to change the seating setup for various events. A concert setup, for instance, they may remove rows from the sections behind the stage to open up more backstage space. You can identify a movable module because the the surface the seats are mounted to is aluminum rather than cement. At each end of the stadium, there are 5 sections (104-108 and 115-119) that the first ten rows are on movable modules, as seen in the picture at the beginning of this post. The remaining 9 rows are permanent, fixed seats attached to concrete. Click here to check out a fun time-lapse video from Blackhawks TV that shows the crew converting the UC from Bulls to a rodeo to the Blackhawks configurations.
Hockey configuration BLACKHAWKS
For a hockey game, seats are taken out to accommodate player benches and penalty boxes. In sections 101 (Blackhawks bench) and the adjacent section 122 (Visitors bench), the first two rows are removed for player benches and seats in several more rows are removed to accommodate the locker room tunnel. On the opposite side of the ice are the penalty boxes, in section 111 & 112, at the center line. The boxes also take up two rows, but they do not extend past half the seats in each row. For instance if you sit in section 111, rows 1 or 2, seat 10…the penalty box will be right next to you! Section 117, behind the net where the Blackhawks shoot twice, has most of the seats removed to make room for the Zamboni tunnel.
When you choose where you want to sit, keep in mind that in hockey, the dasher boards and the glass can partially obstruct your view of the play. For instance, sitting right behind the bench or the penalty box will really inhibit your view of the ice, but you get to see the players when they’re in those places which is very cool. And unless you are sitting “on the glass” in row 1 of the 100 level, it might be better to get up to a row that improves your sight lines, basically so you can see over the glass, like row 10 or higher. The higher up you go, the better you can see a developing play. The lower you are, the better you can see the players faces – and not much else.
Basketball configuration BULLS
For basketball games, since the playing surface is smaller than a hockey rink, they add seats on the ends of the court and take seats out in the lower corners for tunnels. Sections behind the baskets (105-107 and 116-118) have 13 rows of seats (A-M) installed in front each permanent section. In the corners (sections 104, 108, 115 and 119) have about 25% of seats removed to create tunnels for player and press access to the court.
Team benches are in front of section 102 (Bulls) and 121 (Visitor) with the scorekeeper’s table in front of sections 122 & 101 at center court. For the record, the cheerleaders hang out at the baseline right in front of section 107 and the press photographers cluster at the opposite end for most of the game.
There are also seats on the floor for Bulls games: Courtside, Row A and Row B. Courtside seats are the first row on the floor and are present next to each bench at the outside ends of sections 102 and 121, across from the benches on the sideline stretching from 110-113, and baseline sections 116-118. Behind the Courtside seats are floor seats rows A & B.
Seats that are removed for hockey benches, tunnels, and penalty boxes are replaced for basketball. These seats are similar in appearance to a folding chair but are just as padded, comfortable, and wide as the permanent seats, sans arm rests. (see below)
I’m not a huge fan of the 300 level for basketball because I can’t see how tall they are! And I don’t like those lettered rows behind the basket – the slope is so shallow you feel like you’re a million miles away, but you do get those inflatable air tubes once in a while to help distract the visiting team’s free throws. And the one time I got to sit Courtside was absolutely amazing. They are the best seats on the planet but they cost a fortune. And the price difference between the 300 level and the 200 club level is almost as significant as the price difference between the 300 level and the 100 level. But I would always choose a sideline club seat to a seat in a 100-level baseline letter row.
Virtually any stage configuration an artist decides upon can be constructed at the United Center. A typical stage is at one end of the arena with seats on the floor, called an end-stage (see example below). The first 10 rows in the sections behind the stage are removed to make room for backstage and the stage itself typically spans between sections 114-120, making sections 113 and 121 closest to the stage without being “side-of-stage”. While sitting in the sections closest to the stage or on the floor in front of the stage are great for a lot of performances, sometimes a little more distance between your eyes and the stage is better, especially since most performers have multimedia displays going on. Depending on the individual stage set-up, lighting equipment, mixing boards, speakers, pyrotechnics, etc. that each respective artist requires, the best sight lines are potentially different for every tour.
A note about the actual kind of seat used for floor seats: Seats in sections on the floor are padded folding chairs and are not nearly as wide as the permanent seats. It’s like sitting in coach and all the permanent seats are first-class. I’m not a fan of floor seats because you have a very limited amount of personal space. There also can be poor sight lines because you’re flat on the floor with no slope between the rows of seats. But it’s the only place to get a close-up, straight-on view of the performance which is sometimes a trade-off I’m willing to make. And then sometimes the entire floor is no seats, just general admission. You just stake your claim and hang out.
For instance, when Roger Waters did “The Wall” at the United Center, a lot of people that went to the shows agreed that the best sight lines were from sections 109 and 103 – corners opposite the stage! And while not everyone may agree on the best sight lines for a concert, you can be certain that seats closest to the stage will generally cost more than seats farther away. So when you’re trying to figure out the best seats for your budget, just remember that the most expensive seats don’t necessarily guarantee the best sight lines for YOU.
Premium Seating at the United Center
Premium Seating includes the BMO Harris Club (above sections 221-231), Theatre Boxes (above sections 205-212) and luxury suites on the lower, club and penthouse levels. Guests in the Harris Club and the Theatre Boxes enjoy unlimited complimentary food and beverage before and during the game. Suite guests can choose to cater in food and beverage at an additional charge.
The Harris Club is an open mega suite with three bars, a lounge area, ample seating, a pool table and Wii game system in addition to your seat to view the game. Theatre Box seats are mini four-person suites for viewing the game as well as a reserved table in an all-inclusive lounge. In the lounge you’ll find a delicious buffet and two large bars but in both Harris Club and Theatre Boxes, you’ll also have in-seat wait service.If you want to experience a Bulls or Blackhawks game in a decadent and luxurious way, premium seating is where you’ll want to be.
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Photo Source: UnitedCenter.com