Editor’s note: This story was updated Oct. 19 to include the latest United Center COVID guidelines.
With the opening of the NHL and NBA seasons during the pandemic, there are dos and don’ts for Blackhawks and Bulls fans before attending a home game at United Center.
Negative COVID test or proof of COVID vaccine at United Center
In order to attend any Chicago Bulls or Blackhawks home games, fans will either need to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The arena will accept COVID-19 rapid PCR or antigen tests. The test must occur within 48 hours of attending the game. There are no on-site testing options at this time.
United Center is accepting digital versions of proof of vaccination or negative COVID tests. If you’ve lost your vaccination card, you can check the Vax Verify portal, hosted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Other prominent indoor venues, such as the Barclays Center in New York and the Chase Center and San Francisco, require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
United Center mask policy
The news comes as Chicago and Illinois have reinstated indoor mask mandates. The new protocol will remain in place “until further notice,” according to a United Center statement.
And, even with the vaccination/test requirement, the United Center will still require masks for fans. The lone exception to the mask policy is when fans are actively eating or drinking.
United Center capacity limits
Last season, the Bulls and Blackhawks didn’t host fans until April. And even then, they only did so at 20% capacity.
It doesn’t look like there will be any capacity limits for the upcoming season. The United Center seats about 21,000 people.
The statement also claims the United Center has made new investments to increase airflow in the arena.
United Center bag policy
Backpacks and mid-to-large-sized purses are no longer allowed at United Center. What you carry in can’t be any bigger than 4-by-6-by-1 inches.
Hawks director of public relations Lyndsey Stroope said:
“Really, your phone fits in it with your credit card — that’s about all you can bring. There’s no clear (bag) options like some other leagues have allowed.
United Center COVID policy different than other Chicago stadiums
The United Center is the first major Chicago sporting venue to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. There are no such requirements at Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field or Soldier Field.
The obvious difference is that the United Center is indoors, while those stadiums are all outdoors. For those fearing capacity limits, it doesn’t appear that there will be any.
Right now, masks aren’t technically permitted at the baseball stadiums — unless you are in an enclosed indoor area, such as a team store.
LATEST COVID GUIDELINES AT CHICAGO STADIUMS
What is the COVID-19 situation in Chicago?
Chicago reinstated its indoor mask mandate a few weeks before Illinois. The city is averaging about 460 new cases per day.
That’s slightly down from last week, as are deaths and test positivity rate. However, hospitalizations are up 14% week over week.
For reference, in the middle of June, Chicago was only averaging 67 new cases per day.
Fans will be able to watch the Bulls and Blackhawks in person this year, provided they comply with the stadium requirements. It will be interesting to see how many other indoor venues around the US follow suit.