CHICAGO - It might seem hard to believe that the home of the Bulls and the Blackhawks is nearing its Silver Anniversary.
This year marks the 23rd for the United Center as the home for the NBA and NHL franchise, opening in August of 1994 as a replacement for the Chicago Stadium. It's hosted a number of events through the years for the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final to numerous concerts and even a Democratic National Convention in 1996.
This week a new event arrives at the venue - an NHL Draft. It's the first time the league has brought their selections to Chicago and the United Center, done so due to the incredible fan support the franchise has enjoyed over the past decade.
Along with this new event, fans will also get a new place to stop before, during or after events.
The Madhouse Team Store will open Wednesday morning at 10 AM at the United Center and will be the first year-round gift shop in the arena's 23-year history.
"For years the only store we had dedicated to Bulls and Blackhawks merchandise was in the United Center so now this gives the opportunity for all our fans, whether they have tickets to the game or come here on a daily basis," said Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf of the new 10,000 square foot store. "There's always people coming here, coming through the atrium to see the Michael Jordan Statue and now it gives them a little more to do; come up here, shop around and experience some of the interactive displays that we have."
Those include a touchscreen at the front of the store in which fans can scroll through a number of events in the Bulls and Blackhawks team history. Inside of a refurbished CTA train car are two more interactive activities for fans, one of them being an opportunity to do some play-by-play from great moments in the team's history.
Thanks to a few features of the store, including rotating jersey racks and electronic ribbon boards, the store can easily be switched depending on which team is hosting a game on a particular night. Expect the store to cater to the hockey fans this weekend when the NHL Draft makes a stop at the United Center.
Reinsdorf, for one, is happy it got done just in time for another showcase event for the city.
"Really pushed and said 'Let's get this thing going before the NHL Draft,'" said Reinsdorf. "It's great timing, there are going to be a lot of people here over the weekend for the draft and I think it will be good opportunity for us to show off what we've done."
Adding something new to a building that continues to stay young while it ages.