By: Alex Patt
The same year I was born, the historic Chicago Stadium closed its doors for the final time. Chicago Stadium hosted sporting events, political conventions, religious gatherings, concerts, and more from 1929 through 1994. The most notable tenants of the “Madhouse on Madison” were the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls.
Four months after I was born, the final even was hosted in the building on September 9th, 1994. It was Scottie Pippen’s Ameritech Classic charity basketball game. Michael Jordan, who had retired to play baseball that year, played in that game and kissed the court as he left the building for the last time. In 1995 the stadium was demolished. Today the spot where the building stood is occupied by the Eastern half of United Center’s Parking Lot C.
I never got a chance to attend an event at the old Chicago Stadium. Despite never being able to see the building in person, I have always been so fascinated with it. I am very passionate about old sports venues and the Chicago Stadium is right at the top of the list in places of interest. Between the sports history inside the stadium, and the quirks the building had.
What I would do to go back in time and attend just one game there. I would probably choose a Blackhawks game if I had a choice…so I could experience the epic roar of the crowd during the Anthem and hear what the goal horn sounded like in that building. Not to mention, as a lover of organ music, listen to the 3000+ pipe Barton Organ play some classic tunes. Of course, if I “had” to see Michael Jordan in his youth dunking on people at the old stadium, I would certainly not object. Seeing the 1988 All Star game or the 1992 Bulls title clincher against Portland would have been so cool.
If I wanted to go way back, I could go to 1932 and watch the Chicago Bears win the NFL Title Game at the stadium. It was held indoors because of the bad winter weather. Imagine going to a hockey stadium to watch an NFL game on a 60-yard dirt field. Arena Football before it was cool!
I understand that the stadium was probably not the most glamorous public venue in the world. Age had really caught up to the place by the end. Based on pictures that I have seen, people that I have talked to, and accounts I have looked at, the stadium was pretty cramped and falling apart. Dare I say…dumpy? Lets face it, when stadiums get old this is what tends to happen. Fun fact, the ice was not NHL regulation size (85 feet wide X 200 feet long), with the neutral zones being shorter by about 15 feet.
Regardless, I would have loved to have experienced it. Ideally sit in the third deck right in the center to soak in the whole view. The old bright scoreboard in the middle, the massive organ console sitting on the perch between the first and second levels, and the Bulls/Blackhawks banners lined up on the ceiling. While the banners moved across to the United Center, it is a shame the same could not be said about the organ. Not sure if that was ever possible with the size of the organ and acoustics/design of the UC, but still cool to think about. The console still exists in a private collection but the rest was sadly destroyed in a fire.
For those who got to see it, I envy you. Hope you can still remember the famous roar.