Although it is still a plan in the preliminary stage, everything points to the Chicago Bears leaving their long-time home stadium in Soldiers Field and moving to the property of the former Arlington Heights Racetrack. There are many reasons they are choosing to do this, including: better stadium with more capacity, extra businesses to generate revenue surrounding the stadium, full ownership of their own building (City of Chicago owns their current stadium), less congested area, etc. Could we see the Hawks eventually move there with them and create a Chicago sports hub?
I know this sounds crazy, and there is no information or discussion surrounding this, just an idea I thought would be interesting to explore!
The Blackhawks and Bulls have both called the United Center home since it was opened in 1994.
The arena is located on the West Site of Chicago and is roughly a 15-minute drive from the downtown area. The United Center replaced the Chicago Stadium which dates all the way back to 1929. There has since been a remodel (2014) and expansion to include the atrium (2016), as well as a scoreboard upgrade which made it the largest in the league. The building has the capability to house over 19,000 people for hockey, which is second for NHL buildings.
There are really no glaring issues with the United center, and I have no complaints about it or think that they even need to move. However, the one thing that I think has always been a negative for the arena is the location. While it is still pretty close to the city and isn't very hard to reach, there isn't a whole lot around it. The surrounding area has some restaurants and stores here and there, but it is dominated by residential property and doesn't have a lot going on.
I have been to numerous NHL arenas in the country and the one thing I have always envied is the plaza type of environment that I have experienced when outside of other teams buildings. An area where people can gather outside before a game, or have the game playing on a TV if they are not attending, while there are restaurants and other things to do.
After going to more Hawks games than I can count, you just have to go inside or pretty much stand outside in the massive parking lots that surround the building. It's generally not in a location that will have people walking to it, creating the need for the overwhelming parking lot that dominates the landscape. If the arena was constructed further downtown then this would not be the case, however, I know it is not easy to do in a massive city such as Chicago.
This is not exactly a groundbreaking flaw and is just a minor feature that I am deciding to criticize. I love so many things about the United Center and have many fond memories. It's not going anywhere anytime soon, but this is just one thing that I have always wished could be changed.
With the Bears likely moving to Arlington Heights within the next decade, could the Hawks join them and build their own arena there eventually? The location is roughly 30 minutes from the current location of the United Center and would be the same distance to downtown Chicago. Of course, this would require people to drive to it (like I was complaining about), but it could be a massive entertainment center. The Bears propose to add many other amenities besides their new stadium, Alex Shapiro of NBC Chicago quotes a statement from the team:
"Make no mistake, this is much more than a stadium project,” the Bears said in a letter published last September. “Any development of Arlington Park will propose to include a multi-purpose entertainment, commercial/retail, and housing district that will provide considerable economic benefits to Cook County, the surrounding region and State of Illinois."- Alex Shapiro
This kind of entertainment center could be a very attractive location for the Blackhawks to build a new arena if they are ever looking to relocate. It would create a lot of new revenue from these other businesses and allow a community environment that people could gather at for games. Fans could travel from all over the Chicagoland Area, even if they are not attending the game itself. Imagine what kind of atmosphere this could be if the team were in the playoffs, or Stanley Cup Final!
The Blackhawks might not even be needing a new arena for another 50 years, the United Center is in good shape and does not have any major problems. They also might never move, as their previous arena was just across the street from their current spot. This is all complete speculation and is reliant on the Bears even making the move to Arlington, which has not happened as of yet. I think it would be fun to speculate something like this happening in the far future, even if it is totally impossible.