CHICAGO – Two weeks ago on Wednesday, the venue hosted what would end up being the last major professional sporting event in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
The Blackhawks beat the Sharks 6-2 in front of 21,275 fans at the United Center. Things seemed to be normal, but events earlier that night and over the next 24 hours would bring jarring changes to the world of sports.
The positive COVID-19 test of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City led to a suspension of the NBA season before the Blackhawks’ game had even ended. By the next night, every major professional sport, including hockey, was put on pause.
Since then, the United States has been dealing with a pandemic not seen in a century, changing the way of life for everyone in the course of 14 days. Evidence of that can be seen at the very venue that hosted that Blackhawks game just two weeks ago and a Bulls’ contest the night before that.
On Wednesday the United Center announced that it would become a “logistic hub” for the city, state, and federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both the arena itself along with the outside campus will be used in helping food distribution, first responder staging, and collecting medical supplies.
“On behalf of the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, our athletes, our front offices and our dedicated United Center personnel, our thoughts and support are with the people of this great city and state. Together, we will get through this,” the venue said in a statement on Wednesday.
Completed in 1994 to replace the 65-year old Chicago Stadium, the United Center has been the home to the Bulls and Blackhawks since its opening. The arena has also hosted NCAA Tournaments, the 2017 Frozen Four, various concerts, and the 1996 Democratic National Convention.
During the 2019-2020 winter sports season, the venue was celebrating its 25th anniversary, which included the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in February.