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Blackhawks, Bulls Fans Expected To Return To United Center Before Seasons End, Lightfoot Says

Over the year, the United Center has been used as a polling place and its parking lot is a vaccination site — but no fans have been welcome at games.

The United Center on Feb. 26.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The Blackhawks and Bulls could see fans return this season, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday.

The United Center hasn’t welcomed fans since the coronavirus pandemic came to Chicago in March 2020, as large gatherings of people created more risk for the spread of COVID-19 — especially when people are indoors. The stands have remained empty even Bulls and Blackhawks players returned for games.

That is expected to change, though, Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday morning. She said the teams gave the city plans for how fans could return — but those plans came as new coronavirus cases were agin rising, making it unsafe for gatherings indoors.

Now that the growth in new cases has started to drop, the city can revisit those plans, Lightfoot said.

“… We’re talking to both the Bulls and the Blackhawks,” Lightfoot said. “I think they’ve got very solid plans. But those plans were rolled out at a time when we were on the upswing in the surge.

“… We feel like we might be plateauing and even, dare to dream, going down. Going down is the right time to have that conversation. So we’ll continue with that. I expect before season’s end there will be fans in the United Center.”

The White Sox and Cubs were able to reopen Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field to fans this spring, but with coronavirus safety rules, like a 20 percent capacity limit. Those stadiums are also outside, where it is harder for COVID-19 to spread.

Over the year, the United Center has been used as a citywide polling place and its parking lot is a mass vaccination center.

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