I'm planning a trip to Chicago to attend a Blackhawks game at the United Center. It's my first time to Chicago, so I'm curious how the best way to get to the stadium. I've noticed there is parking, but it looks to be fairly limited, and I would like to limit the amount of driving I do in an unfamiliar city if at all possible. I noticed the CTA (Chicago's Subway/train) has stops that are near the stadium, and I was wondering if people use these? Are they too much of a walk, and are they in a fairly safe area?
"Too much of a walk" and "fairly safe" are subjective; you'll find a mix of anecdotes.
Back in 2010, it was reported by a now-defunct blog that the (gentrifying) Near West Side was the most dangerous neighborhood in the entire United States; indeed
anyone walking down Lake Street between Damen and Western has a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim of a crime.
On the other hand, a (male) writer for Yahoo replies
[F]or years, I've worked in this area, and never once have I felt threatened.… [I] was always a bus rider in this area, clearly with a laptop in tow.… This is still an area you can trust, even if it means waiting for that Damen bus hours after the game ends.…
The original study, if it can be called that, was based in part on statistics available from NeighborhoodScout.com. The auto-populated narrative from a search on Damen & Madison reports that it is impoverished, but crime information is not available without a subscription. Simply being poor does not necessarily correspond to being dangerous. But that is often enough to make some people feel unsafe, so those people need read no further.
The blog The Itinerant Fan provides guides to various U.S. cities for visiting fans. Their guide to the United Center similarly concluded in March 2013 that it's "still not exactly an area you want to be caught in after dark if you don’t know where you’re going." So if you're skittish, fine, don't make the walk to the train station. Why stress yourself out?
The police presence in the area will be heavy on game days, but perhaps not why you think: you are probably more likely to see violence from other fans than you are from neighborhood hoodlums. People get drunk, Chicago fans are rather fanatical, and it only takes a few instigators to start brawling.
Now, CTA and the United Center provide different suggestions for public transportation options. The Take CTA to the Game page notes that the United Center is within just a few blocks of the Blue, Green, and Pink Lines, as well as the #9, 19, 20, 50, and 126 buses.
The United Center Directions & Parking page, however, suggests none of the train stations. The sole CTA connection recommended for game day is the the #19 United Center Express, which runs only on Bulls and Blackhawks game days and other special events as indicated on the linked web page.
Service begins 90 minutes prior to game time, runs every 10 minutes until 30 minutes until start of game. Board at stops starting southbound on Michigan and Randolph. Connections are made with Metra trains at Millennium Station, Ogilvie Center and Union Station. The #20 Madison Bus travels west on Madison Street, starting downtown at Wabash Street and runs every few minutes, making all stops to the United Center.
There is also a regular city bus serving that route, the #20 Madison line.
The interest of the United Center here is to get the fans in and out as quickly and easily as possible; the interest of the CTA is to get fans to use CTA services as much as possible. Given that, I would probably take the bus.
CTA Takes you to United Center
It is indeed possible to reach United Center using the CTA. Here is a dedicated webpage from CTA themselves:
The stadium is just a few blocks north of the Illinois Medical District stop on the CTA Blue Line. The shortest walk is by exiting the station to Damen Avenue (western-most exit) and walk north on Damen to Madison.
Green and Pink Lines
The stadium is two blocks south and three blocks west of the Ashland/Lake stop on the CTA Green and Pink Lines.
Power to the Masses
In terms of safety, there are some mixed opinions on the web (here is one from yahoo answers). I would however assume that many people will be using public transport to move to/from the game. Hence you should be safe seeing as you will never be truly alone. Moreover you shouldn't be wondering around too much since your idea is to get to United Center, see the game, and go back home.
In particular, the dedicated express #19 bus seems to be very interesting to get to the game and back:
Service Description: For all Bulls and Blackhawks games and other selected events at United Center.
- Buses operate from Michigan and Randolph every 10 minutes, starting 90 minutes before event, until start of event.
- Buses operate south on Michigan and west on Madison when heading to United Center.
- After event, buses operate every few minutes for up to one hour.
- No stops are made between Halsted and United Center.
I emphasised the non-stop part, as fewer stops can indeed make the ride safer.
Private Shuttles to/from Restaurants and Bars
Another option could be using a dedicated (private) shuttle. Posts on tripadvisor forums suggest various restaurants offering such services to their patrons. Taking a random one from the list indeed shows the existence of such services.
Just wanted to post a follow up for any other hockey fans (or basketball fans) who come across this.
I ended up driving to United, and as long as you get there an hour before the event, you should be fine with parking. I had been concerned with there being enough shuttle buses, but after we left the arena (we stayed around for a bit) there was still a line of buses waiting to pick people up and take them down to the loop. Not a lot of taxis though.
I can't speak for the subways, as I didn't go towards them, but it looked as though there were a few fans making their way that way. For the most part, seemed like the parking and buses were the most popular (but again, they are both doable).