Chicago Stadium

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Chicago Stadium
"The Madhouse on Madison"
Chicago Stadium (1929-1995).gif
Location 1800 West Madison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Coordinates 41°52′54″N 87°40′23″W / 41.88167°N 87.67306°W / 41.88167; -87.67306Coordinates: 41°52′54″N 87°40′23″W / 41.88167°N 87.67306°W / 41.88167; -87.67306
Owner Chicago Stadium Corp.
Operator Chicago Stadium Corp.
Capacity 18,676 (basketball)
17,317 (ice hockey)
18,472 (ice hockey with standing room)
Construction
Broke ground July 2, 1928[1]
Opened March 28, 1929
Closed September 9, 1994
Demolished 1995
Construction cost $9.5 million
($130 million in 2014 dollars[2])
Architect Hall, Lawrence & Ratcliffe, Inc.[3]
Tenants
Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) (1929–1994)
Chicago Stags (NBA) (1946–1950)
Chicago Majors (ABL) (1961–1963)
Chicago Bulls (NBA) (1967–1994)
Chicago Sting (NASL indoor and MISL) (1980–1988)

Chicago Stadium was an indoor sports arena and a theater in Chicago. It opened in 1929, and closed in 1994.

History[edit]

The Stadium hosted the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL from 19291994 and the Chicago Bulls of the NBA from 19671994.

The arena was the site of the first NFL playoff game in 1932; the 1932, 1940, and 1944 Democratic National Conventions; and the 1932 and 1944 Republican National Conventions, as well as numerous concerts, rodeo competitions, boxing matches, political rallies, and plays.

The interior of Chicago Stadium in 1930

The stadium was first proposed by Chicago sports promoter Paddy Harmon. Harmon wanted to bring an NHL team to Chicago, but he lost out to Col. Frederic McLaughlin. This team would soon be known as the Chicago Black Hawks (later 'Blackhawks'). Harmon then went on to at least try to get some control over the team by building a stadium for the Blackhawks to play in. He spent $2.5 million and borrowed more funds from friends, including James E. Norris in order to build the stadium.

Completed on March 28, 1929 at a cost of $9.5 million, Chicago Stadium was the largest indoor arena in the world at the time. Detroit's Olympia stadium, built two years earlier, was a model for the Chicago stadium and had a capacity of over 15,000 people. It was also the first arena with an air conditioning system (though the system was fairly rudimentary by modern standards, and was memorably given to filling the arena with fog during late-season games).

The Stadium sat 17,317 for hockey at the time of closure. Standees were allowed for many years, and often the official attendance figures in the published game summaries were given in round numbers, such as 18,500 or 20,000. The largest recorded crowd for an NHL game at the stadium was 20,069 for a playoff game between the Blackhawks and Minnesota North Stars on April 10, 1982.

Seating capacity[edit]

Chicago Stadium at Night, 1950 Curteich Linen Postcard

The seating capacity for basketball went as follows:[4]

  • 17,000 (1929–1958)
  • 17,374 (1958–1986)
  • 17,458 (1986–1989)
  • 17,339, 18,676 with standing room (1989–1994)

The seating capacity for hockey went as follows:[5]

  • 16,000 (1929–1952)
  • 16,666 (1952–1984)
  • 17,317, 18,472 with standing room (1984–1994)

"The Madhouse on Madison"[edit]

Detail of console of the huge Barton pipe organ originally installed in the Chicago Stadium. The massive console boasted six manuals (keyboards) and over 800 stops, with thousands of pipes and percussions installed in the center ceiling high above center court.

In addition to the close-quartered, triple-tiered, boxy layout of the building, much of the loud, ringing noise of the fans could be attributed to the fabled 3,663-pipe Barton organ, boasting the world's largest organ console with 6 manuals (keyboards) and over 800 stops, and played by Al Melgard. Melgard played for decades during hockey games there, earning the Stadium the moniker "The Madhouse on Madison". In the Stanley Cup Semifinals in 1971, when the Blackhawks scored a series-clinching empty-net goal in Game 7 against the New York Rangers, CBS announcer Dan Kelly reported, "I can feel our broadcast booth shaking! That's the kind of place Chicago Stadium is right now!" The dressing rooms at the Stadium were placed underneath the seats, and the cramped corridor that led to the ice, with its twenty-two steps, became the stuff of legend. Legend has it a German Shepherd wandered the bowels at night as "the security team".

It also became traditional for Blackhawk fans to cheer loudly throughout the singing of the national anthems, especially when sung by Chicago favorite Wayne Messmer. Denizens of the second balcony often added sparklers and flags to the occasion. Arguably, the most memorable of these was the singing before the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, which took place during the Gulf War. This tradition has continued at the United Center. Long time PA announcer (Harvey Wittenberg) had a unique monotone style: "Blackhawk goal scored by #9, Bobby Hull, unassisted, at 6:13."

In 1992, both the Blackhawks and the Bulls reached the finals in their respective leagues. The Blackhawks were swept in their finals by the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing at Chicago Stadium, while the Bulls won the second of their first of three straight NBA titles on their home floor against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Bulls did not clinch another championship at home until 1996 (when they did so against the Seattle SuperSonics), their second season at the new United Center, and the Blackhawks would not reach the Stanley Cup Finals again until 2010 (in which they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in six games), their 16th season in the new building, although they won their first championship since 1961 in Philadelphia.

It was also the last NHL arena to retain the use of an analog dial-type large four-sided clock for timekeeping in professional hockey games. Boston Garden and the Detroit Olympia (as well as the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in its pre-NHL days) had identical scoreboards but replaced them with digital timers in the mid-1960s, with Boston having their digital four-sided clock in use for the 1969-70 NHL season. Built by Bulova[6] and installed in Chicago in 1943, each side of the clock had a large diameter 20-minute face in the center that kept the game time with a set of shorter black-colored minute and longer red-colored sweep-second hands, and a pair of smaller, 5-minute capacity faces for penalty timekeeping, to the left and right of the primary 20-minute face — with each of the 5-minute penalty timers having its own single hand. The "inner" face of each penalty timer had a dial covering the center section of the "outer" penalty timer's face behind it — the set of two concentric faces for each penalty timer dial could handle two penalties for each set, with an illuminated "2" on each penalty timer dial lighting up to display a minor penalty infraction. It was difficult to read how much time was left in a period of play on the main game timer's large face. Each minute of play was marked by a longer line on each third second increment on the central main dial. The difficulty was compounded on the main central dial from the aforementioned minute and sweep-second hands turning during gameplay.

That clock eventually was replaced by a four-sided scoreboard with a digital clock in 1976 by the Day Sign Company of Toronto, much like the one used at the end of the 1960s (and constructed by Day Sign Company) to replace the nearly identical dial-type clock in the Boston Garden, and then in 1984 by another, this one with a color electronic message board. That latter scoreboard was built by White Way Sign, which would build scoreboards for the United Center.

The Stadium was also one of the last three NHL arenas (the others being Boston Garden and the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium) to have a shorter-than-regulation ice surface, as their construction predated the regulation. The distance was taken out of the neutral zone.

Demolition[edit]

Commemorative plaque in the pavement on the north side of Madison Street
Chicago Stadium in mid-demolition, March 1995

After the Blackhawks and Bulls moved to the United Center, the Chicago Stadium was demolished in 1995. Its site is now a parking lot for the United Center across the street. CNN televised the demolition, showing devoted Blackhawks and Bulls fans crying as the wrecking ball hit the old building. The console of the Barton organ now resides in the Phil Maloof residence in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also, the center of the Chicago Bulls' floor resides in Michael Jordan's trophy room at his mansion in North Carolina.

  • A plaque with the words "Chicago Stadium - 1929–1994 - Remember The Roar" is located behind a statue of the Blackhawks greatest players on the north side of the United Center.
  • Two friezes from Chicago Stadium were incorporated into a building at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School, 1060 W. Roosevelt Road.

Two of the Stadium's main parking lots, which are still used for United Center parking, retain signs that read "People's Stadium Parking"

Notable events[edit]

Bulldogging photo of Cowboy Morgan Evans at the late 1920s Tex Austin Rodeo in Chicago Stadium.

See also[edit]

  • Harvey Wittenberg – Chicago Stadium's public address announcer for the Blackhawks. He now fills in for Gene Honda at the United Center when absent.
  • Ray Clay – Former Bulls public address announcer
  • Wayne Messmer – Former Blackhawks national anthem singer

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Work on Chicago's New Sports Arena". Milwaukee Journal. July 3, 1928. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  3. ^ Kamin, Blair (September 19, 1993). "Is Comiskey Upper Deck A Problem?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ 2012–2013 Chicago Bulls Media Guide
  5. ^ 2012–2013 Chicago Blackhawks Media Guide
  6. ^ "Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society — The Arena Clock". www.rireds.org. Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Events and tenants
Preceded by
Chicago Coliseum
Home of the
Chicago Blackhawks

1929–1994
Succeeded by
United Center
Preceded by

Maple Leaf Gardens
Montreal Forum
Madison Square Garden
Pittsburgh Civic Arena
Host of the
NHL All-Star Game

1948
1961
1974
1991
Succeeded by

Maple Leaf Gardens
Maple Leaf Gardens
Montreal Forum
Philadelphia Spectrum
Preceded by
International Amphitheatre
Home of the
Chicago Bulls

1967–1994
Succeeded by
United Center
Preceded by

The Forum
Kingdome
Host of the
NBA All-Star Game

1973
1988
Succeeded by

Seattle Center Coliseum
Astrodome