Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks United Center games need vaccine or test proof

Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks United Center games need vaccine or test proof

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The move adds the United Center to the growing list of indoor professional sports venues requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend events. The Barclays Center in New York and the Chase Center in San Francisco are among the major arenas nationwide that have recently announced similar requirements to attend events.

The United Center, which is owned by a joint venture of Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, is also beefing up its rules as COVID-19 cases rise in Illinois with the spread of the virus’ delta variant. Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week announced new mitigations to address the rising case count, including reinstitution of a statewide mask mandate indoors.

Attendees entering the United Center for events will be required to show a printed vaccination card, the result of a negative test taken within 72 hours of the event or a digital photo of either. Some of the guidelines may also be more stringent, depending on the policy of the event organizer.

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All patrons will also be required to wear masks inside, per state and arena guidelines. More protocols could be added in the weeks ahead as the NBA and NHL issue final health and safety guidelines for their upcoming seasons, according to the United Center statement.

The venue has hosted some events with spectators since April, when the city began allowing 20% capacity at Bulls and Blackhawks games. A James Taylor concert in July and the All Elite Wrestling Rampage last month were held at full capacity, and the arena plans to host events at full capacity moving forward with the new protocols in place.

The next major event at the arena is a Tame Impala concert on Sept. 7. The Blackhawks host their first preseason game on Sept. 29, followed by the Bulls on Oct. 5.

The new rules amount to a highly effective way to safely host big indoor events, said infectious disease specialist Dr. Vishnu Chundi, chairman of the Chicago Medical Society’s COVID-19 task force.

“If you’re going to have an indoor event, this is the safest place to have (it)” with the new protocols in place, he said. He also noted the air turnover rate in the building—the pace at which air is changed out of a room—is faster than it is in many hospital operating rooms.

“I think it’s the safest indoor building that we have here,” Chundi said.

The United Center’s statement said that ownership has made new investments during the pandemic to increase air flow within the arena and upgraded the building with hospital-grade MERV-13 air filters throughout the venue.

It’s unclear how long the United Center’s policy will need to be in place—Dr. Chundi said it’s likely going to be “years” rather than weeks or months—but he is encouraged by the growing movement among the business community to require employees and others to be vaccinated.

“The business community understands the economic impact . . . it’s within their best interest right now to make sure people are safe in their place of business,” he said.

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