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The Chicago Stadium was an indoor sports arena and an Theater in Chicago, Illinoismarker. 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, (moved inside and played on an 80-yard field due to inclement weather), 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, and political rallies.

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.

Chicago Stadium at Night, 1950 Curteich Linen Postcard
Completed on March 28, 1929 at a cost of $9.5 million ($2.5 million was funded by Harmon), Chicago Stadium was the largest indoor arena in the world at the time - the closest to it in terms of capacity at the time was the third incarnation of New York's Madison Square Gardenmarker, which sat almost half as many people. Detroit's Olympiamarker 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.

"The Madhouse on Madison"

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 that was played during hockey games there, earning it the moniker of "The Madhouse on Madison (Street)". In the Stanley Cup semi-finals in 1971, when the Blackhawks scored a series-clinching empty-net goal in Game 7 against the New York Rangers, CBS TV 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 and hockey's version of cricket's famed Long Roommarker.

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.

In 1992, Chicago Stadium was the center of the sports universe when 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.

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 had identical scoreboards but replaced them with digital timers in the mid-1960s. Built by the Fair-Play Scoreboard Company and installed in Chicago in 1943, each side of the clock had a large face that kept the game time and a smaller face on the left and right for penalty times. It was nearly impossible to read how much time was left in a period of play on the large face because each minute of play was marked by a longer line on each third second increment on the dial. With both a black minute hand and a red second hand going around during play, broadcasters and fans alike spent most of the game utterly confused.

That clock eventually was replaced by a four-sided scoreboard with a digital clock, 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 Centermarker.

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

Demolition

Chicago Stadium in mid-demolition, March 1995
After the Blackhawks and Bulls moved to the United Centermarker, the Chicago Stadium was demolished in 1995. Its site is now a parking lot for the United Center across the street. CNN went so far as to televise 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, Nevadamarker. Also, the center of the Chicago Bulls' floor resides in Michael Jordan's trophy room in his house.

  • 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 Schoolmarker, 1060 W. Roosevelt Road.


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