The Chicago Stadium was an indoor arena in Chicago that opened in 1929, closed in 1994 and was demolished in 1995. It was the home of the National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks and the National Basketball Association's Chicago Bulls. It was used for numerous other sporting events, opening with a championship boxing match in March 1929. The Stadium was built by Paddy Harmon, a promoter, who sank his entire fortune into the project, only to lose control to the Stadium shareholders, and leave his family nearly penniless a year later when he died. After exiting receivership in 1935, the Stadium was owned by the Norris and Wirtz families until its closure in 1994.

Chicago Stadium
  • '"The Madhouse on Madison"
  • "The House That Paddy Built"[1]
Chicago Stadium in 1984, ten years before closure, and eleven years before demolition
Address1800 West Madison Street
Chicago, Illinois
United States
Coordinates41°52′54″N 87°40′22″W / 41.88167°N 87.67278°W / 41.88167; -87.67278[2]
OwnerChicago Stadium Corp.
OperatorChicago Stadium Corp.
Capacity18,676 (basketball)
17,317 (ice hockey)
18,472 (ice hockey with standing room)
Broke groundJuly 2, 1928[3]
OpenedMarch 28, 1929
ClosedSeptember 9, 1994
DemolishedFebruary–May 1995[4]
Construction cost$5 million - $9.5 million (est.)
($169 million in 2023 dollars[5])
ArchitectHall, Lawrence & Ratcliffe, Inc.[6]
BuilderPaddy Harmon
Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) (1929–1994)
Chicago Stags (BAA/NBA) (1946–1950)
Chicago Majors (ABL) (1961–1963)
Chicago Bulls (NBA) (1967–1994)
Chicago Sting (NASL/MISL) (1980–1988)

History edit

The Stadium hosted the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL from 1929 to 1994 and the Chicago Bulls of the NBA from 1967 to 1994. 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 February 1930, prior to a Blackhawks/Bruins game, 13 years before a Bulova Sports Timer became the game clock.

The Stadium was built by Chicago sports promoter Paddy Harmon, first proposed in 1926, not long after the legalization of professional boxing in Illinois. Encouraged by the success of the New York Rangers and New York Americans expansion NHL teams, and their Madison Square Garden, Harmon also 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'). With or without the Black Hawks, Harmon then spent $2.5 million and borrowed more funds from friends, including $600,000[7] from James E. Norris, in order to build the stadium. Eric Hall was the architect and he designed a stadium where all had a view of the action. His design philosophy was "The man who pays the lowest admission price has as much right to see the show as those who sit at the ringside".[8] The building used Art Deco flourishes, including flattened columns, long vertical windows, relief sculptures of various athletics and medallions of wrestlers adorned the walls above entrances.[8]

Breaking ground in July 1928, it opened eight months later, on March 28, 1929. Various reports give the cost at US$5 million,[9] US$7 million[8] and US$9,500,000 (equivalent to $168,569,767 in 2023). Chicago Stadium was the largest indoor arena in the world at the time, with permanent seating for 15,000 people, and a capacity for 26,000 with floor seats and standing room. It was situated in Harmon's old "Valley" neighbourhood where he grew up.[1] Its first event was a boxing match between Tommy Loughran and Mickey Walker for a purse of US$150,000 (equivalent to $2,661,628 in 2023).[10]

Detroit's Olympia stadium, built two years earlier, was a model for the Chicago Stadium. The Stadium was also the first arena with an air conditioning system. However, the system was fairly rudimentary by modern standards, and was memorably given to filling the arena with fog during late-season basketball and hockey games. The Stadium also had no elevators. To get kegs of beer to upper-floor concessions, concession workers formed a line to pass the kegs upstairs. To return the kegs downstairs, the workers simply rolled them down the stairs, damaging the stairs in the process.[11]

Harmon became the Stadium's first president. Building it incurred enemies. Harmon himself helped put out a fire on the Stadium's roof set by disgruntled workmen.[12] Harmon reached an impasse in getting the Black Hawks as a tenant, although both sides wanted the team to move to the Stadium from the Chicago Coliseum, which was much smaller. Fed up with the delay, the Stadium board of directors forced Harmon to resign as president, although he remained an executive with the Stadium..[13] Sheldon Clark became the new president, and he retained Nate Clark as the Stadium's boxing matchmaker.[14] The board acceded to the Black Hawks' terms and the team moved in weeks later.[15] After Harmon was ousted, dynamite was placed at the home of James Norris when Sidney Strotz, treasurer of the Stadium was attending for dinner. The dynamite's fuse went out, preventing its explosion.[16]

Harmon sank his entire fortune into the Stadium, and when he died less than a year later due to a car crash, he had only his shares in the Stadium and $2.50 in cash on hand to leave to his widow and daughter.[17] His funeral was held in the Stadium, paid for by friends, and the Stadium held a benefit boxing show in August 1930 to benefit his family.[18]

Struggling to pay the interest on the Stadium's debt, the Stadium planned to turn the Stadium into a dog track for the summer of 1930 with the backing of Thomas Duggan, but dog racing was ruled illegal in Chicago. Al Capone had operated dog racing tracks in Cook County for several years before the authorities stopped his tracks from operating.[19]

On January 20, 1933, the Stadium went into receivership.[20] Sidney Strotz of the Stadium Corporation and Fred E. Hummel were named receivers. Strotz announced to the media that the Stadium would operate much like it had before.[21] In 1935, the Stadium was sold to Norris and Arthur Wirtz, a Chicago real estate owner. Norris and Wirtz had in 1933 purchased the Detroit NHL franchise and the Detroit Olympia.[22] By court judgment, control of the Stadium changed hands to Norris and Wirtz for a total of US$250,000 (equivalent to $5,555,825 in 2023), of which $150,000 went for back taxes, $50,000 for reorganization expenses, and $50,000 for new working capital.[9]

Seating capacity edit

The Stadium sat 17,317 for hockey at the time of closure, though standing room pushed the "actual" attendance beyond that figure. The official attendance figures in the published game summaries were often 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" 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. It was estimated to have the total volume of 25 brass bands.[25] The organ was considered to have the world's largest theater organ console with six manuals (keyboards) and over 800 stops. It was Harmon's intention that the massive organ would be needed to provide the music for whatever event was playing in the building.[25] It was played by Al Melgard for decades during hockey games there, earning the Stadium the moniker "The Madhouse on Madison".

For years, the Stadium was also known as "The Loudest Arena in the NBA", due to its barn-shaped features. When the Stadium closed in 1994, the organ was removed and prepared to be installed in the 19th hole museum. Soon after the museum closed, sending the organ along with another theatre organ to a warehouse in Phoenix Arizona. In October 1996, a year after the stadium was razed, a propane tank explosion melted and destroyed both pipe organs, excluding the console. The organ is currently in the residence of Phil Maloof and is in good working condition with new pipes.

In the Stanley Cup semifinals of 1971, when the Blackhawks scored a series-clinching empty-net goal in Game seven 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."

Chicago Stadium at Night, 1950 Curteich Linen Postcard

During the 1973 Stanley Cup Finals against Montreal, Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz had the horn of his yacht (Kahlenberg Q-3) installed in the building, and had it sound after Blackhawks goals. This practice would, in the ensuing years, become commonplace in professional hockey.[26]

Nancy Faust, organist for 40 years at Chicago White Sox games, also played indoors at the Stadium, at courtside for Chicago Bulls home games from 1976 to 1984, and on the pipe organ for Chicago Blackhawks hockey there from 1985 to 1989. She was replaced at the keyboard in 1990 by Frank Pellico, who serves as Hawks organist to this day.

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. Longtime PA announcer Harvey Wittenberg had a unique monotone style: "Blackhawk goal scored by #9, Bobby Hull, unassisted, at 6:13." The Chicago Stadium also provided a unique fan experience. On the west side of the building was the Players/Employee/VIP Visitors Parking Lot. It is also where Teams/Bands/Politicians/Performers would enter the building through the legendary Gate 3 1/2 (Appropriately placed between Gates 3 and 4 on the North and South Sides). Although protected by fencing, it was where fans could see the talent get out of their cars or teams exit their buses before going into the building. It was also a great autograph and informal "meet and greet" opportunity.

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 next time the Bulls clinched the championship at home was in the newly built United Center in 1996 (when they did so against the Seattle SuperSonics), their second season at the new arena, 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. The Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup at the Stadium in 1938; they did not win the Cup again at home until 2015 at the United Center.

Last analog game clock in any NHL arena edit

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. After removing the balcony-edge game clocks at either end and at mid-ice zones of the Stadium, the replacement four-sided game clock suspended over center ice of the Stadium, built by Bulova[27] as their "Sports Timer", was installed in Chicago in 1943. Each side of the clock had a large diameter 20-minute face in the center that kept the main game time for one period of ice hockey, with a set of shorter black-colored minute and longer red-colored sweep-second hands, and a pair of smaller, 5-minute capacity dual-concentric 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 and each clock face, both the central main timer's dial and flanking penalty timer dials (when a penalty was counting down) illuminated from behind during gameplay. The "outer" face of each penalty timer had a single hand that avoided obscuration of the "inner" face and its own, "solid" single hand, through the use of metal rods forming the outer hand's "shaft", holding its hand's "pointer" head[28] — 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, as each minute of play was marked by a longer line on every third "seconds" increment on the central main dial, due to the minute hand's twenty-minute "full rotation" timing capacity for one period of ice hockey. The difficulty was compounded on the main central dial from the aforementioned minute and sweep-second hands being in constant motion during gameplay. The "Sports Timer's" only digital displays were for scoring and for penalized players' numbers, each digit comprising a six-high, four-wide incandescent light dot matrix display.

That clock eventually was replaced by a four-sided scoreboard with a digital clock, first used on September 21, 1975, in Blackhawks preseason play,[29] crafted 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 Bulova Sports Timer game-timekeeping device in the Boston Garden, and then in 1985 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 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 pavement 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 Prep School, 1076 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.

Basketball edit

  • 1973, 1988: Chicago was the host city for the NBA All-Star Game.
  • 1987: Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls scored 61 points on April 16 [30] to become the only NBA player other than Wilt Chamberlain to top 3,000 points in a single season.
  • 1991: Chicago Bulls won their first championship.
  • 1992: Great Midwest Conference men's basketball tournament.
  • 1992: Chicago Bulls won the second of three straight NBA titles in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. This would be the only time the Bulls clinched the championship while playing on the Stadium's floor, though they did it twice at the new United Center (in 1996 and again in 1997).
  • 1993: Chicago Bulls won their third championship.
  • 1994: The final Bulls home game at Chicago Stadium was played on May 20, a 93-79 Bulls win over the New York Knicks in game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals (the team would lose game 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York City).[31][32]
  • 1994: The final event at Chicago Stadium was Scottie Pippen's Ameritech Classic charity basketball game, which was organized through Reverend Jesse Jackson's Push-Excel program and was held on September 9, 1994. Michael Jordan, despite being in retirement at the time (he would return to basketball six months later), participated and scored 52 points, leading the White team to a 187–150 victory over Pippen's Red team. At the end of the game, Jordan kneeled and kissed the Bulls logo at center court.

Hockey edit

Football edit

Soccer edit

  • 1984: The NASL held the only All-Star game ever played in its 17 outdoor and 4 indoor seasons. The All Stars defeat the host Chicago Sting 9-8 before 14,328 fans.[34]

Boxing edit

Concerts edit

In film edit

Other events edit

See also edit

  • Ray Clay – Former Bulls public address announcer

References edit

  1. ^ a b Johnston, J. J.; Curtin, Sean (2004). Chicago Boxing. Arcadia. p. 2. ISBN 9780738532103.
  2. ^ "Chicago Stadium (historical)". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. 15 January 1980.
  3. ^ "Work on Chicago's New Sports Arena". Milwaukee Journal. July 3, 1928. Retrieved March 28, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Chicago Stadium Goes Down – SFGate
  5. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  6. ^ Kamin, Blair (September 19, 1993). "Is Comiskey Upper Deck A Problem?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  7. ^ "Wealthy Chicago Sportsman Takes Over Stadium". The Washington Reporter. February 2, 1935. p. 9.
  8. ^ a b c Kamin, Blair (May 17, 1994). "END IS NEAR FOR CHICAGO'S SHRINE". chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  9. ^ a b "Control of Stadium At Chicago Changes". Waycross Journal-Herald. February 26, 1935. p. 2.
  10. ^ "Big Purse For Chicago Bout". Rochester Evening Journal and the Post Express. February 11, 1929. p. 10.
  11. ^ Muret, Don (January 26, 2017). "Blackhawks Chairman Wirtz reminisces about the old Chicago Stadium". Chicago Business Journal. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  12. ^ "Fighting Paddy Harmon Wins Battle Against All Odds". Spokane Daily Chronicle. March 29, 1929. p. 36.
  13. ^ "Harmon Resigns". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. November 20, 1929. p. 13.
  14. ^ "Clark Named as Stadium Prexy". Painesville Telegraph. November 23, 1929. p. 6.
  15. ^ Ross 2015, pp. 204–205.
  16. ^ "Butler Saves Dinner Guests from Dynamite". Chicago Tribune. December 10, 1929. p. 1.
  17. ^ "Boxing Show For Harmon's Widow". Greensburg Daily Tribune. August 13, 1930. p. 11.
  18. ^ "Boxers Harmon Helped Ignored Benefit Show". St. Joseph Gazette. October 29, 1930. p. 6.
  19. ^ "Supreme Court Rules Dog Race Tracks Illegal". Chicago Tribune. May 11, 1930. pp. 1, 3.
  20. ^ "James Norris Gets Complete Control of Chicago Stadium". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal. February 26, 1935. p. 8.
  21. ^ "Chicago Stadium Placed In Hands of Receivers". The Border Cities Star. January 19, 1933. p. 2.
  22. ^ Crain's Staff (July 25, 2023). "Timeline: Booze, buildings, banks. And, of course, hockey. All parts of the Wirtz family legacy". Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  23. ^ 2012–2013 Chicago Bulls Media Guide
  24. ^ 2012–2013 Chicago Blackhawks Media Guide
  25. ^ a b "Marcel DuPre Great Organist at Chicago Stadium". The Daily Herald. September 20, 1929. p. 21.
  26. ^ Grossman, Evan (April 25, 2016). "The history behind the NHL's ubiquitous sound for scoring: the goal horn". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  27. ^ "Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society — The Arena Clock". Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  28. ^ Closeup of Chicago Stadium's Bulova Sports Timer showing close-up details
  29. ^ Langford, George (August 14, 1975). "Hakws' Johnston could report to camp on time/Tick, clock, tick (photo caption)". The Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL USA. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  30. ^ "Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls Box Score, April 16, 1987". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  31. ^ Tribune, Chicago (1994-05-21). "TORRID BULLS FORCE GAME 7". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  32. ^ Tribune, Chicago (1994-05-23). "REMEMBER THE ROAR: THERE'LL BE NO MORE IN CHICAGO STADIUM". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  33. ^ Tribune, Chicago (1994-04-29). "ONLY THE MEMORIES REMAIN". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-24. Retrieved 2013-05-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ Soderstrom, Carl; Soderstrom, Robert; Stevens, Chris; Burt, Andrew (2018). Forty Gavels: The Life of Reuben Soderstrom and the Illinois AFL-CIO. 2. Peoria, IL: CWS Publishing. pp. 104, 107-108. ISBN 978-0998257532.
  • Ross, J. Andrew (2015). Joining the Clubs: The Business of the National Hockey League to 1945. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-3383-9.

External links edit

Events and tenants
Preceded by Home of the
Chicago Blackhawks

Succeeded by
Preceded by Host of the
NHL All-Star Game

Succeeded by
Preceded by Home of the
Chicago Bulls

Succeeded by
Preceded by Host of the
NBA All-Star Game

Succeeded by