CHICAGO (CBS) — There was a time when going to a game meant only a few food options; hot dogs, pizza, popcorn and nachos.
And the action on the boards or on the ice could only be heard on giant speakers in the stadium.
Today’s sports fan will watch the every move of every player on giant screen in the center of the stadium.
And it turns out, today’s fans are also foodies who want to try new plates as well as stick with hometown favorites.
On Thursday, the United Center gave a sneak preview of what fans can expect while watching the game and the different dining options for every kind of meal imaginable.
The Pièce De Résistance
Whether it’s the Blackhawks, the Bulls or the concert du jour, fans inside the United Center will look up at a 8,600 square-foot scoreboard and fully immersive arena audio system. It’ll have nearly four times more LED screen displays than the old board and it will be the largest of all arenas that host NBA and NHL games.
For the venue, it’s how people will see parts of the game, scores and maybe themselves on a screen that will be feature the first of its kind “continuous inner ring display.”
From Mexico To New Orleans And Back To Chicago
Some of the new foods this season at the United Center include street tacos with a twist from This Little Goat went to the Taqueria from Chicago restaurateur and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard described as “beach shack-meets-street food.”
“She (Izard) basically loves to eat street food, one of those things being street tacos,” said Erin Vick, director of digital marketing for This Little Goat, who added that Izard owns four “goat” restaurants in Chicago. “It’s what really inspired the entire space, from design to the food. It’s a great way to incorporate all the global flavors.”
The muffaletta will be available this year. The thick, meaty sandwich loaded with spices is a New Orleans specialty. Kevin O’Brien, director of food and beverage at the United Center said the sports entertainment experience isn’t just about the action on the court or the ice.
“They like that option where they can knock-off two check marks. Come to a great game and also experience a restaurant that they’ve been meaning to try,” said O’Brien. “The restaurant customer is much more savvy these days than in previous years. They’re much more passionate, a lot of them consider themselves food experts and quite frankly they are because they dine out so often.”
Will popcorn and pizza ever be replaced by gourmet burgers and and trendy tacos? Not anytime soon.
“We still have standard concession food and those will always be here. Those are nostalgic items that are really important to the sports experience,” O’Brien said but he added “people are willing to try the next great food item and there’s a cult fandom about these things that’s very exciting.”
The United Center may have food and fun for people attending the game, but fans will soon be able to tour the arena (on select dates) to check out “A Walk Through 25 Years Of Champion History.” It’ll include visits to the Blackhawks and Bulls locker rooms, the Blackhawk organ loft and the iconic Michael Jordan statue.
Tours will begin on October 28. Tickets are now available through the United Center box office and Ticketmaster.