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Slam Dunk Meetings

Score big with your attendees at one-of-a-kind sports venues across Illinois

By Danielle Letenyei

Sport venues
Statue of Michael Jordan in United Center’s Atrium. || Courtesy of United Center

Sports stadiums are more than just a place to watch your favorite baseball, basketball, football, or hockey teams play. They can also be used for events, concerts, trade shows, and meetings. By diversifying the use of space, stadiums and arenas earn business in the offseason. For attendees, meetings at sports facilities can provide an exciting behind-the-scenes look otherwise not accessible during a game. If you’re looking for a unique space for your meeting, several sports venues around the state provide flexible space for your event.

The United Center in Chicago is home to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. The United Center also hosts over 200 events each year. While the arena floor is best suited for significantly larger events that draw in 10,000 to 13,000 people, the arena’s Atrium and Concert Club are perfect venues for groups under 1,000. A famous statue of former NBA great Michael Jordan stands inside the Atrium, and the space’s 15,795 square feet has standing room for 2,600 guests. Seated events can be configured to accommodate 640 to 800 attendees. The Concert Club is best for private dining events or cocktail receptions for up to 250. The space also features a small stage, full bar, and flat-screen televisions. Levy Restaurants provides catering for events at the United Center, and attendees can also get a tour of the team locker rooms as an add-on. “We offer a more unique experience than hotels,” says Jerry Goldman, vice president of booking at the United Center. “It’s definitely a niche experience.”

Fans of MLB’s Chicago Cubs can get close to the action by hosting their meeting or event at the new American Airlines Conference Center in Chicago. The event space is located next to Wrigley Field and Hotel Zachary, Chicago, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, and offers three main rooms that are named after three of the four bases in baseball. The First, Second, and Third Base rooms can be used individually for up to 15 attendees each or combined into one larger 2,536-square-foot space for up to 160. The Homeplate Room has an outdoor terrace with beautiful views of the baseball field, and it can accommodate up to 206 people.

Outside Chicago in the state capital city of Springfield, the Bank of Springfield Center offers 79,000 square feet of space to host everything from large conventions to small meetings or workshops. Originally built in 1979, the arena underwent renovations and expansions in 2010. The building has 16 meeting rooms and two terraces perfect for cocktail parties, and the 9,100-square-foot ballroom on the lower level can be partitioned into four smaller rooms. During the warmer months, events can be held on the plaza. The Bank of Springfield Center is a popular venue for nonprofit organizations and associations because of its proximity to the state capitol building. “We host a lot of lobby days where there will be an event here in our main hall with a small session, and then [the attendees] march to the Capitol,” says Jill Tavine, director of event services at the Bank of Springfield Center. In April, the arena hosted events for the Student Nurses Association of Illinois and Illinois Realtors.

To the northeast on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus in Champaign is the State Farm Center, the third-largest arena in the state and home to the University of Illinois men’s and women’s basketball teams. A $170 million renovation of the center was completed in 2016, adding more meeting space to the venue. The arena floor offers 27,000 square feet of flexible space that can host up to 115 individual booth spaces. The site’s Traditions Club offers 9,100 square feet of space, perfect for business meetings, receptions, and parties. It has two full-service bars, a patio space overlooking the main area, and televisions. Decked out in in the university’s signature orange decor, the Orange Krush Club and Legacy Club can each accommodate 286 guests and have full concessions.

Originally opened in 1981, the BMO Center in Rockford underwent a multiphase renovation in 2021. The center attracts about 400,000 people yearly for concerts, family shows, and events like Monster Trucks shows and Arenacross. It is also the home to the Rockford IceHogs hockey team, an American Hockey League affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. The main floor offers 31,702 square feet when the seating is retracted, accommodating up to 7,000 people. The BMO Center also has four other spaces to host smaller gatherings. The Stage has a capacity of 50 people, the Club Lounge can hold 120, the Party Deck can host 200, and the Boardroom has space for 14. There are 10 Executive Suites that, when combined, can accommodate 250 people. The BMO Center has all you need for a meeting, says Bethany Bohn, director of marketing and private event sales at the BMO Center. “Everything is really able to happen in-house. We’re able to provide ushers, servers, everything all encompassed in one,” says Bohn.