NEAR WEST SIDE — The uber-popular Michael Jordan statue that now sits outside the United Center will move inside a new atrium to be built next to the building, officials announced Thursday.
The atrium, on which officials plan to break ground in the spring, will connect the United Center with a new office building being erected east of the building. The office building will house employees who currently work out of the United Center and a new Blackhawks and Bulls retail store.
Fans and guests can gather in the atrium before, during and after games and events, officials said.
The statue draws fans from all over the world, many of whom don't have tickets to a game or who visit when the Bulls aren't in town or in season.
Both the atrium and the team store will be open to the public. Fans wanting to snap a pic with the Jordan statue won't need to have tickets to a game to gain entry to the atrium, confirmed Beth Esler, Chicago Bulls manager of corporate communications.
The specific hours the atrium will be open have not been determined yet, Esler said, but said the new office building for employees will operate separately from the atrium and the team store.
While the Jordan statue will move inside, renderings show statues of Blackhawks greats Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita staying outside the facility.
During construction, statues of Jordan, Hull and Mikita will be temporarily moved to the southeast corner of the United Center, Esler said.
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said that people come from all over the world to take pictures of the statue. Now that the atrium will provide fans shelter from Chicago's rough winter weather, Burnett expects even more fans to visit.
"The only thing I'm worried about is some of the folks sleeping in that atrium," Burnett said.
The new 190,000-square-foot building will be built at the location of United Center Parking Lot H on South Wood Street between Monroe and Madison streets.The construction project is scheduled to be completed by fall 2016.
Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said the office building would free up space in the United Center for new fan amenities.
"We don't know what those will be yet," Reinsdorf said.
The new facility, which is expected to create up to 300 jobs during construction, is part of more than $400 million in public and private investment in Chicago’s Near West Side, officials said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the 20-year-old United Center was an important economic anchor for the Near West Side.
"This new office building will bring even more opportunities for people who live and work in this growing neighborhood,” Emanuel said. “Investments like this new office building can have a multiplier effect and bring more economic development in their wake, which is why I am excited about this latest addition to the United Center and what it means for the entire community.”
The Michael Jordan statue was unveiled on Nov. 1, 1994, the same day Jordan's No. 23 was retired. Highland Park husband-wife team Omri and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany designed and created the statue.
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