NEAR WEST SIDE — After nearly 23 years outside the United Center, the uber-popular Michael Jordan statue now has a new home.
The bronze tribute to "the best there ever was, the best there ever will be" is now located inside the new five-story United Center east addition atrium that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Bulls and Blackhawks leaders unveiled Wednesday.
The new 190,000-square-foot atrium and office building houses upgraded offices for more than 300 United Center employees and a United Center box office. A Bulls and Blackhawks retail store will open in the atrium this summer.
Fans and guests can visit the Jordan statue in the atrium through entrances on both its north and south doors by Gate 3½ and between Gates 4 and 5. The atrium will be open to the public from:
• 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Sunday on non-game days
• 10 a.m.-one hour after events end on Bulls and Blackhawks game days and concerts
As part of the addition, United Center leaders plan to open a new entrance during the 2017-18 season, and a sky lounge, café and bar. In subsequent seasons, the United Center will add banquet rooms, clubs on the main concourse, bars and other amenities.
Emanuel, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf and Earnest Gates, executive director of the Near West Side Community Development Corporation, joined staff for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the new atrium Wednesday.
Former Bulls greats Horace Grant and Toni Kukoc, who now work as special advisors to the Bulls president, Blackhawks ambassador Tony Esposito, Blackhawks community liaison Jamal Mayers and Esther Cox-Murphy, who has worked at the United Center since it opened in 1994, also celebrated the opening Wednesday.
The United Center’s east addition project broke ground in spring 2015 and was privately funded. More than 1,400 Chicagoans worked on the additional project.
HOK served as the lead project architect firm for the new building and McHugh Construction was the general contractor.
While the Jordan statue is now located inside the atrium, statues of Blackhawks greats Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita remain outside the facility. During construction, statues of Jordan, Hull and Mikita were temporarily moved to the southeast corner of the United Center.
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.
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.
The new United Center atrium and office building houses upgraded offices for more than 300 United Center employees and a box office. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]