Allstate Arena: A fully loaded SUV

by Alison Bonaguro

Special to the Tribune

Published July 31, 2009


Appearance: The Allstate Arena (6920 N. Mannheim Rd., Rosemont) was built for a little bit of everything. Since 1980, the suburban behemoth has played host to arena football, hockey, circuses and concerts. But it shines as a music room because of its vast size. While that may sound like a deterrent to music snobs who like their concert halls intimate and vintage, this place has deep pockets and can afford acoustic updates and quality staff that make it the fully loaded SUV of arenas.

Hear: Does the sound get lost in a room this size? That depends whom you're there to see. Sometimes a band's sound man can overdose on the percussion and your head will be pounding for days. But small touches helped drown out any reverb problems they may have had early on.

See: There are bad seats in the Allstate. No one's doubting that. But with the video screens most artists put up these days, it hardly matters how high up and far back you are. Leave the binocs at home.

Sit: Some people want to sit down and enjoy the show. Others want to stand up and shake it. Therein lies the great sit-vs-stand debate. Majority rules at Allstate, so if everyone is standing up you will need to do so in order to see. Security will make people get down if they are standing on chairs, but that's about as far as their power goes.

People: A lot. Some stages allow the Allstate to sell 11,000 seats, and some make room for about 18,000 seats.

Ideal spot: If you aren't 6 feet tall, don't sit on the floor. The best view of the stage is from Sections 110 or 103. And remember that double letters rule at Allstate: AA through FF are the first six rows in the 100 section and then the single letters start; don't be fooled if a ticket broker tells you he has front row seats in Row A, because that is really the seventh row.

Eat/Drink: If you're seeing the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato or Taylor Swift, expect multiple spots to get sodas, nachos and Dippin' Dots. With older crowds, such as those for Britney Spears or Pink, you'll have better odds of finding a beer, glass of wine or even a mixed drink right outside your section. And, as they should, the vendors card hard. Also, if you are not in the floor sections, your seat will come equipped with a cup holder on the back of the seat in front of you. A small detail that is huge for anyone who has ever kicked over an $8 beer.

Go or hold it: Go on and go. And go. And go. Restrooms are clean and plentiful, and even the lines in the women's rooms move swiftly.

Temperature: Air-conditioned bliss in the summertime, but if it's 95 degrees outside, that means you will still need to bring a hoodie or else be at the mercy of the merch guys selling them for $60 each.

Perks: Wide corridors and common areas, so there's never a bottleneck trying to get in or out.

Parking: It costs $20, in cash, up front. And expect long lines going in and out. Cops and parking attendants are there in full force to direct cars on the way in but are scarce in the lots at the end of the night. Which can often mean angry drivers jockeying to get out. Once you hit the main drags, though, there are usually police helping get people out of Rosemont.

Access: Technically, the arena and its free-standing box office are on Lunt Avenue just west of Mannheim Road. But bigger picture, it's just about at the corner of Mannheim and Touhy Avenue. No good way to get there except by car or limo.

'Hood: Suburban chain dining at its finest. Plus some white-tablecloth spots such as Nick's Fishmarket, Morton's and Harry Caray's. But if you eat at Panda Express in the Target parking lot, and just happen to leave your car there, you have an easy-out spot to southbound Mannheim.

Finally: With the acts this place books, you wouldn't want the venue any smaller.


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