As a lifelong sports fan and a die-hard Blackhawks fan, I've long thought about the special amenities given to the fortunate few who sit encased in glass above the "regular" folks at sporting events. It's been an underlying dream of mine to get the opportunity to sit in a sky box with the "bigwigs". I mean, what could be better than carelessly loading up on decadent food and drinks while watching the game from (literal) new heights?
I was recently afforded the opportunity to experience a sky box firsthand. A friend invited me along as she played liaison for a company-sponsored outing; now, I know all the ins and outs of living the high life in sky box seating.**
1. Getting there requires taking a special elevator.
In order to get to the skybox area, we had to take an elevator that is roped off specifically for skybox ticket holders. The elevator is only accessible via the third floor, and at that, is hard to find. Once we found it, however, we were swiftly greeted by one security guard who directed us into the elevator. Another guard rode it with us after checking our tickets again, making sure we got to our sky box safely.
2. There are a lot of people involved in the process.
After our initial encounter with the special roped-off elevator guard and the elevator riding guard, we were then faced with our third
obstacle guard. Guard three was on the sky box floor where a second roped-off area awaited us. We stood in line for about a minute before our tickets were triple-checked and we were sent to the room.
3. The hallway seems to go on for forever.
The tickets had a difficult-to-understand number on it. "P47" meant nothing to us, so we walked and walked, and after about 10 minutes of walking through a seemingly endless hallway, we stumbled upon a room with a shimmery "47" on the side of the door. At any moment, though, if we went back into the hallway, we easily could have gotten lost on our way back to our box.
4. Sharing a sky box with 15+ strangers makes it feel pretty small.
Since this was an event where a family had won a silent auction for the skybox, my friend played hostess for her company while I was her guest. We were in a room with the winning family throughout the duration of the game, and because of that, I had to check myself time and time again. By "check myself," I mean I had to be more cognizant of my mannerisms, language, and all-around personality as I was in the presence of strangers and children. And if you know me at all, you'd know I don't have the cleanest mouth during hockey games.
5. You have to deal with other people's personalities.
I personally am not a fan of meeting 10+ new people at a time, but when you're thrown into a situation where you will inevitably be surrounded by new faces, you kind of have to put on a smile, suck it up and be social. We were prepared to keep a low profile and not draw attention to ourselves, but after being inside of the room for a mere two minutes, a woman came up to us and tartly asked: "Do you know where you're supposed to be?" That greeting pretty much set the mood for the entire evening.
6. The food is lackluster at best.
I don't know what kind of spread I had envisioned the sky box would contain, but in reality, I was disappointed. For $1000 dollars' worth of food, I expected more than hot dogs, Italian beef, and finger sandwiches as the main dishes; one bowl of communal popcorn and potato chips as a side; and a small grouping of soda, water bottles, and inexpensive wine as the drink selection. I know, I know. Some of you will be like "that sounds great!" Normally, I'd agree, but for all the hype behind the free food in the sky box, the selection was less than intriguing. Plus, there was an issue with the dessert cart that resulted in us having no dessert. How much of a bummer is that?!
7. There's a huge table that, if you sit at it, blocks your view of the game.
Sky boxes are supposed to be the epitome of comfort while watching a sports game. However, our experience fell far from comforting. With only six up-front seats that were taken by the host's children, we were relegated to sitting inside the sky box at a table with some of the winners' family members. In theory, this would have been a wonderful thing (for a guest of the winner or a casual hockey fan), but as a die-hard, not being able to sit in actual seats to watch the game (while having my view blocked by a table) defeated the purpose of the "luxurious" accommodations. I ended up standing the entire evening just so I could watch the game.
8. You can't openly cheer your team's accomplishments, ream the opponents' missteps, or curse your agony to the Heavens.
As stated in number four, throughout the duration of the game, I had to keep my thoughts and expressions under wraps. Objectively, I'm not an obnoxious sports fan, but I am vocal and expressive when the moment calls for it. However, I could be neither of those things while surrounded by the quiet, seemingly uninterested crop of people around me. Their lack of enthusiasm really killed the mood, but I cheered quietly to myself and mumbled my thoughts about penalties, checks, and missed calls through the night.
9. There's a lack of companionship and the "family" vibe.
If you're even slightly familiar with hockey, you're well aware that the hockey and NHL community is like one big family. When the high tensions between rival teams boil down, we all come together as one supportive, tight-knit group. We support each other's playoff rituals, "silly" superstitions, and wild game day antics. Plus, sitting by complete strangers normally opens the door to meeting a new group of friends. We share knowledge, opinions, and predictions about the game, other teams, and whatever else comes to mind. Unfortunately, none of that happened in the sky box. The guests spoke only among themselves and not about hockey at all. It kind of sucked being stuck in a place where I knew I was one of the only people interested in the actual game.
10. The food remnants and mess left behind is incredibly despicable.
Now, this was probably the most annoying part of the evening. I come from the mindset that you clean up after yourself even when there is hired help to come clean up after you. No, I don't think that means you're obligated to sweep up or wash the tables, but it's not that hard to throw your own garbage away and not leave a mess. That being said, as the game ended and the room cleared out, I looked around to garbage everywhere: half-eaten sandwiches, plates with food still on them, partially finished beverages...the list goes on. And despite the garbage being an annoyance, what got on my nerves, even more, was the waste of food. I thought about how the room cost $10,000, and how the food cost $1,000, and how at least $650 worth of food sat on tables untouched. I'm not saying people should gorge themselves, but the mere fact that so much food is wasted in the "luxurious" skybox makes me cringe with discomfort.
All-in-all, I thanked my friend for a lovely evening. Despite the downfalls of the mediocre skybox experience, she treated me to a hockey game where the Hawks beat the Sharks in a thrilling 4-1 comeback finish! And really, that's what going to a game's all about: the hockey being played on ice and getting to spend time with someone, watching the game together.
But in the future, I know I'd much rather stick to sitting in the nosebleeds (300-level seating), spending a pretty penny on good food, and sharing my thoughts with 22,000 other wonderful people all around me than sitting in an exclusionary, over-expensive glass box in the sky.
**Note, this rant-filled list is based solely on my experience at the United Center in Chicago, IL while attending a Chicago Blackhawks game on 12/18/2016. Additionally, my experience was unique as I saw the game in a shared sky box with strangers, not a close group of my own friends.
I cannot guarantee that this is a typical experience for other sporting venues or different leagues whatsoever, so take this with a grain of salt.