The Big Ten tournament tips off tonight, returning to the United Center in Chicago for the first time since 2019.

I don't know why someone would pay money to watch a rock fight between Wisconsin and Ohio State that sets the game back 100 years, then a pillow fight between Minnesota and Nebraska. But at least the lunatics and richlings (who are often one and the same) can dull the pain of watching the absolute dregs of this mediocre conference with greasy food and consciousness-altering beverages.



Maybe. But maybe not.

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That's because unionized concessions workers at the United Center are at odds with Levy, the vendor contracted with the arena for concessions, as they collectively bargain for a better deal. The union, United Here Local 1, staged a walkout Sunday during a Chicago Bulls game at the United Center, which led to limited service and options for fans.

It sounds like the two sides haven't made any progress, either. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that negotiations concluded Tuesday evening without a new deal, and talks are off until Saturday. The union's members have officially voted to authorize a strike, too.

By the time the union and vendor resume negotiations, 10 of the Big Ten tournament's 13 games will have already been played. That means there's a very real possibility of a strike or some other action that could impact concessions at the event. And even if the two sides come to an agreement on Saturday, the two games played on that day could be affected depending on what time the deal is struck.

Here's more from the Sun-Times:

In a statement, Local 1 official Maria Hernandez emphasized the possibility of a strike. Both sides said talks Tuesday night ended with no deal and negotiations will resume Saturday...


The Levy spokesperson said the company on Tuesday proposed “additional funding to lower the number of hours required to qualify for year-round health insurance, thus expanding the number of team members who will benefit.”

The union is bargaining to let members qualify for health insurance for hours they work at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field, venues where Levy also has contracts.


The company previously has said it has offered wage increases of $4 to $5 per hour, bringing the minimum to $20 an hour.

There are a million reasons why watching the Big Ten tournament at home or at an establishment is a far superior option to actually attending. You don't have to deal with Chicago traffic or the Illinois tollway; you don't have to go on an epic quest to find parking like you would near the United Center. The potential concessions issue this year's Big Ten tournament faces at the United Center is just the one-million-and-first reason not to go in person.

By the way, alcohol sales aren't always a given at the Big Ten tournament, anyway. Past tourneys held at the United Center, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, and Lucas Oil Stadium have prohibited alcohol sales.

I called the United Center today to find out for sure and a customer service representative confirmed that the good stuff will be flowing for this year's tournament. Or, that's what's planned, at least...

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