Another ten years of Lollapalooza? An economic boon but a parent’s and environmentalist’s nightmare – Chicago Tribune
The Lightfoot administration is struggling to keep its big news a secret. Bally Chairman Soohyung Kim spoke about his successful bid for the Chicago casino ahead of the official press conference. And, on Thursday, Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell told WGN’s Dean Richards that the Grant Park festival, which runs until Sunday, had already reached a long-term agreement with the town hall.
“The mayor gave us a 10-year extension in the park,” Farrell said. “So we’ll be here for another decade.”
The definitive nature of this likely off-the-cuff comment has no doubt caused heads to explode inside City Hall – given the likely lack of prior notification to all stakeholders – and C3 Presents, the company promoting actually the music festival, immediately began to push him back. .
At the end of the day, the deal done was variously flagged as a deal almost done, or a likely deal, or even a deal with a few hiccups still to be ironed out. But let’s say the odds of another decade of July’s bacchanalia look pretty darn good.
Is this a desirable thing for Chicago?
If you’re a concerned parent of a teen, or even a tween, you might not be partying, given the festival’s youthful target population and multi-day cost, fashion requirement tacit about wearing as little as possible, its party atmosphere, and its general ability to give parents tantrums.
We heard in our family rooms of stolen phones and wallets, torsos scratched by invasive bracelets, body parts leaving marks on other bodies, and various other sordid illnesses. The ER staff told us it was far from their favorite weekend of the year. Many parents get little or no sleep and spend much of their precious July weekend circling the exit and entry area in traffic jams, even as they try to extract their amplified offspring from the crowd.
Other critics of Lolla include those who deal with Grant Park.
“The Park District does not require these primary users of the park to repair the damage they cause to the park each year,” Leslie Recht, manager of the Grant Park Advisory Council, told us. Recht’s group lobbied to force developers to pay for better street and alley cleaning in and around Grant Park each Lolla Day “to reduce the amount of urine, defecation and vomiting around the park. “. The council is advocating for lower decibel levels (good luck with that) and also for the city to better monitor “all damage to Grant Park and ask Lolla to pay for all repair costs. This includes damage to streets, sidewalks, fountain table and tennis courts, and grass.
“Every year, many Lolla participants are taken to hospitals,” the group noted. “It is clear that there is a need for more proactive protection of Lolla participants, many of whom are young and vulnerable.”
Lolla is expected to be a traceless event, restoring the park to its former state and caring for all the youngsters (up to 400,000 entries) who frequent its big weekend. Many peer festivals are in rural areas where all of these things can be more easily controlled, Lolla is in the middle of downtown and very close to where a large number of Chicagoans live. The generally well-organized festival takes security seriously, but whatever long-term agreement is being worked out should ensure that promoters bear the full costs of returning the park to the public. Preferably in better shape than before.
Downtown residents have had a lot going on lately. Besides all the crime issues, they were also recently told that their neighborhood would become a NASCAR track, which could lead to several days of street closures and other hassles for the benefit of a private company. All of these mega-events attract massive crowds and inevitable quality of life issues.
If Lolla is here for the long haul, C3 Presents had better start thinking more like the operator of a permanent facility (like Wrigley Field) than a promoter of temporary events. For all their flaws, the Ricketts family have made significant improvements to the Wrigleyville neighborhood, providing year-round family gathering space, a new hotel and restaurants, free neighborhood safety patrols, giveaways, and more. ways to thank people who deal with baseball fans for so many dates on the calendar.
Lightfoot should hold C3 accountable for some of these benefits for downtown residents, building on its existing support for arts education programs in the city. Several million dollars will flow to C3 over the next decade. The business needs a presence in neighborhood relations year-round, and it should be nice to people who care about Grant Park, which is, after all, the home of the festival.
The reason the city agrees to all of this, of course, is money. Lollapalooza has an economic impact of at least $300 million per year. That’s $3 billion, just at today’s prices, over 10 years. Lolla’s children eat out, shop, stay in hotels, shop at retail outlets, and pack buses, trains, and planes. Some of them stick around and frequent clubs and other events and festivals. Others decide they love Chicago so much they want to move here. After graduating from high school.
Chicago is grappling with hotel bankruptcies, declining business travel and the painful new reality that its lucrative convention business could take years to return, if it ever fully returns.
The city needs Lollapalooza more than the other way around. And, given all of our complaints and concerns about the lack of pedestrians on downtown streets, we’ve checked things out and encourage throngs of visitors to flock to Chicago this weekend.
But there is a price, paid mainly by the neighbors of the festival and the infrastructure of the park.
C3 and the Lightfoot administration need to do everything they can to improve this.
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