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2/8/05 Concerts for Meigs?

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Chicago Sun-Times


Next up for Meigs: Concerts for 10,000

February 8, 2005

The Chicago Park District is likely to approve a deal Wednesday that will allow concert promoter Clear Channel Entertainment to build a new 10,000-seat music venue on Northerly Island, the former site of Meigs Field.

The venue is described as "an open-air boutique amphitheater." It will be located at the northern end of the peninsula, occupying about 6 of its 91 acres, and the Park District says it could generate $800,000 a year to fund further development at the site.

The country's largest concert promoter, one of the biggest radio chains and owner of the 30,000-capacity Tweeter Center in Tinley Park, Clear Channel was one of two bidders that responded to a request for proposals in November. It beat out local concert promoters Jam Productions.

Clear Channel already is soliciting acts to perform on Northerly Island this summer. It has distributed a brochure to agents and managers saying that, "Where airplanes once landed, Chicago's next great concert facility is preparing for take off."

Clear Channel declined to comment.

'Temporary venue'

The Park District is describing the facility as a "temporary special event venue.'' The contract with Clear Channel is for three years.

"I have no comment until after the board votes," Clear Channel Vice President Scott Gelman said Monday.

A five-member Park District panel picked Clear Channel because it felt the company had more expertise, district spokeswoman Michele Jones said.

But Jam has been booking concerts here -- including Radiohead and Sting in Grant Park -- for 30 years.

Chicago is one of only a handful of cities where Clear Channel is not the sole concert promoter. Jam co-founder Jerry Mickelson has been a harsh critic of what he calls its "monopolistic" practices, and an antitrust lawsuit filed by Jam against Clear Channel begins today in U.S. District Court.

Mickelson declined to comment about Northerly Island.

The Park District said Clear Channel will book 25 to 30 "musical, family and theatrical events" each summer for the next three years if the plan is approved.

Since Mayor Daley's controversial middle-of-the-night demolition of Meigs Field in 2003, community groups have been lobbying for the island to be set aside as a nature preserve. But several watchdog organizations already have signed on to the concert plan.

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