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03-21-2013 Concert venue expansion

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Northerly Island concert venue to add lawn seating for 22,000

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter fspielman@suntimes.com

March 21, 2013 4:54PM

Northerly Island’s temporary concert pavilion would be converted into Chicago’s very own Ravinia — by adding 600 fixed seats and lawn seating for 22,000 people, under a plan advanced Thursday despite concerns about transportation and the absence of a parking garage.

One week before the 10th anniversary of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s infamous midnight destruction of Meigs Field at the site, the Chicago Plan Commission approved the ambitious plan that will serve to double annual ticket revenues and generate more money for park programs.

“That area is going to be very congested. There are going to be issues with parking. There are gonna be issues with traffic. There are gonna be issues with security and all of that leads to issues of expense,” Migala said, suggesting that concert promoters be required to cover those costs.

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein and Park District superintendent Michael Kelly assured the Plan Commission that Soldier Field parking lots and the shuttle buses between the stadium and Northerly Island would be enough to accommodate the influx of concert patrons who insist on driving instead of walking, biking or taking public transit.

“We do somewhere around 14 major events-a-year. That’s 63,500 attendance at Soldier Field. We have thousands of bike racks in the Chicago Park District. It’s not gonna be an issue. And with regard to the TMA’s, [traffic management aides], those will be paid for by Live Nation to help with the traffic flow,” Kelly said.

Rachel Goodstein, former president of Friends of Meigs Field, said her opposition to the concert venue project stems from Daley’s “illegal” destruction of the lakefront airport under cover over darkness that was valued at $700 million when Daley sent in the bulldozers to carve giant X’s in the Meigs runway.

“I’m a person of principle. I’m not trying to really turn back the hands of time. We lost a lot when we lost Meigs Field and one of the things that we lost was a lot more money for the Park District than this would generate. At $2 million a year, it’ll take 350 years of concerts,” Goodstein said.

“There are gonna be some real traffic issues with 30,000 people down there. . . . You’ve got almost four times as many people who are going to come down. There had better be some serious planning as to the security as well as how you’re gonna get people in and out because, quite frankly, the peninsula was not designed for 30,000 people to be down there at one time. It was designed for air transportation. All of that land was done as landfill to be an airport.”

Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy and Advisory Council, said he’s all for the idea of using revenues from an enhanced Charter One Pavilion with lawn seating to turn Northerly Island into, what he called an “incredible asset” to the city of Chicago.

“It allows the Park District to earn additional money without raising taxes,” O’Neill said.

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