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06-29-2013 Meigs venue a "disaster"

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Expanded Meigs Field concert venue
showing the quagmire
after the Jimmy Buffett concert.
(by Lee Hogan; click to enlarge)

6/29/2013:

This spring, without public input, the Chicago Park District expanded the Northerly Island (Meigs) concert venue from 9,000 to 30,000.

The first full-scale concert in the facility proved "disastrous", with problems with access and egress, mud, even concessions.

Jerry Adelman of Openlands even wrote to the Tribune, complaining of "swift and unilateral" decision-making by the Chicago Park District "without opportunity for public input or regard to adverse impacts..."

Ironic, huh?  It's funny, but we don't recall him speaking up when Meigs Field was destroyed at midnight.

Coverage:

bulletHuffington Post
bulletChicago Tribune
bulletJerry Adelman to the Chicago Tribune

Huffington Post: 

Jimmy Buffett Northerly Island Disaster: Live Nation Offers Free Tickets After Muddy Fiasco

Posted: 07/02/2013 11:19 am EDT | Updated: 07/02/2013 11:19 am EDT

Though "Parrotheads" taking in the first show at the newly renamed and revamped FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island on Saturday were treated to a lively set from Jimmy Buffett and even a cameo from Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and the Stanley Cup, the party that ensued was far from "paradise."

Fans at the show were dismayed when the venue's lawn section, newly expanded to allow the pavilion's capacity to increase from 9,000 to over 30,000, transformed into a massive mud pit due to heavy rains and newly laid sod, CBS Chicago reports.

And that wasn't the only problem at the Saturday night show: According to various reports from concertgoers, the acoustics were poor, the sight lines were often obstructed and the beer stands were not only few and far between but were also serving up libations that were both warm and overpriced, according to DNAinfo Chicago.

The widespread complaints, which the venue-operating Live Nation blamed on the record-breaking heavy rain the city has experienced over the first half of the year, prompted the concert promoters to offer those impacted by the muddy, swamp-like conditions of the lawn free tickets to another Live Nation outdoor show later this summer.

The offer "is based on availability and will be subject to expiration" and is good for any show at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre or Alpine Valley, where Buffett is playing another show on August 24.

But the offer is still not likely to satisfy some fans, based on comments on the venue's Facebook page:

"Why in the hell would I want to have another s****y night in that venue? I'll take a refund for my ticket."

"The mud was bad - but the sound was awful! Getting in/out was a mess as well. The in/out thing I chalk up to first show issues, but the sound has got to be addressed. You couldn't tell if it was Jimmy Buffett or Warren Buffett up there."

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Chicago Tribune:

Review: Jimmy Buffett delivers, but Northerly Island doesn't

Expanded facility boosts good sound, but lawn and traffic flow off-key

June 30, 2013|By Kevin McKeough, Special to the Tribune

In theory, it made perfect sense for Jimmy Buffett, the ultimate beach party musician, to perform the first full-capacity concert at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, the recently renovated, expanded and renamed concert venue on Northerly Island.

Buffett delivered the goods during his agreeable two-hour show, but in many ways the venue turned out to be unsuited and unprepared for the large crowd he drew.

Ads by Google Summer at Navy Pier Cirque Shanghai, featuring stunts and flying acrobatics this summer. navypier.com/CirqueShanghaiSummer

First opened in 2005 and known as Charter One Pavilion until Thursday, the summertime concert venue got a makeover this spring, with the addition of a six-acre lawn that can expand the pavilion's capacity from 9,000 to 30,000 for select shows, Buffett being the first. (The other big crowd shows scheduled there for this season include three nights of Phish).

Northerly Island – in truth, a peninsula, extending south from the city's lakefront Museum Campus –is Chicago Park District property. The concert promoter LiveNation has operated the pavilion since it opened. In addition to adding the lawn, LiveNation erected a new, larger stage and improved the large LED screens on either side of it as part of the company's new arrangement with the Park District.

The expanded performance space easily accommodated Buffett's 11-person Coral Reefer Band, which added bright embellishments on everything from trumpet to steel drums as the music breezed over a variety of tropical rhythms. Tan (of course) and muscular, the extremely healthy-looking 66-year-old Buffett sang in a strong, lightly drawling voice and was joined early in the show by Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who came onstage carrying the Stanley Cup.

While Buffett previewed "Songs from St. Somewhere," his forthcoming new record, with a biker-rock tune, "Too Drunk To Karaoke," most of his set could have come from at least 20 years ago, as he offered a repast of Parrothead favorites, including "Son of a Son of a Sailor," "Come Monday" and the inevitable finale, "Margaritaville," which featured a cameo by curvy Columbian singer Fanny Lu'.

Compared to other outdoor concert facilities, the sound in the pavilion is far better than that of First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre but a few notches below Ravinia and Millennium Park, clear and not too loud near the stage but a bit pinched near the back of the seating area.

That section and the lawn are separated by a gate, and unlike those other outdoor venues, audience members in the seated section aren't allowed to enter the lawn, which prevents them from potentially mingling with friends there.

The 12-foot slope of the lawn is supposed to provide clear sight lines, but some crowd members on the lawn couldn't see the stage. However, the stage's video screens were visible, as were additional screens on the lawn. In addition, the sorry state of the lawn itself prompted multiple complaints.

"It's a mud bath. I just walked across it, and there was mud everywhere," said Dean Young of Aurora. "I wish you had a hill (on the lawn). Without a hill, you have to look over people."

On the other hand, the lawn and back of the seated area offer glorious views of the city skyline framing both sides of the stage, which aren't visible closer to the performers. "It's awesome, Chicago on the left, the lake on the right," said Tom Koelzer of Barrington, who was at the show with his father, Tom Sr.

Ads by Google Summer at Navy Pier Cirque Shanghai, featuring stunts and flying acrobatics this summer. navypier.com/CirqueShanghaiSummer

LiveNation has put on past Buffett shows, so it's surprising that the pavilion clearly was unprepared for the size of the crowd in some ways. At least one of the concession stands didn't have several items on the posted menu, and a popular brand of beer only was available warm.

An utter lack of pedestrian traffic control at the end of the show led to the Chicago public safety officials ordering that cars not be allowed to exit a $49-per-vehicle VIP parking lot for nearly half an hour while the exiting crowd flooded the roads leading to the pavilion, and even after the lot was opened, traffic remained backed up for another 20 minutes. Similar problems seem inevitable at future large shows unless LiveNation commits the resources to steer and keep foot traffic on the sidewalks.

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A mess on Northerly Island

July 09, 2013

Last month saw the first large-scale concert on Northerly Island when the reconfigured FirstMerit Bank Pavilion hosted upwards of 30,000 attendees for the June 29 Jimmy Buffett concert. Previously the outdoor venue managed by LiveNation had its attendance capped at 8,000. In March, the Chicago Park District approved increasing the venue’s maximum capacity by 22,000 lawn seats for a series of concerts throughout the summer.

A consortium of organizations worked with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District as plans for the restoration of Northerly Island were shaped over the past decade, culminating in the JJR/Studio Gang plan for the site. The decision to increase the venue’s capacity was made swiftly and unilaterally by the Park District without opportunity for public input or regard to adverse impacts on birds and natural areas. The hastiness of this decision was underscored by the chaos of pedestrian and traffic control and the sorry state of the venue’s lawn at the Buffett concert.

Our lakefront parks are Chicago’s iconic image. Northerly Island provides an unparalleled opportunity to experience and enjoy nature at the doorstep of the city. The Park District’s decision to more than triple the size of the concert venue absent any public engagement jeopardizes the natural habitat that this site is so well suited for and is a betrayal of the public trust garnered through the lengthy planning process.

What’s at risk here: the quality of our “Millennium Park of Nature” or the dismissal of citizen input in important planning decisions? Probably both.

— Jerry Adelmann, president and CEO, Openlands

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