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Grant Park: Lollapalooza grounds in ‘better’ shape than last year

Clean-up north end Grant Park from this past weekends Lollapalooza. Monday August 6 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Clean-up of the north end of Grant Park from this past weekends Lollapalooza. Monday, August 6, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 9, 2012 6:16AM



While heavy rains made for some muddy mosh pits at Lollapalooza this past weekend, Grant Park didn’t take nearly the beating it did during last year’s three day music fest, according to the head of a non-profit group that keeps an eye on landscaping and other issues at the park.

“It depends on the area – but overall it’s better,” said Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy.

He says he doesn’t expect the price tag for repairs to reach $1 million as it did in 2011 and another watchdog group says it doesn’t expect swaths of the park — the concert covers 115 acres — to be closed for repairs for months as it was last year

Officials with the Chicago Park District aren’t making any public comparisons until all the equipment is hauled off and they along with Austin, Texas-based concert promoters C3 Presents and an independent landscaper conduct a final walk-through and assessment of the site. That’s expected to happen in the coming days, park district spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said this week.

As part of the contract with the city, C3 picks up the tab for any damages to the park.

O’Neill said he walked in and around the concert venue last weekend — and did the same during last year’s music fest — and says you can see that the grounds are in better shape than last year.

That’s in part because of Mother Nature, he says.

In the weeks leading up to last year’s music fest, the city saw record-breaking rainfall.

“The last three weeks of July we had record rainfall,” O’Neill said, referring to 2011. “Then it rained during the weekend of Lollapalooza…so it was the perfect storm.”

This summer has been drier by far, save for the Saturday afternoon storm that brought heavy rains, winds estimated at 60 mph or more and lightning – enough for concert organizers to call for a temporary evacuation of some 60,000 fans from the park.

After a 2 ½ hour break, the crowds poured back in to the park.

“And people were playing in the mud,” O’Neill said. “Their feet are little rototillers. There would be less damage if people didn’t play in the mud.”

Hardest hit was the south end of the park – Hutchinson Field.

But Butler Field – heavily damaged last year – appears to be in much better shape, he said. O’Neill said it’s apparent people weren’t cutting through bushes or trampling on flowers as in past years. Some of that is due to the organizers fencing off bushes and flower gardens, he said, but some of it is because of media attention to damage to the park.

Erma Tranter, with the watchdog group Friends of the Parks, says she doesn’t expense repairs to take two months – and for stretches of the park to be closed to the public as a result.

That’s because the city changed the terms of its contract for repairs with C3. Last year, the concert promoter handled repairs to the field at Grant Park. This year, the park district will do the job and send the bill to the promoter.

“The park district was dissatisfied, the public was dissatisfied and I think they made these changes in the contract purposely to get the contractors out there and get the job done quickly,” Tranter said.

“This year, the Chicago Park District will get this work done – or they’ll have a private contractor do it. But I’m convinced it’s going to be faster.”

In addition to promoters covering the cost of repairs, the event brings in millions to tax receipts to local, county and state government as well a share of receipts for the park district.

“Grant Park was long derelict, it was floundering,” O’Neill wrote in an email to the Sun-Times Tuesday. “Lollapalooza did something no one has been able to do. Now, Grant Park is considered a hip, cool place to visit where it never was.”



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