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Lollapalooza’s messy aftermath: When will we get Grant Park back?

ItÕs been nearly two weeks since Lollapaloozwrecked Grant Park. Christy Webber Landscape workers work restore Grant Park it's pre-concert condition.

ItÕs been nearly two weeks since Lollapalooza wrecked Grant Park. Christy Webber Landscape workers work to restore Grant Park to it's pre-concert condition. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Photos: Lollapalooza mud people
Lollapalooza took Grant Park by storm — and it shows
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Updated: November 3, 2011 10:08AM

Large portions of Grant Park remain barren long after Lollapalooza crowds and storms devastated the concert grounds — and officials are starting to receive complaints.

“They know the pressure is on to get it done,” said Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy. “People are getting anxious. The park needs to be used by other people, and they like walking through a green park.”

The festival ended on Aug. 7. On Wednesday — 10 days after the bash — the park remained a big work in progress.

The mud pools that concert-goers gleefully splashed through have dried and been smoothed out by heavy equipment. But huge swaths of the normally grass-covered park are instead fields of dirt.

Last year’s post-Lollapalooza restoration cost $200,000, paid for entirely by C3 Presents LLC, the festival’s promoter, as part of its contract with the city. This year’s anticipated cost has not been disclosed — although the damage is far worse than last year’s.

In fact, the record crowds and heavy downpours during Lollapalooza led to the “worst amount of damage” in the festival’s 20-year history, said Adam Schwerner, director for the park district’s department of natural resources. Up to 80 percent of the park was affected, which means restoration will take longer than previous years, he said.

“Once we lay the sod down, it’s going to look very good very quickly,” Schwerner said. “By the middle half of September, it will be dramatically better.”

But parkgoers want to see the fields restored before warm weather comes to an end, O’Neill said.

“We essentially have three more months before snow, so there’s three months the park needs to be restored so it can be used and looks nice,” he said. “Our commitment is that it gets repaired ASAP, and that’s why I’m pushing the park district.”

In Butler Field, where Coldplay and Deadmau5 performed, the irrigation system is being repaired, then it will be resodded, along with Hutchinson Field, O’Neill said. Chicago Park District officials said they expect the sodding to be completed by the end of next week. Reseeding and trimming of damaged trees also have begun, O’Neill said.

“I think Lollapalooza is really committed to doing what’s right for the city and ensuring the festival can be here in the future,” said Sean Elliot, 30, a librarian who stopped by to check on Grant Park’s status this week. “It looks like they’ve made a lot of progress.”

With Lollapalooza handling the hefty bill and raising funds for the park district, it’s not all bad, O’Neill said.

“We’re getting millions of dollars raised for the parks, so it’s a balance,” he said. “We ask for the public’s patience, I would be really upset if this was just a big festival and no money went to the parks; this makes it a little more tolerable that the repairs take a little longer.”

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