The recent approvals of
Lollapalooza in Grant Park and a new concert venue on Northerly Island
suggest the Chicago Park District has a new attitude about rock music.
In 2002, after initially
green-lighting the concerts, the Park District at the last minute rejected
two shows in Hutchinson Field by Terrapin Station, a tour featuring the
surviving members of the Grateful Dead.
And in 1998, only days
before showtime, the Park District reversed an earlier decision to allow
hometown heroes the Smashing Pumpkins to perform for free at the Petrillo
Music Shell for fear that the alternative rockers would attract too many
Former Smashing Pumpkins
bandleader Billy Corgan said last week that the canceled concert remains the
biggest disappointment of a career that included 22 million albums sold.
"But I've heard recently that the city regrets what happened back then, and
it wouldn't happen now," Corgan added.
City officials haven't
suddenly become rock fans. "I listen to [Newsradio] 780 in my car all the
time; I'm not a big music person," Park District Superintendent Tim Mitchell
said Friday. But the city has realized that rock concerts can be a major
source of revenue for much-needed park improvements.
Capital Sports & Entertainment of Austin, Texas, will donate at least
$250,000 to the Parkways Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises
funds for city parks. And the Park District expects to make $800,000 from
Clear Channel Entertainment when it produces 25 to 30 concerts starting in
June at a new 8,000-seat venue on Northerly Island, the former site of Meigs
Mitchell said he is not
concerned that Clear Channel has not yet begun construction of the Northerly
Island venue, and that no shows have been announced.
Although he was
scheduled to appear, Mitchell did not attend a Friday press conference where
Capital Sports announced the Lollapalooza lineup. But in an interview later
in the day, the superintendent said he was impressed with Capital Sports
when he investigated the company's reputation in Austin.
Mitchell said that he
"could not speak to the past" concerning the rock concerts that were shut
out of Grant Park under his predecessor, David Doig. "I don't know if the
promoters for those concerts didn't give my predecessor a comfort level," he
"But [Capital Sports]
gave me a comfort level for my people to go ahead and sit down and have
months of conversations with them about what kind of program they'd put on
and how they would lay it out."
In fact, Mitchell is so
confident in Capital Sports that he said the Park District is "open" to
allowing beer sales at Lollapalooza. When local promoters Jam Productions
hosted successful shows in Hutchinson Field by Radiohead, Shania Twain and
Sting, alcohol sales were prohibited.
Rather than dwelling on
the contentious relationship with rock in the past, Mitchell said the Park
District is dedicated to "moving forward."
"The Park District for
decades has paid for the Grant Park Symphony [but we have to] represent a
variety of people, not just those that like classical music. There are a lot
of people that like the type of music that [Lollapalooza] will bring, and
hopefully we'll even have a different mixture over on Northerly Island."