Lollapalooza is over, but Grant Park will be even busier next summer with the first-ever NASCAR street race and popular music festival back to back.
As NASCAR contact details are revealed, several city councilors and some of those challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the upcoming election are questioning whether bringing the race to Chicago is a good civic decision. The 2.2-mile NASCAR race will take drivers past some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, with the course skirting parts of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue and other busy streets.
The agreement between NASCAR and the city of Chicago, which was announced without any debate, gives NASCAR access to Grant Park from June 22 through July 5. Using the affected area, which stretches from Randolph Street to Roosevelt Road and from DuSable Lake Shore Drive to Michigan Avenue, will cost the racing company $500,000.
Critics say it’s far less than Lollapalooza organizers pay. When asked, Lightfoot said, “Trying to compare Lolla and NASCAR doesn’t make sense.”
Illinois Rep. Kam Buckner, a Democrat who represents Grant Park and is also a mayoral candidate, says NASCAR license fees are too low.
“This is a half million dollar contract for 14 days of unfettered use of city property,” he said. “It’s highway robbery.”
As Crain’s Chicago Business first revealed, the NASCAR deal calls for the city to receive 15% of net commissions on concessions and merchandise, plus $2 per admission ticket.
“There is a base that NASCAR is going to give us, and similarly with Lolla, as ticket sales improve and reach certain thresholds, we benefit more,” the mayor said.
In 2021, Lollapalooza brought in $4 million in taxes and an additional $7.8 million in fees to the Chicago Park District.
The deal to bring NASCAR to Chicago was announced without City Council approval, a somewhat questionable move.
“The mayor thought it would be cool and forward-thinking to do that, but I don’t think an organization that first banned the Confederate flag just two years ago is cool,” Buckner said.
Transparency is not the only concern.
When asked if holding back-to-back events would be an inconvenience for visitors to Grant Park, Lightfoot pointed out that the majority of the park’s footprint will remain open for most of the summer. While she acknowledged there will be a set-up and tear-down period for both events, Lightfoot said the city will work with organizers to “minimize inconvenience” and maximize the opportunity for residents to continue to enjoy Grant Park.
With NASCAR beginning July 2023, Lollapalooza will take place a year later in 2023. It is scheduled for August 3-6.