NASCAR Will Shift Chicago’s Lakefront Into A Parking Lot
Despite all the hoopla about NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race boosting tourism, enriching hotels and filling downtown restaurants, the truth is former Mayor Lori Lightfoot has left Chicagoans with a monumental urban mess and a traffic gridlock at Grant Park and the lakefront.
Only a couple of weeks before the June 28th to July 4th race-construction and competition window, Chicago transportation officials now reveal drivers will have to merge along an eight-mile section of DuSable Lake Shore Drive between North Avenue and 47th Street.
Southbound drivers will feel the pincers most. For seven days, south bound traffic on Lake Shore Drive will be squeezed to two lanes at North Avenue and to one lane at Chicago Avenue. Then, all traffic will be forced to exit at Grand Avenue.
Northbound traffic will be slashed to two lanes at 47th Street, and to one lane near 31st Street. All traffic will be forced to exit at Interstate 55, except for drivers headed to the museum campus. Those drives will be allowed to continue to the 18th Street exist.
NASCAR estimated 100,000 people will attend the races and watch race-car drivers speed up to 130 miles per hour around Grant Park on Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, and Columbus Drive.
Last year, former Mayor Lightfoot signed a three-year deal with NASCAR to hold one downtown race per year. This year, the Cup Series Race, dubbed the “Grant Park 220” will be a 220-mile races with 100 laps. The Xfinity Series Race, called “The Loop 121” will be 121 miles with 55 laps.
Chicago, the “Second City” now will have a chance to be the “First City” of street drag racing. The race is the first of its kind for NASCAR to be run on real city streets in its 75-year history.
Unlike the typical oval-shaped redneck courses in the South and other parts of the nation, the Chicago race will have 12 turns, both right and left.
Along one stretch, the road downshifts from four lanes to two. Even Hall-of-Fame driver Dale Earnhardt,
Jr., called the route “challenging and miserable” when he test-drove it earlier this month.
Twelve-foot-high fences and large concrete barriers will be set up to protect attendees from flying road debris if there is a crash. And, like the chariot-race crowds in the movie “Ben Hur,” the audience likely will cheer for blood.
“It’s going to be a mess,” state Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago) told Crain’s Chicago Business. “Lallapalooza times 10.”
Besides the monumental traffic jams caused by the race, critics and downtown residents also are concerned about the noise level, which can be “96.5 to 104 decibels at 150 feet from the track,” reports www.NASCARchronicle.com.
Construction of the temporary viewing stands and entertainment amenities around the 2.2-mile circuit is expansive. Truly, NASCAR has made no small plans.
Movie stars, professional sports heroes and rich Chicago corporate VIPs will occupy the most prestigious reserved ticketing option—the President’s Paddock Club. This sweeping, bi-level club offers 360-degree panoramic views of the downtown skyline, Lake Michigan and Buckingham Fountain.
“For a ticket price of $3,377 per person, this elevated experience includes a VIP concert-viewing area to enjoy performances by The Chainsmokers, Miranda Lambert, The Black Crowes, Charley Crockett and the JC Brooks Band.
The big shots will enjoy VIP entrance lanes to the event, a shaded open-air deck, premium bathrooms, comfortable lounge seating and big-screen TVs with a live race feed. Sightlines also give guests a direct view into the pit boxes and most of the race course.
NASCAR Chicago Experiences also is offering various VIP ticket packages that start at $799. “Experiences include a pit road walk to witness the adrenaline of tire changes and fuel fills,” noted Julie Giese, president of NASCAR Chicago Street Race.
“There also are guided track or garage area tours, premium photo opportunities, podium celebration access, and behind the scenes glimpses of the NASCAR world and legacy,” Giese said.
The NASCAR website—visit www.nascarchicago.com, reports that the cheapest ticket to the race is $269, obviously priced for the poor peons like this writer.
The event is expected to generate more than $113 million in economic impact and more than $3 million in tax revenue for Chicago in 2023. However, the NASCAR contract says the Chicago Park District will earn only a $2 commission for each admission ticket.
That’s a bad deal, considering NASCAR effectively has shut down “Chicago’s Game” of 16-inch softball in Grant Park, and will close the park to recreation-minded Windy City residents on the July 4th holiday weekend.
Lollapalooza generated $335 million over a four-day weekend in 2022. “Lollapalooza doesn’t cause nearly the amount of inconvenience and obstruction that the NASCAR races will certainly cause,” said 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins.
“Holding a car racing competition on our streets sets a dangerous example at a time when too many drivers are going too fast, endangering the lives of everyone who uses our streets,” according to a statement from Safe Streets Chicago.
A spokesperson for Mayor Brandon Johnson said: “Events like the Chicago Street Race are critical to continuing positive tourism growth and the type of economic activity necessary to benefit Chicago residents and communities.”
Chicago’s great, green front yard, Grant Park and the lakefront, were part of Daniel Burnham’s signature 1909 Plan of Chicago. Burnham envisioned the open space as belonging to the working-class citizens of the Windy City—certainly not to be used for corporate greed and profit.