Not so fast? Alderpersons seek to wave the caution flag on mayor’s NASCAR plan

Alderpersons seek to put the brakes on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plans to bring NASCAR to Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Whenever Mayor Lori Lightfoot makes a big announcement, beware of the details that are almost certain to tumble out later.

This time, it’s the mayor’s deal to host NASCAR races downtown in the summer of 2023 and 2024. The splashy news conference two weeks ago — complete with NASCAR automobiles and drivers — hyped the race’s alleged economic benefit to the city and how good the event would be for Chicago.

What she did not say then — but certainly knew — is that hosting the event would mean the 2.2–mile racecourse around Grant Park would be shut down for two weeks for “non-race event activities associated with the NASCAR Cup Series,” according to the organization’s agreement with the Chicago Park District.

A trio of downtown alderpersons — arguing that City Council members were kept out of the loop while the mayor’s office and the park district negotiated the NASCAR plan — are howling about this, and rightly so.

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As representatives of the public, they deserved the chance to scrutinize the plan in advance and offer input.

And also to question if Chicago’s $500,000 take — plus 15% of net commissions on concession and merchandise, and $2 per admission ticket sold — is enough to justify NASCAR squatting on two-plus miles of a prime downtown location for half a month in the city’s high season.

Would alderpersons have killed the deal on account of the length of the road closures? Maybe, maybe not. But something this important is worthy of public legislative debate.

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The NASCAR event would be held from June 22 to July 5 next year. And it would stretch from Roosevelt Road to Randolph Street — 13 blocks — and from Michigan Avenue to DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

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That’s a pretty big chunk of public space.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), whose South Side ward ends on the north edge of Roosevelt Road, questioned if the $500,000 permit fee to be paid by NASCAR and the revenue-sharing piece with the organization would cover the costs of traffic …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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