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City Eyes Admission Fee, Naming Rights for Taste, Other City Festivals

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 23, 2010 4:40PM

TasteTickets.jpg City officials, after repeated affirmations that they wish for annual festivals such as Taste of Chicago, Blues Fest and Jazz Fest, now seem to be warming to the idea of selling naming rights to those and other festivals and, in some cases, even charging admission to the festivals. Losing $7 million on the festivals in a three-year span has a way of making the city revisit its stance.

The city has been accepting bid offers from private contractors and has also sent out questionnaires to prospective bidders. In those forms, the city has been asked whether the bidders would be “allowed to charge admission to all or parts” of taste, Blues, Jazz, Celtic, Country and Gospel Fests, and the Viva Chicago Latin music festival.

The city responded:

“Ideally, these festivals would remain free. But, respondents should submit responses that include recommendations on the economic model, which can include an entrance fee.”

The city also opened a slight window of opportunity to have title sponsors for the festival, which means we could see, say, a "Bank of America Presents Taste of Chicago" or the "Aon Chicago Blues Festival."

The city has some tough decisions to make here. Taste of Chicago, which used to rake in revenue, only turned a modest $170,749 profit, and that was because they scrapped the standard ginormous Grant Park fireworks in favor of three smaller fireworks exhibitions spread across the lakefront. The other six festivals posted significant losses: Gospel ($315,683); Blues ($330,623); Celtic ($364,149); Country ($268,064); Jazz ($203,227 and Viva Chicago ($200,815).