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Repairing Grant Park Post-Lolla: Waiting Is the Hardest Park

By Kim Bellware in News on Aug 19, 2011 7:00PM

A muddy bro. firebird_mook

It took only three days of rain and revelers at Lollapalooza to trash Grant Park, but it looks like it's going to take much longer to see it restored.

As of now, there's still no publicly-disclosed price tag -- or time line -- for the restoration. With summer on the wane, and a current spell of pleasant weather, the limited use of the park has folks grumbling.

Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy mentioned last week the damage from this year's fest was probably the worst he has seen. Wednesday, O'Neill spoke to the Sun-Times about the progress.

“People are getting anxious," said O'Neill. "The park needs to be used by other people, and they like walking through a green park.”

Normally a hub for blanket loungers and people watchers, the only thing Grant Park could handle these days is a tractor pull. After the fest reports said up to 80 percent of the park had been affected. Swaths of the park where sod-ripping revelers moshed and crowd surfed are still barren, though landscape crews have smoothed the ground format mud bowl to dry, level dirt.

Adam Schwerner, director for the park district’s department of natural resources said after sod is placed, the park should be much improved, telling the Sun-Times “by the middle half of September, it will be dramatically better.”

Mid-September, however, may be too long for both Chicagoans and tourists, many of whom want to enjoy the outdoor space with summer on the wane. The Chicago Jazz Festival, as Chuck previously noted, is a mere 13 days away leaving little time for repair or regrowth.

It took more than $200,000 to restore the park after last year's fest, with the cost for Hutchinson Field repairs alone estimated at up to $80,000, according to O’Neill. As part of its contract with the city, Lolla promoters C3 Presents LLC picks up the tab on any repairs caused by damage from the fest. O'Neill cited Lolla's obligation to the Park District as an upside to the lengthy repairs.

“This helps keep tax dollars down because the Park District doesn’t have to raise tax dollars if they can raise the money privately," O'Neill told WBBM. "It supports parks throughout the city, so bear with us, this will be restored."

Really, concert-goers: next time, take off your shoes.