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What Is Rosemont Hiding In Its Garth Brooks Deal?

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 5, 2014 7:00PM

Garth Brooks (center, fist raised) performs at Allstate Arena last September. (Photo credit: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

When Garth Brooks returned from a 16-year retirement to sell out 11 shows at Allstate Arena in September our first question was “Garth Brooks is still popular?”

Garth Brooks is still popular. The man who married cock rock bombast to country twang and laid the foundation to the testosterone-fueled wasteland that is modern country music sold 183,535 tickets to those shows in three hours and with an estimated gross of $12 million, set a North American record for ticket sales in a single city. When Brooks announced the shows he said several cities were in the running but that Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens’ enthusiasm to lock in Brooks at Allstate Arena was the fulcrum in his decision.

Another factor may have been the incentives Stephens and the northwest suburb offered Brooks to stage the shows at Rosemont. The Tribune was interested in finding out what those incentives might be and filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the contract between Rosemont and Brooks. The village sent the Tribune heavily redacted files and later passed an ordinance to keep the details of the deal secret. The reason? The contract may reveal “trade secrets” Rosemont uses to lure big name acts and events to the publicly-funded Allstate Arena, Rosemont Theatre and Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

Here are what those secrets entail, per the Tribune:

Rosemont officials acknowledge that venues often offer acts financial incentives such as discounts on rent or a share of parking, beverage and food revenue. Village records show that Brooks' promoter received a "rebate," though the amount was blacked out. And it's unclear from the redacted documents if Brooks received any additional perks.

Other venues such as the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates are also publicly funded and can redact or reject any FOIA requests on a need-to-know basis but, as the Tribune notes, few suburbs rely on entertainment and convention business as heavily as Rosemont. Allstate Arena executive director Patrick Nagle said in a sworn affidavit to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, "The taxpayers and citizens of the Village of Rosemont, and the local businesses that enjoy increased economic activity as a result of the acts booked at the Allstate Arena, will be harmed if the ability of the Allstate Arena to effectively compete with other venues in booking and scheduling artists, bands, sports teams and other amusements ('acts') for public performances at the Allstate Arena is impaired.”

The Tribune has appealed the ruling to Madigan’s office and they may have legal precedent on their side. Madigan’s office released a statement earlier this week stating the Metropolitan and Pier Authority was wrong when they refused to release lease agreements to the Sun-Times related to convention business at McCormick Place. McPier used a similar argument to Rosemont’s. Further, Rosemont argues it can overrule state FOIA law due to home-rule status. The village used that same home-rule argument to build its entertainment district without approval from voters and now owes $400 million on taxpayer-backed loans related to the development of the district.

Here’s hoping Stephens was a shrewd negotiator with Brooks and didn’t give the “Friends in Low Places” singer the key to the city, in addition to a sweetheart deal.