SOUTH LOOP — The crowd descending on Grant Park for Lollapalooza this weekend is "a direct hit in terms of the demographics" sought for a 3-acre skate park proposed for Downtown, which its mastermind hopes will sway the festival to help pay for it.
The festival kicks off its ninth annual show in "Chicago's front yard" Friday afternoon.
Each year, in addition to covering costs to restore the 100 acres used for the festival, Lollapalooza's production team, C3 Presents, gives the Chicago Park District a flat $1.5 million "guaranteed payment," plus other fees and reimbursements, that the Park District can use at its discretion.
This year's funding will be used to replant trees killed by the emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease, refurbish a leaky and aging Buckingham Fountain and possibly fund a $1.6 million skate park at Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road, hopes Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy.
"I talked to the main producer of Lollapalooza about funding that and perhaps working something out with one of his sponsors, because that is a direct hit in terms of their demographics," he said.
O'Neill said he imagines the skate park, once completed, could be included inside the grounds at future festivals.
"They were very interested. So once this is over, I'm definitely going to circle back with them to see if they'd fund it. That'd be a great connection, because it's adjacent to the main area for Lollapalooza. Maybe they could even do some programming there.
Last month, O'Neill unveiled renderings of the 3-acre skate park he hopes build just north of Roosevelt Road at Michigan Avenue with landscape architecture firm Altamanu. The park's features include customized rails, banks and ledges designed by artist Dan Peterman, and a half pipe fitted with a screen to show movies.
(Click on the photo above to see a slideshow of the renderings.)
O'Neill said he's already secured half the funding for the skate park from a TIF allocated to that area, the majority of which helped pay for the new Jones College Prep School. But he still needs another $800,000 to build the park as he envisions it.
Lollapalooza representatives declined to comment. C3 Presents did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
O'Neill said he's confident this year's festival will only minimally damage the park — especially if the weather is dry — and that C3 will make the necessary repairs in a timely manner. Damage to the sod from muddy feet is "by far" the most significant side effect of the expected 300,000 visitors.
"Because this has been going on since 2005, these issues — every year [C3] gets better and better at protecting" the park, he said.