CITY HALL — The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art was deferred along with the 2016 budget by the City Council Wednesday, but the mayor insisted that was standard operating procedure and not due to any snags with the Bears or their tailgating fans.
"This is the process to push it to next week," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after Wednesday's City Council meeting, "and we'll appropriately take up the matter as it relates to the Lucas Museum."
The mayor denied that the delay was due to any 11th-hour qualms from the Bears or their tailgating fans around Soldier Field.
But the Sun-Times reported Tuesday that the Bears had raised objections over a potential loss of tailgating spots.
"They still have some negotiations and discussions to do with the Bears," a source told the Sun-Times. " It's their parking lot being effected. They have a lease. ... The issue is the Bears feel they should be compensated for being sort of infringed upon."
According to plans released by the Lucas Museum, it will be built on what is now the South Lot between the Waldron Deck parking garage south of Soldier Field and the McCormick Place Lakeside Center. That will cut 1,500 tailgating parking places at the south lot, which is one of the most popular tailgate lots.
Yet, when the museum is completed, it will add 80 new spots at the Adler Planetarium lot, 523 on a new lot on Northerly Island and 560 at what's described as an event prairie that will serve as part of a park surrounding the museum, but also allow parking on a grassy area as seen at many college football stadiums.
That's a net loss of about 337 spots, but not everyone who parks in those lots tailgates. And museum and Park District officials testified before the Plan Commission that during construction tailgating spots might actually be increased by allowing parking at remote lots at 31st Street, the former site of Michael Reese Hospital, Burnham Harbor and Hutchinson Field in Grant Park, along with the new Northerly island lot.
Park District officials also said they were contemplated whether to allow tailgating on the top deck of a new garage being built west of Lake Shore Drive.
Emanuel dismissed doubts about whether the grass could take the punishment on the event prairie. Museum officials testified before the Zoning Committee this week that special drainage and what's described as "fiber soil" would hold up to the traffic, even in rain and snow.
"Maybe you're an engineer, I'm not," Emanuel said. "They've come up with a way to have both open parkland and also meet the needs of the tailgating community. And I think that's actually a great resolution."
The mayor, who admitted to a lack of sleep following the Cubs' game Tuesday night, permitted himself a little sarcasm by adding, "Today it's an incredible parking lot. As we make progress, it'll be an incredible park and an incredible museum.
"We found a way to accommodate all parties," he added.
"We will enrich the cultural, educational and economic opportunities here in the City of Chicago with an additional four and a half acres of open parkland that doesn't exist today," Emanuel said. "So we're making progress, but we'll work through all the issues."
The Bears echoed that in a statement Wednesday, saying, "We continue to work with the city and Park District to ensure all elements surrounding game days at Soldier Field are enhanced. Delivering the best Soldier Field experience for season-ticket holders and Bears fans remains our priority."
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