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Lucas Museum Won't Reduce Beloved Tailgating Spots, Park District Says

By Ted Cox | October 23, 2015 2:44pm
 Reconfiguring parking lots around the Lucas Museum might actually adds spots for tailgating at Soldier Field.
Reconfiguring parking lots around the Lucas Museum might actually adds spots for tailgating at Soldier Field.
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DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

SOUTH LOOP — The Park District insists that reconfigured parking around the Lucas Museum would have no effect on the number of tailgating spots for Bears fans.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will deprive Bears fans of 1,500 tailgating spots when it's located on what is now the South Lot between Soldier Field and McCormick Place Lakeside Center. Yet, according to Rob Rejman, the Park District's director of planning and construction, it is determined to create exactly that number of new tailgating spots through new and reconfigured parking lots.

Following through on Rejman's testimony to the Plan Commission last week, the Park District intends to find 80 new tailgating spots in Adler Planetarium through what Rejman called "improved organization," as well as 474 spots across Burnham Harbor at "various paved areas" on Northerly Island.

A task force on the museum organized by Mayor Rahm Emanuel originally proposed a walkway across Burnham Harbor to and from Northerly Island. Although not part of the formal Lucas Museum plan eventually adopted, it could be revived.

The museum itself will add 560 spaces on what's being called an "event prairie," as part of a park surrounding the museum. As museum officials explained before the City Council's Zoning Committee this week, enhanced drainage and special fiber soil will enable parking on the grass, as sometimes seen around college football stadiums, even in rain and snow.

Key to making up the difference, however, is that a new parking garage set for the other side of Lake Shore Drive at 18th Street will have rooftop tailgating for 386 spots. That's expected to be completed for the second and third years of construction with the museum tentatively set to open in 2019.

According to Rejman, during construction the number of tailgating spots will actually increase through the use of a Burnham Harbor parking lot and remote lots at 31st Street, the former site of Michael Reese Hospital and Hutchinson Field in Grant Park, as well as the 18th Street garage when completed.

"The other benefit of the garage is that it adds over 1,000 covered parking spots that have direct access to Soldier Field via the pedestrian underpass at 18th Street," added Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner on Friday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to "meet the needs of the tailgating community," and the Bears agreed that they were working out the issues earlier this week.

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