NEAR WEST SIDE — To address neighbors' concerns, North Coast Music Festival promoters will hire on-duty police officers and add a neighborhood hotline this year.
Max Wagner, part of the team who owns North Coast, announced plans to hire two tactical teams of on-duty Chicago Police officers this year in addition to the private security that already roam fest grounds. Similar to the on-duty police officers hired by Lollapalooza, the move will help keep crowds in line while improving police response times during the fest, Wagner said at a meeting at the Union Park Fieldhouse Tuesday night.
North Coast is one of only a handful of private promoters that the city has allowed to hire Chicago police, Wagner said, but having uniformed police stationed at the gates and patrolling the grounds will create "a marked difference in overall tenor of the audience."
Reporter Stephanie Lulay on concessions North Coast is making for residents.
"When you see the cops, the police cars with spinning lights, it slows your roll," said Wagner, who also helps promote Riot Fest and Ruido Fest. "We're starting to see that this is a necessary [step]."
Additionally, neighbors experiencing trash, crime, traffic or other problems related to the Labor Day weekend fest can now contact the North Coast team directly by calling the community hotline directly at 773-449-8151 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We want to be a welcomed member of the community," Wagner said.
Fest organizers will also reduce the number of main stages from five in 2014 to three this year. During the course of the fest, North Coast teams will be monitoring noise levels from inside the fest and around the perimeter of the park.
Among other complaints, Neighbors of West Loop leaders said last week that the loud music fest attracts a rowdy, drunken crowd to their neighborhood and creates traffic and parking problems in the area.
"This particular group has done nothing to help our young people and it is a known fact that drugs are being bought and sold at this concert," said Patti Mocco, CAPS facilitator for the surrounding area.
But after the meeting Tuesday night, Mocco said she was hopeful the North Coast changes would minimize impact to neighbors.
"I'm encouraged, but I have to be. [North Coast] is coming no matter what," Mocco said. "But with our input and our demands, I think we're being heard."
North Coast festival grounds accommodate up to 20,000 fans per day, but the fest typically welcomes 15,000 to 17,000 attendees per day, Wagner said. Attendees must be 17 or older, according to North Coast policies.
Now in its seventh year, this year's North Coast headliners include DJ and producer Bassnectar, and electronic artists ZEDD and ODESZA. A second wave of music acts are expected to be announced closer to Memorial Day weekend, Wagner said. Three-day general admission tickets for the fest Sept. 2-4 are currently on sale for $180.
The festival is presented by React Presents, Silver Wrapper, Cold Grums Productions and Metronome Chicago.
Union Park is also home to Pitchfork Music Festival, the African Caribbean International Festival of Life and Common's Aahh! Fest, which will return this year after a one-year hiatus, said Dana Zilinski, a Chicago Park District official.
Donation to park council
In addition to the permit fee paid to the Chicago Park District, North Coast plans to donate $10,000 to the park's advisory council this year. Citing a "very poor financial year," no donation was made to the advisory council last year, but North Coast has typically donated $5,000 annually to the group, Wagner said.
Neighbor June Kirchgatter said the donation is not enough, and called on fest organizers to do more.
During the meeting, 19-year-old Deprice Hunt said that Union Park fests, including North Coast, gave him his first job, allowing him to pay for school supplies and meet celebrities he admires.
"It was a life-changing opportunity," he said of the $10 per hour job.
North Coast Music Fest hires 40 to 50 people from the neighborhood each year, Wagner said.
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