Navy Pier will close after Labor Day as the iconic Chicago attraction faces restrictions and budget shortfalls during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pier is set to close its doors Sept. 8 and "anticipates reopening" in spring of 2021. The closure aims to "limit the financial burden and impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on the organization."
“While this was a very difficult decision for the organization, it was a necessary one to proactively ensure the long-term success of one of Chicago’s most treasured and important civic institutions and the communities it serves,” Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner said in a statement. “This decision will also help preserve the future of the many on-site businesses, which continue to face hardships of their own as a result of the pandemic. The temporary closure will allow the Pier and its partners to reduce its operational expenses and support efforts to limit COVID-19 cases as we move into the fall and winter seasons.”
The pier will continue to remain open through Labor Day, including free arts and cultural programs, restaurants, retail shops, tour boats and dining cruises. There will be "multiple layers of safety precautions in place," officials said.
Public access to the pier's outdoor spaces, including Polk Bros Park and the North and South Docks, will also be limited or prohibited during the closure.
Last week, officials said Navy Pier was exploring its options, including the potential for closure as the attraction faces a $20 million deficit in its budget due to the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson said.
According to Communications Director Payal Patel, no decisions had been made at that time but the pier was "exploring and considering some options at this time to help preserve the long-term vitality of the Pier."
In a statement, Navy Pier said the loss of earnings "has been devastating to the organization's budget," citing the ongoing closure of the pier's iconic Centennial Wheel and other attractions as well as decreased parking revenue, rent relief for tenants and the cancellations of all private events.
The pier was forced to close from March 17 through June 10 "to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic." Since then, it has implemented a phased reopening plan that has seen the return of 15-20% of its typically summer attendance.
"Our hope was that once we reopened, revenues would be restored at a more sustainable level. Unfortunately, that has not been realized," the statement read.
The pier has since implemented "financial adjustments" to help limit costs, including the firing of 20% of its employees. The pier's president and CEO has taken a 44% pay reduction and all executive leadership saw reductions of 33%, according to the statement. Several full-time administrative staff members were also furloughed, renovations postponed, hiring suspended and budgets cut.
"These decisions are not ones that were made lightly and were done after a long and careful review of the Pier’s projected financials with knowledge that many good people would be affected," the pier said in a statement. "As an organization that cares deeply about its employees, we held off on making these changes for as long as our finances would allow."
Sen. Dick Durbin on Thursday said he planned to fight for relief funding.
Durbin, on a call with members of the Board of Directors, said he would "continue to fight for additional relief for Navy Pier, which employs hundreds of people," his office said.
"Navy Pier is an iconic part of Chicago," Durbin said in a statement. "It supports hundreds of jobs and provides entertainment for Illinoisans and Chicago's visitors to enjoy every year. Sadly, the pier has faced grave uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, I told Navy Pier that I would fight for additional relief funding so this Chicago landmark is here for years to come."
Patel said decisions on future plans were expected in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the pier said it plans to continue operating "to the best of our abilities."
"Our hope is that with support from Chicagoans and the donor community, we will emerge from this crisis restored, renewed and stronger," the statement read. "We are on the path to a new era for Navy Pier, and we are working towards transforming this distressing situation into one of resilience and new opportunities as we continue to bring to life the vision for the Pier."