Lightfoot Stands Firm on NASCAR Race Agreement as Transparency Questioned

The deal to bring NASCAR to Chicago was announced without City Council approval, a move some question.

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Lollapalooza is over, but Grant Park will be even busier next summer with the first-ever urban NASCAR race and the popular music festival back to back.

As details of the NASCAR contact are revealed, multiple alderman and some of those challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the upcoming election are questioning if bringing the race to Chicago is a good civic decision. The 2.2-mile NASCAR race will take drivers past some of the most iconic landmarks in the city, with the course going along portions of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue and other busy streets.

The deal between NASCAR and the city of Chicago, which was announced without any debate, gives NASCAR access to Grant Park from June 22 to July 5. Using the impacted area, which stretches from Randolph Street to Roosevelt Road and from to DuSable Lake Shore Drive to Michigan Avenue, will cost the racing company $500,000.

Critics assert that's far less than what Lollapalooza organizers pay. When asked, Lightfoot said, "trying to compare Lolla and NASCAR doesn't make sense."

Illinois Rep. Kam Buckner, a Democrat who represents Grant Park and is also running for mayor, says the NASCAR permit fee is too low.

"This is a half-million dollar deal for 14 days of unfettered use of city property," he said. "This is highway robbery.”

 As Crain's Chicago Business first revealed, the NASCAR deal calls for the city to receive the 15% of the net commissions on concessions and merchandise, plus $2 per admission ticket.

"There’s a base that NASCAR is going to be giving us, and similarly with Lolla, as the ticket sales improve and meet certain thresholds, then we benefit more," the mayor said.

In 2021, Lollapalooza brought in $4 million in taxes and another $7.8 million in fees to the Chicago Park District.  

The deal to bring NASCAR to Chicago was announced without City Council approval, a move some question.

"The mayor thought it would be cool and forward-leaning to do this, but I don’t think an organization that first off that only banned the confederate flag two years ago is cool," Buckner said.

Transparency isn't the only concern.

Asked whether having back-to-back events would pose an inconvenience for residents visiting Grant Park, Lightfoot emphasized the majority of the park's footprint will remain open throughout most of the summer. While she acknowledged there will be build-up and take down period for both events, Lightfoot said the city will work with organizers to "minimize the inconvenience" and maximize the opportunity for residents to continue to enjoy Grant Park.

With NASCAR at the beginning of July 2023, Lollapalooza will take place one week later than this year. It is scheduled from Aug. 3 to 6.   

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