Big crowds are expected for concerts at Millennium Park this summer, even as reports of increasing crime in the downtown area give some residents pause, but there is mixed reaction to efforts that would boost security at the venue.
For residents like Kim Watkins, attending events at Millennium Park is a key component to summer fun in the city.
“I want to eat all the foods, go to all the neighborhoods, do all the things I haven’t done or revisit things that I haven’t done in a while,” she said.
Officials with the Grant Park Music Festival announced the changes overnight Saturday in a press release.
Those changes include an adjustment of where patrons can enter events at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Event-goers must now enter the pavilion from either Randolph Street on the north end or Monroe Street on the south end, according to officials. Entering from the Millennium Garage parking structure will also be allowed.
Those attending concerts will no longer be allowed to enter from the Michigan Avenue side, officials said. No reason for the change was given by organizers.
All concert-goers will also be asked to open their bags for security officers when entering the venue, and will be examined with a metal-detecting wand before being granted entry, officials said.
The new protocols also include a new barrier that will be erected between The Cloud Gate and the Pritzker Pavilion during concerts.
“Ultimately, these new measures have been implemented in order to maintain the friendly, relaxed atmosphere inside the park, which has always been – and will continue to be – a feature of our public events,” organizers said in a statement.
Some residents expressed frustration with the separation of the two sides of the park during concerts.
“I remember when Millennium Park did the first round of changes and all these gates some years ago, and it was really frustrating,” resident Leslie Cain said.
Cain says that more fencing creates the wrong atmosphere in the park.
“Being secure is one thing, but being contained is another, and it feels like being contained," she said.
Not all concertgoers agree.
“Even though it might be an inconvenience, I’d rather be inconvenienced than have something else occur,” resident Julia Perkins said.
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts the city’s summer music and film series, and also hosts festivals honoring gospel, jazz, blues, mariachi and other forms of music.