Major O'Hare concessions deal on the way to city council

July 22, 2011

Concessions in the international terminal of Chicago's O'Hare Airport could soon be under new management. The Chicago City Council Committee on Aviation approved a contract Thursday for Westfield Concession Management to redevelop and run concessions in Terminal 5. Westfield had Mayor Rahm Emanuel's blessing for the bid, beating out two other companies: the current company, Chicago Aviation Partners, and Delaware North Hospitality Services. The contract now moves to the city council.

The Aviation Committee approved the contract with a 14-1 vote, but not before many alderman voiced concern over job losses during the management switch. While Westfield said they would be interviewing current employees for new positions before looking elsewhere, this didn't satisfy most committee members.

"I would feel better about Westfield if they could voluntarily agree to some kind of percentage," said Alderman Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward. "Preferential interviews don't mean anything to me If they could voluntarily agree to keeping all the current jobs, or the percentage of the current jobs, that would certainly be a good gesture to the city of Chicago."

The lone opposing vote came from 45th Ward Alderman John Arena.

Westfield's contract includes a $26 million renovation of Terminal 5, which representatives said won't be paid for by taxpayers. Representatives from Westfield said the estimated 18 month renovation would bring concessions behind security checkpoints.

Current management company Chicago Aviation Partners said the Westfield contract is going to cost the city more money. They sent many representatives to the four hour-long committee meeting, urging aldermen to consider voting against Westfield to allow for a new concession bid to open up.

The contract will now go to a full city council vote on July 28.