City still refuses to share Lollapalooza evacuation plan

City still refuses to share Lollapalooza evacuation plan

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Lollapalooza concertgoers stream onto Michigan Avenue during the 2012 evacuation. (Annie Minoff/WBEZ file photo)

“City details Lollapalooza emergency plans ahead of festival,” the headline in The Chicago Tribune reads. In fact, as the story makes crystal clear, the exact opposite is true. Writes the paper’s hard-working and talented new entertainment reporter Tracy Swartz:

“Melissa Stratton, spokeswoman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications… said there were no major changes to Lollapalooza’s severe weather plan this year compared to recent years but she would not provide a copy of the 2015 plan to the Tribune ‘because it contains public safety-sensitive information.’”

Why is this an issue? Because, as noted in this blog last week as well as in a Trib story about the recent evacuation of the Pitchfork Music Festival, there really is no practical way to quickly move tens of thousands of people to safety if or when dangerous weather descends on a massive city park. And the Trib notes that thunderstorms are expected for part of Lollapalooza this weekend.

Lollapalooza already dodged a bullet once, when violent thunderstorms prompted its evacuation in 2012. Some of the crowd of about 100,000 were herded into the overflowing underground parking garages at the northern tip of the Grant Park. But the majority were simply kicked out of the park and onto Michigan Avenue, left to fend for themselves and descend upon local businesses.

Stratton told Swartz that “the 2012 Lollapalooza evacuation prompted a plan for better communication inside and outside Grant Park. Video screens were installed in the park to broadcast messages and shelter locations were posted on Lollapalooza’s website.”

The challenge, in 2012 or during any future evacuation, is getting the word spread quickly and efficiently to a crowd that is not necessarily paying any attention.

Official Lollapalooza evacuation Tweet, 2012.

Wrote Swartz: “In the event of an evacuation, pre-recorded loudspeaker announcements will broadcast information from the stages and the main festival entrance at Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway; video screens at the festival’s main entrance will post messages; signs will display directions to shelter locations; and notifications will go to Lollapalooza mobile app users and social media followers.”

One would think that releasing this information in advance would aid any evacuation even more. Still, the city declines.

The Trib also recently published a piece by Robert Channick headlined, “From Lollapalooza to NFL draft, high-profile events paying off for Chicago.” Again, it wasn’t entirely accurate based on the story that followed, which noted that some of the numbers being cited by city officials are a bit squishy.

“‘Signature events held in Chicago create more customers for our businesses today and bring the potential for repeat visitors and more economic growth for tomorrow,’ [Mayor Rahm] Emanuel said. ‘The City of Chicago will continue to redouble our efforts to attract more marquee events…’

“Lollapalooza may be at the top of Chicago’s marquee… [Its] total economic impact, including indirect spending, reached $143 million last year, up from $85 million in 2010, according to a study commissioned by C3. The study found the festival has generated $587 million for the Chicago economy over five years.”

But the story went on to quote University of Chicago economics professor Allen Sanderson, who noted that a study saying the festival is a boon commissioned by the folks who own and run the festival isn’t necessarily reliable.

“If you take whatever numbers somebody gives you, move the decimal point one to the left, you’re probably pretty close,” Sanderson said. “It’s 10 percent reality and 90 percent marketing.”

And, as this blog has often noted, there never has been an independent economic impact study accurately assessing income from Lollapalooza and weighing it against the summer-long losses to Chicago-based promoters, clubs, and music venues thanks to the festival’s bullying treatment of local competitors. It doesn’t take a U of C economics expert to know that balance sheets have both a debit and a credit column.

Meanwhile, Lollapalooza, which is entering its first year under coownership by the monopolistic corporate concert giant Ticketmaster/Live Nation, continues to expand internationally. Today, it announced that it is moving into Colombia, joining other foreign fests in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Germany.

UPDATED: The city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications issued the following press release today.


Contact: Melissa Stratton 312-746-9454




Large Crowds Expected, Street Closures in Place for July 31 August 2 Music Festival Featuring Paul McCartney and Metallica as Headliners

Lollapalooza begins on Friday, July 31, in Grant Park, bringing hundreds of thousands to the lakefront in Chicago for the sold-out, three-day music festival, with an outstanding line-up and attractions. As the festival gets underway, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) urges those attending to be mindful of restrictions in order to enjoy a safe event and adhere to any public safety directions. Motorists and pedestrians, as well as residents, in the area are reminded of the street closures and traffic impacts throughout the weekend.

Street Closures: Beginning today at 9 a.m., Columbus is closed from Monroe to Roosevelt through Monday, August 4, at 4:00 p.m. Lake Shore Drive or State Street can be used as alternate routes around the festival crowds and closures. In addition, Balbo and Jackson are closed from Michigan to Lake Shore

Drive and Congress Parkway (including the Congress Circle) is closed from Michigan to Columbus. Balbo from Columbus to Lakeshore Drive will remain closed through Thursday, August 6 and Jackson from Columbus to Lakeshore Drive will remain closed through Wednesday, August 5. Traffic Control Aides are deployed to facilitate traffic.

Weather Shelters: Attendees should be aware of the emergency evacuation shelters sites located in the Grant Park North, Grant Park South and Millennium Lakeside Garages. Blue and white signage is posted to direct people to designated extreme weather shelters for extreme conditions such as lightning, tornadoes, hail storms or other weather events. The three primary emergency evacuation shelter sites can be accessed through the vehicle entrance on Michigan Avenue.

Pole Locations: For public safety, attendees are reminded to be aware of the numbers attached to the poles throughout the Grant Park area to help them reference their location within the Park to friends, family and first responders if there is an emergency.

Security and Enforcement: Festival-goers are reminded that all bags will be searched upon entering the festival grounds. Also, underage drinking is not allowed and the ordinance will be strictly enforced.

ADA Drop-Off: ADA drop-off is located at the North Entrance at Monroe and Columbus.

Public Transportation: As for any large scale event, public transportation is encouraged and both CTA and Metra are providing additional service for the event. For more information, visit CTA
at and

Taxi Cabs and Car Service: For those traveling to and from the event by taxi or car service, pick-up and drop-off locations will be along State Street.

Weather Conditions: At this point, the National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures in the mid to high 80s for the weekend, with possible storms on Sunday. As always, attendees should dress accordingly to avoid heat-related emergencies. Cooling buses and water stations are available throughout the Lollapalooza footprint and fans are allowed to bring up to two factory-sealed water bottles (one liter in size) to the event to avoid dehydration.

OEMC Traffic and Weather Notifications: The public is also encouraged to register for free emergency alerts, including severe weather notifications, by subscribing to NotifyChicago at In case of emergency, attendees should be alert to safety messages from the official Lollapalooza Mobile App, video screens at the main entrance and at the three stages, as well as audio announcements broadcasted from all stages.

If You See Something, Say Something:

As always, it is the responsibility of all to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity. If You See Something, Say SomethingTM is a national anti-terrorism public

awareness campaign that emphasizes the importance of reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities. Residents are urged to call 855-RPRT- 2S4 (855-777-8274) the official toll- free number of the local campaign to report any non-emergency suspicious activity to local authorities.


OEMC works closely with the City’s public safety departments, the Chicago Park District and C3 Presents by planning well in advance of the popular event to ensure the safety of performers, music fans and

residents. Participants are urged to be familiar with the surrounding area and to heed warnings, if need be. For a map of festival grounds and emergency information, as well as entertainment details, visit the Lollapalooza website at

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