NEED NEW SPOTS,
Bears tailgaters had better be prepared to call a pregame audible. If the plans for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art move forward, 1,500 tailgating spots in the South Lot would be scattered to other locations, including a proposed five-story parking garage west of Lake Shore Drive, according to an agreement between the Bears and the Chicago Park District.
The proposed garage would have the same parking total as the South Lot, which is ticketed for the bulldozer if the museum project moves forward. But only 386 spaces on the top deck would be available for tailgating, according to the agreement.
Half of the remaining tailgating spots are planned for the so-called “event prairie” space, a grassy and landscaped area proposed south of the museum facility. The others would be distributed among other lots and garages.
While the garage is being built, tailgaters would be directed to alternate sites, including a gravel lot on Northerly Island (180 spots), the former Michael Reese Hospital site (256),
the 31st Street West Lot (153) and the Hutchinson tennis area in southern Grant Park (232).
Plans for a museum south of the Bears’ stadium showcasing “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’ traditional and digital art collection remain in limbo because of an ongoing federal lawsuit. But if construction were to start—a judge may rule on whether to lift a standstill order at the site next month—the Bears have worked out preliminary contingency plans for affected fans.
The agreement, officially an amendment to the existing permit and operating pact between the team and the Park District, includes schematic diagrams for the proposed garage and provides a snapshot of how a section of the park grounds would be repurposed for game day tailgating if the museum project ever materializes on the lakefront.
The new parking structure, to be funded by the Park District through $40 million Lucas has pledged for alternate parking, must be available for patrons within 18 months of either the start of construction, the date the South Lot becomes unavailable or when the Park District secures the money for the project. The Park District owns Soldier Field and the land slated for the Lucas museum.
The Bears emphasize in the document that they will not pay for anything related to the new parking garage. The agreement also states that if construction begins anytime after Aug. 1 of any year, the Park District “at its own expense and at no expense to the club” must provide 1,500 parking spaces during game days.
The parking structure would be built immediately west of Lake Shore Drive, a site that is currently a road, a bus turnaround and a vacant parking lot. The space is wedged in between the roadway and the Metra Electric train tracks, south of 18th Street and the nearby Metra platform station. The design connects to McCormick Place and includes logistics for fans to proceed under the existing 18th Street underpass, below Lake Shore Drive, east toward Soldier Field.
The original operating agreement between the Bears and the Park District was created in 2001 during planning for reconstruction of the historic stadium. The Bears said the Lucas museum “and other related proposed improvements to the parkland infringe on the club’s rights” under the initial agreement, leading to the additional document. The essential elements of the document become moot if the Lucas museum isn’t built.
The “game day parking” chart states that 6,491 parking spots currently are available in the lots and garages near Soldier Field, with 3,161 available for tailgating. The temporary parking plan calls for nearly the same amount of tailgating spaces, with 200 more spaces