Olympics 2016 Chicago homepage with links to more. Reactions

Olympics- Chicago 2016 Early plans, initial reactions

Prepared and presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Parks and Development committees, and its website hydepark.org.


Basics of the proposal

September 20 2006 the city announced proposal to build an Olympic Sized stadium in Washington Park and Hockey fields (plus use of Jones Armory for the media and logistics) as part of its bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Its promoters evidently regard Chicago's precious open spaces s vacant municipal land available without needed acquisition for diversionary development or non-park uses. Charles Staples, Hyde Parker

Washington Park, on the other hand, does not need redevelopment. Building the stadium in Washington Park would deprive the community of well-used baseball, soccer and cricket fields for years during construction and demolition, and permanently if a 10,000-person sunken bowl remains at this location after the games. Washington Park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places cannot survive this Olympic plan. Because of its landmark status, federal dollars could not be used to build a temporary stadium at this park site. We need a better plan and better venues. Erma Tranter, Friends of the Parks

I think it would be good. We need something down here. We don't have anything. Lee Hogan to Tribune. People need to get back to work. People who oppose this aren't concerned about jobs. Jeffery Sims Washington Parkers.

If they build a stadium, there's a good chance the city will curtain access to the park. That would be too bad, because it's a wonderful neighborhood park right now. Barbara Box. I'm not so sure it's a good fit. The park has lots of activity as it is. Who is going to police all the noise?" Dorothy Preshon. Both Hyde Parkers.

They're not going to let us stay here. Robin Hall, Washington Park business woman. It may result in jobs at concession stands, abut I don't know that it's going to do anything for the people in the community. It seems like Chicago is becoming a place for middle-class and upper-class people. Shawn Keez, Washington Park.

Where would those activities go for the two years and what room will there be for them afterwards? Toni Preckwinkle, 4th Ward Alderman, who supports the proposal. The Park will not be shut down. I t would be in use during construction. Mayor Richard M. Daley.


Our local elected officials and the Washington Park council had less than a day's notice for this bolt out-of-the-blue--and they had to react at a mayoral love fest sign-on rollout announcement. We still do not know how this decision was made and by whom. Alderman Preckwinkle's statements have indicated mixed feelings, as is indeed true of most people in the neighborhoods surrounding the park. Several have noted that lack of communication and inability to answer questions killed the world fair proposal in the 1980s.

The storm of controversy was instant and continued. Opposition appears to have grown in following weeks. Meanwhile, the likelihood of Chicago getting the nod grew as San Francisco and others dropped out and the remaining competing cities would leave Asia or Europe with back to back Olympics, which the Olympics likes to avoid. Some of the pieces below say that there are other, better Chicago sites in need of development sparked by the Olympics: USX, the south end Port, vacant land were public housing stood, and Roosevelt Road at the River.

HPKCC's committees sent their own letter if concerns and questions to the Mayor and Committee. Other organizations and councils have done so also ( see various below.) Here is a report on the February actions of Washington Park council for the March 2 Maroon:

Washington Park Advisory Council (WPAC) President Cecilia Butler said locals will support the Olympics if the city considers their needs. Last Saturday, after two town meetings devoted to delineating locals' needs, WPAC drew up a 29-point list of conditions the city must meet to gain Washington Park residents' support. Requirements include control parking demand, protect parks, and safeguard the homes of tenants who fear displacement.

See more details below in update. Basically, there would be a 95,000 seat stadium (now 80,000)--with a 10,000/now 5,000? seat arena remaining after for public gatherings, performance, and sports events such as track (which could be in conjunction with to-be-enhanced U of C sports facilities, during and after the olympics; new permanent hockey fields, use of Jones Armory, and new pedestrian juncture between the two halves of the park by tunneling part of Morgan Drive (55th).

Note that there are sure to be controversies about parts of the Olympic plan for other areas, including the 5 or 6 non-permanent, non-enclosed pools at UIC and lakefront facilities. It it a costly long shot- in the foot, or a shot in the arm? Already some say the stadium should be at USX or along the Ryan in the cleared Robert Taylor Homes and spare the parks.

At a town hall meeting Sept. 23, 2006, State Rep. Barbara Currie expressed many of the reservations Hyde Parkers and especially Friends of the Parks have on this issue. The park's Aldermen, and at least some residents to the west hungry for development and jobs or even some excitement in the area welcome the proposal. And it will bring the desired bandshell/performance (with track) facility- after a wait of 10 years, and many want a better way to bridge the east-west main drag. There really does seem to be a distinction between the views of Hyde Parkers and people living west of the park- reopening a very old wound (although the participants have changed over the years, this park is a still in some ways a boundary, even a battlefield)--Whose-park-is-this? (Those to the north haven't been heard yet, at least in the media.)

Yet there are many in Hyde Park (besides the two aldermen and the University) who are strongly for this or see many pros and cons, and some in Washington Park who oppose or are skeptical. Public officials, except the state legislators, are strongly in favor. Some residents, such as at a recent League of Women Voters meeting, suggested walking and measuring the template to see what would be impacted.

What would be the impact on the ball fields - in the historic Great Meadow, named after former Mayor Harold Washington (Harold Washington Common Ground) and dedicated to unity of the peoples of Chicago working together, Jones Armory, DuSable Museum and Dyett School, let alone U of C and Provident Hospitals? (U of C sports facilities are also to be involved.) See below for other concerns.


Schematic (To more maps of Washington Park)

Note that the Logistics and Broadcast centers are the old Armory, which many want to see have a new use--there are competing interests. Would the winner be displaced? The lighted area at the north end is Dyett High School. How would it be impacted? And there is really little left of the ball fields during the construction and olympic period. The dark green is the Olmsted and Vaux designed South Park System (less Burnham Park along the lakefront to the north.) The Torch Run would follow the lakefront and 55th St. (with a loop to the Museum of Science and Industry? and likely DuSable Museum?) Note: as of December 2008, "Hockey fields," moved early to Jackson Park, is re inserted as Aquatics- warm up, swimming, and water polo pools and diving well. The Warm Up would be an additional permanent addition.

January 2007 concept of the stadium


Updates on the plans January> 2007

The stadium size was decreased from 95,000 to 80,000. Its cost is set at $36 million. There will be no parking built. (some express fears tha lots of people will come and camp out in our parks. We are promised that transportation will be worked out with CTA. New: to the stadium and Washington Park (downsizing a bit), move of hockey to Jackson Park soccer fields, changes including a new pier along the south lakefront. As of now, no impact studies have been done. Backers promise that the guarantees, partly from an insurance giant and partly from sale of city assets, will not be borne by taxpayers. Many are starting to look hard at transport and infrastructure improvements needed and on how to have minority participation and local and broader economic revitalization.

The stadium will have a partial roof- fabric shaped like a boomerang, 117 luxury suites, and club seats. two-thirds of the seats are in a temporary grandstand. The stadium's temporary skin will be wrapped in photos of Olympic heroes. Designer is Ben Wood Studio Shanghai with local Goettsch Partners. Blair Kamin of the Tribune calls it elegant, memorable- especially from above- and respectful of the park. It will be most visible on the northeast side. Grand entries are on the north and southwest sides, the western two-thirds forming the letter "C". The eastern third would be built more like a permanent stadium. Height is 150 feet, half that of Soldier Field. Kamin says there should be a pubic hearing before the park district approves of it, not just a hearing for the amphitheater residual.

A potential drawback is placing concessions and restrooms outside the stadium at the park perimeter. This is done to reduce both space and foundation needs and hence cost. (Will patrons want to go outside to "go"?)

Plans are still sketchy about the remaining sports and performing venue that will replace the stadium after the Olympics. It may or may not have a track. And there is certain to be a fight over whether anything, and what, should remain. Blair Kamin says the amphitheater plan by Peter Schaudt is much improved, going 4 instead of 20 feet down and backed by 6 foot berms. But will it obstruct the Olmsted "endless vista" great field?

At the June 2 meeting in Washington Park with the 2016 members, a whole range of thought on matters and questions were raised. Among disclosures: no use of eminent domain or property acquisition outside the parks, permit residential parking is likely in the surrounding neighborhoods for the event period. The main 17-day Olympics will be followed by the 12-day paralympics.

Jackson Park council is in discussion with the park district about a siting that would be sequestered from and not inconvenience the general public or natural areas.

$50 million will come from developer rights for Olympic Village, the rest from "domestic sponsorships." A national company is already committed to building the stadium. Many companies are committed to bid on Olympic Village. These commitments should give the financial guarantees the Olympic Committee seeks.

There is a promise that prices of admission to events will be reasonable so the venues won't look half-filled. Also, video screens will be set up in some parks. Medals will probably be given in Millennium Park.

The biggest plan detail revealed in January was for the $1.1 billion Olympic Village between McCormick Place and 31st street. This is intended to be a permanent housing lakefront community of 5,000 units, with market and affordable components and good views of the lake. It will be built over a truck staging area air rights of 37 acres and to exist in any case. (see Ald. Preckwinkle's comments.) Kevin Nance of the Sun-Times says the plans are neither spectacular nor embarrassing- solid with aesthetic flourishes. Designer is Ross Wimer and engineer Phil Enquist of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (overall planner). The setup of each structure is curvilinear but oriented perpendicular to the lake. Heights will vary from 8 to 16 stories. East of the Drive and near the pedestrian bridges will be low structures for athlete training and play. Blair Kamin of the Tribune called the plans "drab", like the projects, while those of the stadium are "elegant".

Two pedestrian bridges, one permanent, are also planned over the Drive for new access. There will be an already-planned new beach and harbor at 31st and a new pier going into the lake, with unknown impact on currents and sand deposition. The $60 million jetty will be necessitated by move of rowing north to Monroe Harbor, requiring relocation of Monroe's 1,000 boats.

Overall, 80 percent of construction costs of about 2 billion will bed covered by the Olympics and the rest private. That does not include costs like transit and infrastructure.

What's where (before December 2008)?

1. Olympic Stadium- Washington Park. Athletics, ceremonies
2. Hockey fields- Jackson Park
3. Olympic Village Harbor-lake circa 31st, 35th. Sailing
4. McCormick Place West- gymnastics, Tae Kwon do, fencing, table tennis, badminton, modern pentathlon
5. McCormick Place South- press center, broadcast
6. McCormick Place North- handball, judo, wrestling
7. McCormick Place East- indoor volleyball, weight lifting
8. Olympic Sports complex at Northerly Island- cycling track, cycling BMX, beach volleyball
9. Soldier Field- Soccer prelims and finals
10. Grant Park- archery
11. Lakefront rowing course- rowing, canoeing and flatwater kayaking
12. Olympics Aquatics Center-UIC- aquatics, modern pentathlon
13. UIC Pavilion- boxing
14. United Center- basketball finals, gymnastics (artistic and trampoline)
15. North Avenue Beach- Triathlon
16. Olympic Whitewater Course at Lincoln Park- canoe-Kayak slalom
17. Olympic Tennis Center at Lincoln Park Addison


From the March 2007 site visit; city must guarantee even with public funds. And Tribune feature says Olympics losing bases of interest and we would be better off seeking the 2018 World Cup soccer match.

Mayor Daley had been firm that the Olympics would entail no public funds. But the U.S. Olympic Committee has insisted that the city has to pledge public funds to ensure it can deliver what it proposes-specifically the $1.1 billion Olympic Village and $386 million stadium. -"We definitely want the government top have some skin in the game...We have been assure by the mayor that this is the case..." said USOC vice president Bob Ctvrtlik. This has to be in place by March 31. Available perhaps are lease out funds, as from the Millennium Garages, the Skyway, and maybe Midway. Such would back a line of credit from banks et al. Also, there is skepticism on the cost of the stadium.

Hyde Park Herald, January 31, 2007/ By Nykeya Woods

Olympic plans for area gaining form

Plans to the latest 2016 Olympic bid proposal have changed slightly and neighborhood civic leaders have mixed opinions about it. On Jan. 22, the /chicago Bid Committee submitted its bid book- and expansion of the 1200-page proposal- to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The latest plans have expanded to include the Jackson Park soccer field for possible field hockey games.

Jackson Park Advisory Council Vice President Ross Petersen is not happy about the decision to use the field. He said that JPAC's inclusion of any of its park space would have been greatly appreciated. "We don't think that that's going to be a good spot. The site is not particularly accessible. It's very close to sensitive natural areas and it's going to displace a lot of people who use the field for soccer," Petersen said.

Petersen said during the summer, high school students, college players and members of the American Youth Soccer Organization use the soccer field on a daily basis.

The Olympic Games will be a part of the February 13 [special day, 7:30, 6401 S. Stony Island] meeting, Petersen said.

Last summer Mayor Richard M. Daley announced his intention to bring the XXXI Olympiad Games to Chicago with Washington Park as the primary site for the Games. Plans, which included a large chunk of the Fourth Ward were kept "close to the vest" said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle. Preckwinkle learned of the Mayor's intention hours before they were announced and [was] none too pleased about the exclusion.

"The way I found out about most of [the plans] was by reading the newspaper," said Preckwinkle. "I'm the local elected official and to be doing all this planning without having talked to me shows a certain arrogance and disdain for the legislative branch."

Preckwinkle said she is scheduled to attend a Jan. 30 briefing for aldermen about Olympic Village, which is proposed to be entirely in her ward. At the meeting, Preckwinkle will talk about how she thinks the design for the village is terrible. She said that the project shows little integration with the community to the west.

Despite a few displeased opinions, Washington Park Advisory Council President Cecilia Butler is pleased with the changes. Butler said that the advisory [council], which have composed 28 points to be recognized by the Chicago Bid Committee, wants Washington Park to host the Games. "Washington Park has a good location,"Butler said. "We are 20 minutes from the rest of the Olympic venues."

Revised plans include the reduction of the temporary amphitheater to 85,000 seats, and would leave behind 5,000 seats instead of 10,000, preserving green space. "The idea of the arenas being reduced to 5,000 seats is far more manageable," Butler said.

Changes to the proposal come after having talks with the Chicago Park District, Friends of the Park, and Washington Park and Jackson Park advisory councils, Chicago Bid Committee officials said. It was determined that Jackson Park would be a better place to host the field hockey Games because of the soccer field. "Our goal is to not just use the park, but over the long term this will revitalize and leave the park much better than when we went into it," said Patrick Sandusky. "We thought about what would be the best long term solution for the community."

The Chicago 2016 Bid Committee -- comprised of business, civic, athletic, cultural and academic leaders -- is 501(c)(3) corporation. Chicago is competing against Los Angeles and he USOC decides whether or not to submit a U.S. city to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in April. The IOC is expected to make their final decision in October 2009. For more information, visit chicago2016.org.


Brochure released by the 2016 Committee (contents)

The Games & Washington Park

Olympic Stadium in Washington Park

The Chicago 2016 plan calls for a temporary stadium to be built on the southeast corner of the northern section of Washington Park. Current concepts call for and 80,000-capacity stadium for Games-time that would be converted after the Games to a much smaller "legacy" facility capable of hosting sporting and cultural events.

The process to refine the initial concepts will try to balance the interests of the community and the impact on Washington Park, while still providing Olympic athletes and visitors a spectacular experience. Likewise, the exact plans for the "legacy" facility will be further defined with community input. What will not change is that, if Chicago is successful, future generations will visit Washington Park to see where manor events of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games took place.

Some elements of the current plans are below.


Community responses, viewpoints 2007

As of January 23 2007: Olympic plans set to be revealed; most watchdogs have only qualified concerns. Friends of the Parks still highly critical but sees no way to challenge. A cross section mainly Blair Kamin in the Tribune:

This reporter, Gary Ossewaarde, talked to Erma Tranter, President of Friends of the Parks, January 24. She indicated FOTP has the same concerns as published, including that the teams will be out of luck and devastated during four years of construction. But, Tranter said, a search found is no legal or practical way to stop the stadium. She advised communities to seek good planning, preparation, and infrastructure/amenities to mitigate disruptions in the park and surroundings and make sure the park goes back as much to previous state as possible. She thought that moving the stadium to another part of the park would create as many problems as it would solve. She did say the ways for pedestrians to bridge Morgan Drive, which the Framework Plan calls to be less of a highway-bisecting-the park as well as for downsizing the other roads, were a good idea, although maybe too much.

Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2007. By Blair Kamin.

Chicago’s Olympic bid organizers on Tuesday are expected to unveil their vision for a massive temporary stadium in Washington Park, a plan that also calls for major improvements to the historic park, according to open space and historic preservation advocates who have been briefed on the plan in recent weeks.

But some open space advocates argue that a key feature of the plan—which calls for converting the stadium into an underground amphitheater after the 2016 Summer Games—would disrupt the park’s protected landscapes and obstruct the sports activities that currently take place there.

They’re trying to leave behind something that the community has not called for,” said Erma Tranter, president of Friends of the Park. “It is a counter use to what the park is used for right now in that area—baseball fields, soccer field and cricket. A depression would remove space that is needed right now.

The 350-acre Washington Park was designed in 1871 by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means any changes to the park using federal dollars would require a public hearing.

Other open space and historic preservation advocates, however, were more positive, pointing out that the plan calls for land bridges that would extend over busy roads in Washington Park. According to the advocates, the bridges would improve pedestrian access to the Du Sable Museum of African-American History, located on the park’ east side, and a pool and locker building on the park’s were side designed by the firm of renowned Chicago Architect Daniel Burnham.

Gerald Adelmann, executive director of the Openlands Project, a non-profit group, said the proposed amphitheater would likely have stone ledges rather than fixed wooden or metal seating, making it “very naturalistic.”

It remained unclear Monday if the amphitheater would contain a track, as initial plans suggested. “It’s still pretty conceptual,” Adelmann said.

“We are guardedly optimistic that they can build a stadium and remove it without destroying Olmsted features,” said David Bahlman, president of Landmarks Illinois and co-chair of the National Association for Olmsted Parks. “It would have to be an invisible landscape feature that didn’t compromise the Olmsted Plan.”*
[* Does this mean below ground level?]

Tuesday’s news conference is expected to provide the first glimpse of architects’ plans for the stadium. In September organizers said the cost of the temporary facility had risen by 50 percent, to $300 million. The stadium would seat 95,000 spectators, organizers said, with the amphitheater’s seating pegged at 10,000 people.

Historic preservationists initially expressed skepticism that the multimillion-dollar stadium would be dismantled, fearing it would mar Washington Park for decades. The issue is now less pressing, Bahlman indicated. “Pat Ryan explained to us that whatever is funded by the Olympics itself—revenue from tickets, concessions, etc.—has to be temporary,” Bahlman said. Ryan, chairman of Aon Corp., is Mayor Richard Daley’s point man for Chicago’s bid.

Chicago is vying with Los Angeles to be named the American city that competes for the 2016 Summer Games. The U.S. Olympic Committee is scheduled to choose between Chicago and Los Angeles on April 14.


Friends of the Parks says "Washington Park Not Best Site for Olympic Stadium." See "Principles."

From the Advocate, Fall 2006, see also below as in Hyde Park Herald December 20

The Olympic Committee recently announced its plan to build a 95,000-seat stadium in Washington Park as part of its proposals to host the Games in 2016. The proposed Olympic Stadium would house the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as track and field events and open-air festivals.

Friends of the Parks opposes the plan. The National Register of Historic Places lists Washington Park, one of Chicago's oldest parks, as a cultural resource worthy of preservation. Frederick Law Olmsted, the greatest landscape designer in our nation's history, designed Washington Park in the 19th century. The park lies between 51st Street on the north, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the west, 60th Street on the south and Cottage Grove Avenue on the east.

Instead of Washington Park, Friends of the Parks urges the city to relocate the proposed stadium to other undeveloped parcels of land that would make better stadium venues. At least two large tracts of land on the South Side offer a unique opportunity to develop a major temporary stadium venue for the Olympic Games. Both parcels would benefit from the influx of capital a temporary Olympic stadium would provide. Both parcels would benefit from the construction of necessary public transit links to the area. Both park-deficient parcels would also greatly benefit from the lasting legacy of a new park left after the Games.

The USX Site

The first tract of land, the USX site, consists of 580 acres at 79th and Lake Michigan which used to house the U.S. Steel plant. Visitors to the Olympics could reach this location from downtown Chicago in twenty minutes, the same travel time as Washington Park.

The city should consider the USX site, now cleared of buildings, cleaned of toxins, and ready for development, as an ideal location for the temporary 95,000-seat Olympic stadium. The location would offer picturesque views of the lake, and would help the city develop a 125-acre lakefront park, new housing, a completed South Lake Shore Drive, and a new link to public transit. All of this development would offer jobs and lasting improvements to the city's Southeast Side.

Port District is Another Option

The second tract of land, the Illinois International Port District land at 89th Street and Lake Michigan, would also offer an opportunity to bring change to an area ripe for development. The port sees little activity these days. fourteen percent of its budget comes from port business, while eighty-sex percent comes from the Harborside Golf Course. The Chicago Park District and the Army Corps of Engineers already have plans to construct a new lakefront park on top of a confined disposal facility located on the property.

This site would also make for an impressive Olympic venue with its views and vistas of downtown Chicago, its location on Lake Michigan. and its adjacency to Calumet Park. Again, a new park and new, useful and permanent links to public transit would bring lasting benefits to the community.

In either of these cases, the city could develop and improve neglected city land, create permanent parks to complete the lakefront park system, create transportation links to isolated communities, and bring lasting economic development to an area that has suffered for decades.

Washington Park Not Good Option

Washington Park, on the other hand, does not need redevelopment. Building the stadium in Washington Park would deprive the community of well-used baseball, soccer and cricket fields for years during construction and demolition, and permanently if a 10,000-person sunken bowl remains at this location after the games. Washington Park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places cannot survive this Olympic plan. Because of its landmark status, federal dollars could not be used to build a temporary stadium at this park site. We need a better plan and better venues. Top


Friends of the Parks letter in the December 20, 2006. By Erma Tranter, President and Fred Bates, Chair

Chicago is a splendid city to host the 2016 Olympic Games. With its spectacular lakefront and major sports venues, Chicago is primed to welcome visitors from around the world. The Olympic Games are an opportunity to celebrate our city's history and it future. Hosting the Games will draw the city together to plan for its future and commit to major infrastructure improvements.

Chicago has undeveloped areas that are in need of the economic boost from the Olympics. Two large tracts of land on the South Side offer opportunities to develop a major Olympic venue. Both parcels would benefit from the influx of capital from the Olympics.

One is the USX site, 580 acres at 79th and Lake Michigan. A second potential site for the Olympic Stadium is the Illinois International Port District land at 89th Street and Lake Michigan. Both sites would significantly impact communities in need of economic development. In addition, permanent benefits from the Olympics include the completion of the lakefront park system and public transportation links to the existing light rail system.

Washington Park, on the other hand, is not an abandoned site in need of redevelopment. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Washington Park is on the National Register of Historic Places. The open area currently proposed for the Olympic stadium is now heavily used for baseball, soccer and cricket. These field will be lost for year during construction and demolition, and the ball fields would be lost permanently if a 10,000 person sunken bowl remained at this location after the Games.

Washington Park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places, cannot survive this Olympic plan. because of its landmark status, federal dollars could not be used to build a temporary stadium at this site. We need a better plan and better venues.

Friends of the Parks Principles

Principles for Washington Park
1. The Olympic Committee must commit not to bring any permanent harm to the Olmsted Plan. That includes the park’s serene lagoons, winding paths and stately trees, now over a century old.
2. Funds must be budgeted to dismantle the stadium at the end of the games, just as the “White City” was systematically demolished in 1894. No residual amphitheater should be considered.
3. Washington Park should be left better than it was before, just as Jackson Park came into its glory after the Columbian Exposition. The historic features of the whole park, not just t he South Open Ground on the north side, should be painstakingly restored (New York has show us how with Central Park. The two halves of Washington Park, now split by a widened and dangerous Garfield Boulevard, should be rejoined by sinking the road below grade and covering it with land bridges for pedestrians, as Olmsted’s plan did to Central Park. This would enable the Refectory building designed by Burnham and Root to be used, as it was intended, as an outdoor concert venue.
4. Restore the three boulevards that lead to Washington Park, Martin Luther King Boulevard, Drexel Boulevard and Garfield Boulevard west to the Dan Ryan. The boulevards would be key access routes to the Olympics and should be restored following historic plans.
5. Ensure access to Washington Park sites during the construction phase.
6. Engage the Washington Park community in the decision-making process.

Principles for Venues for the Olympic Games
1. The Olympic Games should consider creating a venue in a new regional park in a neighborhood of need that would remain as a residual park.
2. Select an existing swimming pool that is in poor condition to rebuild for use during the Olympic Games. The new swimming pool could remain as a public amenity.
3. If a gymnasium is required for an Olympic venue, construct a gymnasium in a park with an identified need for a new gym.
4. Consider alternative sites: USX or Iroquois Landing/CDF.
The Olympic Committee should involve the community in the process to determine temporary and permanent residual in public parks.

Hyde Park Herald says, Keep Olympic stadium out of Washington Park- avoid the “big temptation” to use park land as an open land bank.

January 24, 2007

Park land is more of a temptation that a natural resource in Chicago. It’s city-owned and comes free of charge when a politician is scouting a location for, say, a local school or a structure on an Olympic scale.

No one in the city knows this better than Hyde Park’s former alderman, Leon Despres, a tireless advocate of keeping open space open. He wrote in his memoir ”Challenging the Daley Machine” that the one time Mayor Richard J. Daley had called Despres a “liar “ during a city council meeting was over a debate about building a school in Washington Park in 1970.

Despres argued then that park land should not be used for non-park purposes. At the time he opposed the construction of Dyett High School on the north end of the park and criticized the city for turning its back on laws that protect open space. Daley shot the e epithet back at Despres and was about to engage the alderman in a debate on the council floor but couldn't because the council pro-tem had failed to recognize the mayor.

Despres shared the story in an interview with the Herald last week. The 98-year-old resident of Hyde Park recalled the sheep that decades ago used to graze on Washington Park’s meadow in the warm weather to keep the grasses short and the cricket teams that still play there every summer.

He shared this in the context of a proposed 95,000-seat stadium the city is now proposing for that meadow to anchor Chicago’s chances of hosting the 2016 Olympics, which was given another boost Monday when a new bidding campaign was unveiled.

A different Mayor Daley is at the helm. But the same Leon Despres is making the same argument to preserve the pen space, and he opposes the stadium plan. The Herald agrees with the former alderman.

The famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed Washington Park along with Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance for 1893 World’s Fair*, years after he designed Central Park in New York City. But pone would never dream of plopping an Olympic-sized stadium in Central Park. So one might wonder why Washington Park in the heart of Chicago’s South Side is so easily expendable.

[*The “South Parks” as a whole were designed 1869-71 by Olmsted and Vaux. Jackson Park’s landscape was re-designed for the Fair by Olmsted (reporting to Burnham); others modified the Midway and Washington Park to be compatible with the Fair. Olmsted’s firm again redesigned Jackson Park after the Fair.- Ed.]

Despres never thought so. “I thought it was a terrible act to put a school in the park,” he told the Herald. And as for the Olympic stadium, “That is just awful,” he said.

Hyde Park residents have begun sounding off in disagreement with the city’s Olympic stadium. The Herald has received a few letters in opposition since Daley announced the plan last September at a press conference in the park. And concerns raised a local forums and monthly Washington Park Advisory Council meetings have suggested a stadium that size and located in the park’s meadow will bring more headaches than benefits, like more traffic and parking congestion, noise, liter, crime, etc.

That being said, one might argue the naysayers aren’t thinking big. Actually, it was Olmsted who thought big more than a century ago. He knew Chicago would become a world class city and he helped make that possible when he designed the parks. If New York can have Central Park, why can’t Chicago have a system of parks equal in size and scope?

Olmsted envisioned a city known not just for its building architecture but for its landscape architecture as well. And Hyde Park is a treasure chest of landscape architecture, from Washington Park through the Midway to the Jackson Park lagoons and the Promontory Point limestone revetment.

These parks are worthy of preservation. And to preserve park land means to keep it open at all costs, even if it means the Olympic stadium has to move elsewhere. Parks should not be t he first open spaces to ripped apart under pressure of an expanding urban jungle.

Building a stadium in Washington Park is an impetus to other concrete growth. Where do you construct a parking lot tot accommodate 95,000 people? And what about the burden of traffic on roads that surround the park? Cottage Grove Avenue, King Drive and 55h Street may all need to be expanded. Then there are other facilities for visitors and athletes. The city’s proposal indicates a hockey venue will be constructed just north of the stadium in the park as well as a broadcast compound along Payne Drive.

Such a big, open space like Washington Park must be so tempting. It’s like a quick fix for ambitious needs. Sure, Chicago need the Olympics in 2016. And wherever the stadium is built might do wonders in terms of infrastructure improvements, a new hotel and some new coffee shops for the surrounding area.

But open land is so valuable to our city. Washington Park provides a great breathing space in a crowded urban environment. a Herald photographer captured a rare picture of a Whopping Crane, an endangered bird native to Canada, while waking in the Washington Park lagoons in spring 2005. That image caught the attention of conservation groups and the Chicago Reader did a write-up on the photographer. Even a rare bird found sanctuary in Washington Park.

To turn over what little unbuilt space the city has to Olympic-sized ambitions would be a terrible detriment to South Siders and a strain on the city’s legacy. At the very least, the city must reconsider the plan.

Thankfully, the city’s Olympic committee recently agreed to allow one member of the Washington Park Advisory Council to join. That representative should channel to fellow committeemen the concern felt locally. But that representative has another, bigger responsibility that would require the assistance of our elected officials, Friends of the Parks and local residents—to persuade the committee t leave Washington Park alone.

The Herald asks that Hyde Park’s current aldermen join in the tradition of Leon Despres and persuade the mayor to keep a stadium out of Washington Park. Land that is enjoyed by all and protected by no one needs an advocate.

[In the February 14 2007 Herald, former Ald. Leon Despres called this a wonderful editorial. ]


A counter to the Herald editorial, by David L. Hoyt, January 31, 2007. HP Herald should embrace the new

On the subject of an Olympic stadium in Washington Park, the Herald's editorial of Jan. 24 categorically opposing the plan puts it in the company of "ad hoc committees" that repeatedly pop up in opposition to any change whatsoever. As with other development projects in and around Hyde Park, the goal in Washington Park should bee progressive urban planning that combines the best of the old and the new. Rejection of the new altogether is reactionary, and so therefore is rejection of the Washington Park stadium.

To argue, as the Herald does, that Washington Park should be preserved because it was designed by the same landscape architect who designed Manhattan's Central Park ignores the vastly different conditions that shape land use in both places. The South Side is not Manhattan. It is much less densely populated, and has relatively more green space per person. Rather than having affluent 5th Avenue as its boundary, Washington Park adjoins some of he poorest census tracts in the City.

Instead of looking to New York for guidance as to the best use of Washington Park, we would do better to consider Chicago's own history. The most instructive precedent for the current proposal is the 1893 Columbian Exposition and its accompanying economic boom. Promoter of the fair argued that it would bring development to Chicago, and it did. Chicago's first transit infrastructure, acres of and reclaimed from the Lake and a good amount of the charming architecture that Hyde Parkers now inhabit. Like the planned stadium for Washington Park, the great majority of 1893 structures were temporary and disappeared soon after the event. Of the mass of railway tracks and exposition halls, only a few structures now remain.

There is no good reason why a similar outcome can't be envisioned for Washington Park. A temporary stadium, already scaled down from the original proposal, would bring needed economic activity to languishing neighborhoods adjacent to Hyde Park. The proposed earthen amphitheater that would remain after demolition of the stadium would be a very modest alteration of Olmsted's design, especially in view of the possible benefits to the South Side as a whole.

Herald's March 7 summarization of reasons against, call on Ald. Preckwinkle to oppose stadium.

Oppose the Olympic stadium in Washington Park. It is just too massive and the Frederic Law Olmsted-designed park is no place for a construction of that magnitude, or any for that matter. The stadium will ruin the nature of Washington Park and its role as one of the last remaining free, green spaces in the city.

Chicago may have a decent chance at nabbing the Olympics for 2016, but Washington Park should not be used as the pawn in that process. It has served a far greater purpose than that since it was created for the 1893 World's Fair [sic!]. It hosts summer festivals and unique sporting activities. Rare species of bird have been spotted frolicking in the lagoons. And it serves as the backyard for the neighborhood that surround it.

Community input around the stadium and other Olympic-themed projects has been minimal. Remember how you first learned of this plan. It's a slap in the pace to the South side. Please do not endorse a stadium in Washington Park.


Hyde Park Historical Society weighs in against Washington Park stadium

Letter in Hyde Park Herald, February 28 2007

The Board of the Hyde Park Historical Society would like to declare its opposition to the placement of an Olympic stadium in historic Washington Park. Frederick Law Olmsted, our nation's greatest landscape designer, created Washington Park more than a century ago with the "Open Green" pastoral meadow as its central feature. Washington Park is so historically significant that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Paces as an American cultural resource worthy of preservation.

A stadium, temporary or permanent, would destroy the meadow, disfigure the park, and threaten the National Register listing.

A long list of civic-minded Chicagoans--from Montomery Ward to Cal Sawyier and Leon Despres--have insisted that the public trust of our historic park land not be violated. This public trust demands that our parks remain forever open, clear and free--in particular free of oversized public works projects. A stadium in Washington Park would be a blatant violation of the public trust.

We ask our elected officials, Aldermen Preckwinkle and Hairston, to express this opposition to the mayor and city council.


Carol Bradford, President


Donna Graham agrees, Feb. 6 2007. She cites other needs including open space.


Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference letter of concern, questions needing full addressing for Olympics to go forward. Sent February 26, 2007. HPKCC received no formal response but did meet with an officer of the Park District in teh summer. Summary is in the 2007 reactions page.

Sent to Mayor Daley, Chicago 2016 Committee, CC Tim Mitchell of CP District, Ald. Preckwinkle and Hairston, Washington and Jackson Park councils.

February 25, 2007

The Honorable Richard M. Daley, Mayor
Chicago City Hall
121 N. LaSalle Street, 5th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60602

Dear Mayor Daley:

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference would like to offer you and the Chicago Olympic Bid Committee a set of concerns that we feel need thorough study to ensure a successful Olympics bid for the City of Chicago, taking advantage of opportunities and avoiding pitfalls.

We were disappointed that decisions were made with a speed that did not allow careful consultation with many local officials and various community groups. We hope and expect that changes made in consultation with the Washington Park Advisory Council augur a broadened, continuous consultative process for the Games, and we hope to be a constructive part of that process.

One key concern is why the decision to site key facilities in parks was not accompanied by an explanation as to why non-park vacant areas in need of development were not considered ahead of parks. This overlooked the fact that parks are already dedicated to public use and are not just land banks. Proposed venues in Washington Park and Jackson Park are heavily used, close to sensitive natural areas, and already have parking, traffic, and crowd problems.

In our hope that planning and execution take account of the long-term impact on South Side communities and parks, we have attached our questions about communication with neighborhoods, impact on parks and the environment, traffic and access, potential neighborhood redevelopments, crowd and amenities management, and impact on proximate institutions and facilities.

It is important for local neighborhood groups to show enthusiastic support for this endeavor, if Chicago is going to succeed in its efforts to host the 2016 Olympics. HPKCC and the rest of Hyde Park will be in a better position to show that support when these concerns are addressed.

With best regards,

George W. Rumsey, President,
and the Board of Directors, HPKCC

Encl. 1
CC: Chicago2016; Tim Mitchell; Ald. Preckwinkle, Ald. Hairston; Park Councils
1513 East 53rd Street · Chicago, Illinois 60615 · (773) 288-8343
Email hpkcc@aol.com http://www.hydepark.org


Date: February 25, 2007
To: Mayor Richard M. Daley and
Chicago2016 Olympic Committee
From: Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference
RE: Concerns, Questions, Topics for Study: Chicago Olympics 2016

Thank you for your attention. We hope for detailed answers to our concerns in writing and perhaps even a visit by someone able to answer our questions at a meeting of the Board of Directors of HPKCC and our Parks Committee. Our board meets first Thursdays of each month at 7 pm; or we could meet at your convenience. Please contact me directly at (773) 955-4455 or email me at rumsey@aol.com.


George W. Rumsey
President and for the Board of Directors

Subject index

1. Public process
2. Impact on parks and park access for the public and major users
3. Some park improvements that could accompany the Games
4. Environmental impacts and studies
5. Traffic, access, and transit concerns and improvements
6. Neighborhood redevelopment potential and impact
7. Site, crowd, mess, amenities, and spillover management
8. Arrangements with and impacts on proximate institutions, facilities
9. Specifics before the Olympics
10. Specifics during the Olympics
11. Specifics after the Olympics

1. What plans are there for public meetings about the Olympics, both citywide and in neighborhoods affected by Olympic venues, by the City and by the Park District?

Specifically, the Olympic Committee and public agencies must involve the communities in a process to determine facilities and residuals (temporary and permanent) in public spaces, accommodation of the preparations and Games, and needed redevelopment in neighborhoods: Washington Park-Grand Boulevard, Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore. This public process needs to include informational and input meetings with neighborhood and park stakeholder organizations and local institutions.

2. The Olympics must not bring any permanent harm to the parks or their historic templates. Funds must be committed to remove constructed facilities, such as the stadium and different-use fields and structures, and leave only such residuals as are specifically sought and approved by communities. For example, the Olympic Committee says that the soccer fields in Jackson Park will be left “better.” What does this mean?

2a. What will the effects be on park maintenance before, during, and AFTER the games?

2b. Access and continuing use must be ensured for as much of the parks as possible through the Olympic period, to the general public and especially to users of adjacent playing fields. The same or equivalent space must be restored for such uses afterwards. For what period of time will ball teams and other users, particularly baseball, softball and cricket, of the area selected for the stadium and staging have to find alternative locations for their games? Where will athletic activities that take place now in Washington Park be relocated in a way that current teams and players will not have conflicts or diminished ability to play and how will players safely and conveniently get there? How can they fully return after the Olympics if residual facilities take up part of the fields? What about soccer groups in Jackson Park?

3. Funds must be committed to see that parks (especially Washington Park in every part) are fully and historically restored or made better in ways not inconsistent with historic plans or current framework plans. Acceptable improvements could include:

Ø Reducing Morgan Drive to modern standards with separation for pedestrian crossover,
Ø Downsizing local-circulation roadways in the park,
Ø Ensuring that any residual arena or concert venue (where the stadium is sited or elsewhere) does not interfere with the historic flat vista sight lines, preclude return to active uses, or present security problems, but is in accord with community wishes,
Ø Ball field reconstruction and upkeep, lighting, and other community-sought upgrades,
Ø Improving other sections of the parks: Washington Park’s lagoons and Bynum Island, fieldhouse-active recreation area, and paths and Jackson Park paths.

4. What environmental impact studies will be done?

4a. Will this include impact of the groin to be built at 31st in Lake Michigan on currents and sand deposition at the new landforms and beaches at 31st, 39th, and 49th (Morgan Shoals) and at Promontory Point, 57th and 63rd beaches, and on the high number of beach closures (swimming bans) each year at most of these beaches?

4b. How will adverse impact be prevented to the natural areas of Jackson Park including lagoons, Bob-o-link Meadow, and Wooded Island, as well as to bird habitat? How will public access to the natural areas—wanted and unwanted—be affected?

5. What traffic and access-need studies will be done, and what funding sources have been identified to meet the needs?

5a. Transit to the South Side will be needed both before and during the games and provide a great opportunity to promote development and provide for the mobility needs of infilling areas. This should include more rapid transit on the Metra tracks, possibly a service reorganization such as in the “Gray Line” proposal, and improvements needed in any case to the Green Line to allow it to carry up to 80,000 people per day.

5b. How will people get from the Dan Ryan to Washington Park and the neighborhoods between the Ryan and the Lake, both before and during the events? The Committee says CTA services will be upgraded and CTA will provide shuttle. What does this mean? Are there plans to improve this corridor and make the area in general safer, while respecting rights and needs of residents? Plans should include restoring the boulevards that lead to the park (King, Drexel, Garfield, Hyde Park, and Midway) and other needed arterial upgrades. What improvements to roads and adjustments/supplements to CTA routes will be needed if is necessary to close some roads during the Olympics?

5c. How will traffic be regulated during construction and during the Olympics itself? And what will be the overall impact on Hyde Park streets, specifically 47th, 51st, 53rd, 55th, 57th, 59th, Cottage Grove, Midway, north-south roads, and the eastern entryways from Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island? What about roadways west of Washington Park and the roads adjacent to and through Jackson Park and South Shore and Woodlawn that have suffered during Dan Ryan reconstruction?

5d. The Olympic Committee says there will be no parking built. Why? Will there be studies of what parking is available and may be needed? How will parkers be regulated? How will domino effect on parking and gridlock of traffic be prevented, including for the area hospitals? What about parking to handle at least local needs, such as a garage for the Hyde Park business district?

6. What are the plans for redevelopment and general facelift of the entire area from 47th to 63rd and the Dan Ryan to Cottage Grove? How will long-range security be enhanced? How will mixed income and economically vibrant communities be created without displacing current residents and businesses? What are the provisions for ongoing community input and planning? Whose responsibility is financing and through what transparent public-private instruments— with continuing public involvement—will financing and decision-making be put in place?

7. What is the security plan and crowd control scheme for the construction, during the events, and the "take-down" period? How will current gang activity and other problems of the area, and the fact that such an event is a draw for criminal elements be approached?

8. What arrangements have been made with the University of Chicago and how will any increased uses or facilities for the university in the parks be shared or worked out with the communities and park user groups on an ongoing basis? Such agreements should have community approval and be transparent.

8a. Who will run and maintain the residual arena afterward, should it remain, and to whom will it be available? Will it be sufficiently used? When will there be discussion of this particular issue?

8b. What arrangements have been made with, and what will effects there be on other institutions in or adjacent to Washington Park—Provident Hospital, University of Chicago Hospitals, DuSable Museum, Dyett High School, and Dyett Recreational Center (and the pool whose multiple demands for shared use has been an issue in the community)? What about Jackson Park golf, harbors, La Rabida Hospital, and Museum of Science and Industry?

8c. How does the Jones Armory fit into the plans, what will be displaced from it, and what are the long-range plans for its use and restoration/enhancement?

8d. How can the south part of Washington Park, including the Fountain of Time, and its neighbors be involved in the Olympics?

9. Specifics before the Olympics:

(1.) How long will construction take? When will it start?

(2.) Where will the staging areas be, how much space will they take up? How will they be secured?

(3.) The Olympic Bid Committee says there will be no parking. How will parking for construction crews be handled, how and where will it be located and how regulated. How will domino effect on parking and gridlock of traffic be prevented?

(4.) How many people do we anticipate will be in the park and surrounding areas during and for construction and preparations, and for what period of time?

(5.) What footprint and for what length of time will the soccer fields and other parts of Jackson Park be unavailable for use by the public, especially soccer teams?

10. During the Olympics

(1.) How many people will be in Chicago (athletes, entourages, audiences, media, vendors who come from outside city, etc.)? How many in the Hyde Park/Washington Park/Jackson Park area? Are there any places that people will be staying in Hyde Park and in surrounding neighborhoods?

(2.) How will the City/Olympic Committee handle ticket-holders who are camping out? How would camping (ticket holding or not) be controlled, and where would it be permitted?

(3.) What provisions will be made for athletes trying to get across Cottage Grove from the planned Stagg Field change and warm up facilities?

(4.) What will be the main transport approaches into the neighborhoods?

(5.) Why has provision of parking for the stadium events and other venues been rejected? How would shuttles work without gridlock?

(6.) How will adverse effects from having vendors and toilet facilities along Cottage Grove and 51st St. be prevented?

(7.) Where are street closings anticipated? Midway? Cottage Grove? Others? Any plans to close areas to cars?

(8.) How will daily cleaning and trash removal be handled? Who will do it?

(9.) We suggest that The Point and either Midway Plaisance or 55th Street be used in the torch ceremony and run to the stadium. And we suggest that The Fountain of Time would be an awesome place to hold some of the medal ceremonies.

11. After the Olympics

(1.) What is the plan to truly restore Washington Park and the south half of Jackson Park to prime condition after the games?

(2.) Does this include improvement of ball fields, bleachers and lights, and upgrading of the South end of Washington Park, including lagoons and largely fenced-off Bynum Island?

(3.) No residual amphitheater or below or above ground deviation should be considered without hearings and full concurrence by the surrounding communities and must not be a sequestered private-use facility. The 6-foot high berm proposed for the arena must be carefully studied to make sure it does not destroy the level plain of the park or pose a security problem.

(4.) What parts of neighborhood improvement for the games will be kept afterward? Who is financing which parts of redevelopment? How can Washington Park and the Stagg Field area be opened up to more foot traffic along Cottage Grove Avenue as a result of the Olympics?