Preparations made for election night rally

Street closures, parking restrictions near Grant Park
November 1, 2008 8:43:03 AM PDT
The City of Chicago is preparing to host an election night party in Grant Park for Sen. Barack Obama.Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend, and city officials have a plan in place to deal with the crowds.

Reporters were briefed on the details at an afternoon press conference Friday.

For anyone planning to attend the Obama event, remember a ticket is needed, and all attendees are advised to take public transportation because there will be no available parking near Grant Park.

The Tuesday night will be an enormous undertaking from a security standpoint, and there are a host of issues that still do not have answers. For example, what will happen to those who show up at Grant Park without tickets to the event?

The message from city officials at their briefing was, basically, if you don't have a ticket, you can come on down, but why not use your common sense and find another spot?

In the mean time, the stage is being transformed already. Hutchison Field is fenced in, and only those with tickets already issued by the Obama campaign will be allowed in. That may total almost 70,000 people.

Chicago's Mayor Daley has invited those without tickets to come to Grant Park and be part of an historic festival, but Friday afternoon, city officials and local clergymen did their best to dilute that invitation.

"At some point, we may run into an overcrowding issue. The residents should be aware that if Grant Park reaches capacity, people will be turned away," Director, Office of Emergency Mgmt. Ray Orozco said.

"It is a ticketed event, and if you don't have a ticket, you ought to go some place where you are able to get in and where you are able to celebrate without causing any problem to yourself and to those persons who love you," said Rev. Albert Tyson of St. Stephen A.M.E. Church.

"I am extraordinarily confident that we can keep Senator Obama safe, that we can keep the citizens of Chicago safe, and keep the neighborhoods safe," Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis.

There are two sections of Grant Park immediately west and northwest of Hutchison Field. There would not be much of a view from there, and authorities have not announced any plans for audio speakers or a jumbotron, but that could change.

However, those areas are public lands and would be open to the public. Many in Chicago said Friday that don't care if they have a view, they're coming anyway.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world. I've been an Obama supporter for a long time, and I just want to be there," said Anthea Butler.

"People like to be a part of history. They like to be involved in it, and so many people have been involved in this campaign this year that they just want to be here for the celebration," Craig Sautter said.

"The fact that he's from Chicago? Oh, man. The community element of this will just be unparalleled," said Carl Beien.

City officials said that everyone coming to this event, whether they have tickets or not, will enter by way of Congress Parkway. Those without tickets about will go one way and those without tickets will go another.

Another briefing about the event is coming up Monday, which, hopefully, will give specific answers to the questions about the people who do not have tickets.

Parking restrictions will be in place as preparations continue in Grant Park. A section of Balbo Drive will be closed Saturday. In addition, parts of Columbus Drive will be shutdown Monday.

A parking ban also goes into effect after Tuesday's evening rush that covers a large area around Grant Park, bound on the north by the river to Cermak Road on the South, Lake Michigan on the east to the Kennedy expressway on the West.

Chicago area drivers should expect additional rolling closures Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning.


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