Chicagoans: Choice seating at Millennium Park?

November 5, 2009 (CHIICAGO) One alderman thinks so.

Alderman Gene Schulter says Chicagoans should get priority over suburbanites and tourists since their tax dollars as Chicago residents help pay for maintenance at the park.

While Millennium Park doesn't keep tabs on where visitors are from nearby, the Shedd Aquarium says only 18 percent of visitors come from the city. Twenty percent live in the suburbs. So the idea of snubbing suburbanites would be about as smart as letting a kid swim in the shark tank.

One alderman, though, says when it comes to concert seating "here," city residents should take priority.

Is Millennium Park being taken over by tourists? Well, yeah. But that was the plan.

"I'm from Seattle and I'm here for the Jazzercize convention!" said The problem, according to one alderman, is the free concert series at Pritzker Pavillion. Specifically, he's getting complaints from constituents that all the seats are being hogged by suburbanites.

"How can you plan so that we are fair to city residents? Afterall we are putting up $7 million a year in taxes to maintain the park," said Ald. Gene Schulter, 47th Ward.

Aldermen Gene Schulter suggests perhaps IDs should be checked at the gates and city residents allowed access to the Pritzker Pavillion's 4,000 seats first.

"If you or I were going to Evanston or Wilmette and wanted to go to the beach there, you'd have to pay a big fee to do that," said Schulter.

"I think it might make me somewhat less inclined to come down," said Joe Davis, Northbrook resident.

"I can see where their perspective is coming from but I think everyone has the right to come here," said Carmelo Schifano, Orland Park Resident.

BRADLEY: "And be treated?"
SCHIFANO: "Just like everyone who lives in the city."

The potential slap to suburbanites comes on the same day Loop merchants are rolling out the red carpet to tourists.

Shedd Aquarium penguins are even being pushed into service to promote winter visits to the Loop.

"We're trying to create a campaign that gets them to linger longer in the Loop and spend dollars in the area as well take in cultural events and entertainment," said Ty Tabing, Chicago Loop Alliance.

"Enough with the segregation. We've had enough of that. It ended. Let everyone come in. City, suburban, tourist, whatever!" said David Mack, Chicago resident.

Chicago's cultural affairs commissioner, who oversees Millennium Park, also says she thinks it would be a bad idea to single out city residents for special treatment. But she will instruct staff to make sure people aren't hoarding or saving seats during next year's free concerts.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.