City officials keep quiet about status of park permits for NFL draft

By Taylor Hall

Chicago Park District officials are staying mum on the NFL’s permit status after announcing the league had not yet obtained necessary permits to create a public site for the upcoming three-day draft in Grant Park.

After announcing April 8 that the NFL had not secured the appropriate permits for its outdoor fan festival , Park District and City officials have not provided any updates. The NFL’s Draft Town is scheduled to take place April 30 through May 2.

“That’s information I cannot release to you. You can go on the website and email from the FOIA,” said Denise Reed-Burton,  Park District coordinator for special event & media permits, regarding the site. “I can’t give you any information at all. The only person that can speak to that permit is the person whose name is on the permit”

Medill Reports has submitted a Freedom of Information request for the information.

Construction started on “Draft Town,” projected to be the size of 15 football fields, at 7 a.m. Monday and is scheduled to continue until April 28, according to an employee of Monterrey Security, a private security firm guarding the construction site.

According to the Park District’s 38-page special events permit application, each request not submitted 45 days prior to an event is subject to a late fee, and reservation fees amounting to 50 percent of the total rental fee must be paid 120 days prior to the event.

The application states that festivals with more than 12,000 attendees require security deposits of $20,805 and rental fees per day and per location up to $320,890. Park District officials said a three-day festival with more than 12,000 people would require up to $450,000 in reservation fees 120 days in advance.

This month, a spokeswoman from Choose Chicago, the nonprofit tourism agency organizing the event with the league, said she didn’t know where the NFL was in the permit process, and that specifics regarding the event’s financials would not be available.

Chicago Park District CEO Michael Kelly asked the NFL to agree to cover any damages on Park District land. However, Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh told the Tribune in February that Choose Chicago has agreed to cover any costs related to parkland use.

Welsh said, “[There] will be no taxpayer money used. Any responsibility will fall on Choose Chicago and the Chicago Sports Commission to raise necessary funds.”

This statement was confirmed by City spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier, who said no taxpayer money will be used for the project and Choose Chicago will cover some costs with fundraising.

Because of its nonprofit status, Choose Chicago is not required to disclose funding details like governmental agencies.

Choose Chicago and City officials did not respond to phone calls, emails and office visit requests regarding the NFL permit status.




PHOTO AT TOP: Construction began this week at Grant Park on NFL “Draft Town,” which is projected to be the size of 15 football fields.  (Taylor Hall/Medill)