Riot Fest welcomed — and warned — as it moves to Douglas Park

SHARE Riot Fest welcomed — and warned — as it moves to Douglas Park

Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned Riot Fest Wednesday that Chicago doesn’t have a “three-strikes-and-you’re out rule.” Translation: If festival organizers blow it at Douglas Park after being evicted from Humboldt Park, they won’t get another chance.

One day after the event that bills itself as the “largest independent festival in North America” found a new and more receptive home in Douglas Park, the mayor who loves rock music and engineered the compromise said he’s “glad they’re staying in Chicago.”

But, the mayor also put promoters and organizers on notice to be a better neighbor in Douglas Park than they were in Humboldt Park.

“They should take note that the people of Humboldt Park didn’t want them back. We figured out a place for them to hold the festival in Chicago, which is their desire. Therefore, I expect them to know what Douglas Park is like today and it should be like that when they’re done. They have a responsibility as the organizers of that festival to be a good citizen,” Emanuel said.

“I expect and we will hold the festival holders accountable. … I don’t think it’s in their best interest to have a second park say, `We don’t want you in Chicago.’ So, they’ve been put on notice to be a better citizen in holding this festival because we don’t have a three-strike rule in the city of Chicago for you.”

Douglas Park is on the Near West Side about three miles south of Humboldt Park.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose ward includes Douglas Park, said he has talked to festival organizers about putting a bond in place to reassure local residents that the festival will be safe and that whatever damage the festival does to the park will be promptly repaired.

“It’s there for the protection of the residents and the community and the Park District. If it isn’t done within a certain amount of time, then you pull the bond. That’s what should have been done from the beginning, but it wasn’t. Now, I want to make sure the community is protected,” Cardenas said.

Asked about the size of the bond, Cardenas tossed out a ballpark figure of $150,000.

“It depends on how much the damage could be. What was the damage at the last event? We do it based on that amount. We don’t want to go to $1 million because there’s no precedent on that,” he said.

Cardenas was asked why he wanted a festival that Humboldt Park residents and their local Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) couldn’t wait to evict.

“Douglas Park is a good place for Riot Fest. The neighborhood is not as close as Humboldt Park is. There are no lagoons in there. It’s just open space. It’s good for them to have a fest. They play soccer on that field. It’s got to be replaced every year. It may be a benefit really to that park because we’re gonna be constantly improving that park for the benefit of the community,” Cardenas said.

“The Pink Line is a block away from Douglas Park. … Transportation is not gonna be a problem. You’ve got Ogden. It’s a very open avenue. [Vehicles] can go in and out quickly. I’ve spoken to the [local district] commander. Security is up the street. It can be assured. It’s a really clean perimeter. We looked at all of those things that could potentially be a problem and we see none of those to be a problem.”

Rookie Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) is a former Park District supervisor who spent four years at Douglas Park. His residents use Douglas Park. Scott joined Cardenas in demanding a “bond or deposit” so there are “fail-safes” in place to protect his constituents.

“There’s going to be some turbulence. There’s going to be some issues. But I want to make sure those are mitigated [by] a conversation with the community,” Scott said.

“I want to make them sit down with the community and tell them what’s going on and give them assurances that the things that happened in Humboldt Park will not happen in Douglas Park.”

Scott said Riot Fest “can be a good thing” for Douglas Park, provided festival organizers get feedback from area residents, possibly by holding a town hall meeting.

“We learned from the last election that people are not happy when they’re not giving their input. That’s what my constituents told me when I knocked on their doors. I want to make sure they are a part of this process,” Scott said.

“I want them to engage the community. I’ve been getting Facebook messages. I’ve been getting telephone calls all this morning. I know there are a group of concerned citizens.”

Maldonado is thrilled to be washing his hands of the Riot Fest headache.

“This is what the majority of residents of the 26th [Ward] wanted. Riot Fest outgrew Humboldt Park and there is another location….that is more fitting for their capacity and for the level of usage,” Maldonado said.

Last month, Maldonado pushed to evict Riot Fest from Humboldt Park, saying $150,000 in damage caused by heavy rains and large crowds at last year’s festival had not yet been repaired.

Riot Fest countered by releasing before and after photos to undercut the local alderman’s claim and prove that $152,000 in repairs had been made to Humboldt Park.

Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn agreed with Maldonado that “some areas needed additional maintenance” and that the work was continuing. But he blamed the aldermen for demanding that festival organizers “change the footprint” for the 2014 fest “to encompass low-lying parts of the park that we neither wanted, planned or needed.”

“Unfortunately, that decision alone caused the displacement of the baseball leagues and park users on the entire east end and ultimately was the main culprit in the grounds being damaged during the rain,” Petryshyn said then.

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