Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday defended his decision to hold what he promised would be a civic celebration “worthy of a dynasty” for the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks at a lakefront stadium that can hold just 61,500 fans.
And later in the day, the city announced that the original, planned parade route would be more than doubled to accommodate fans.
Free tickets to Thursday’s Soldier Field rally were gone in minutes — then quickly offered for resale at a profit. That put Emanuel under the gun to offer an explanation.
If Grant Park was too soggy for the rally after torrential rains, why not hold the rally on downtown streets, as the city did at Michigan and Wacker for the Blackhawks in 2010, at La Salle and Wacker for the World Series champion White Sox in 2005 and at Daley Center Plaza when the 1985 Bears won the Super Bowl?
IfEmanuel was willing to close South Loop streets for days to make way for the NFL draft — and waive a $937,000 rental fee for the use of Grant Park — why not close a few downtown streets for a few hours for the Blackhawks?
“The normal place we were gonna do [it was] Grant Park. I’m not responsible [for the soggy conditions]. Only you and my mother would agree that I was responsible for the rain the other day. And it would rip it up in a way that would create millions and millions of dollars in damage,” Emanuel said.
“We’ve found the venue and also the screens we’re gonna have so people both in and out can appreciate the event and do it in a world-class way that . . . will be appropriate for both the team and more importantly for the fans throughout the area.”
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Emanuel denied that the seating capacity of Soldier Field essentially discourages the Blackhawks burgeoning fan base from attending the civic celebration that has become like old hat after three Stanley Cups in six years.
“We’re gonna have screens out there so [the overflow crowd] can watch it. . . . We’re gonna do it in a way that everybody can participate,” the mayor said.
Viewing screens will be in the south parking lot outside Soldier Field.
“Given what happened weather-wise, which was an unusual event, this is a longer parade than we had a couple years ago. It provides more people an opportunity along the parade route. And this is a safe place to do it and will also provide people who don’t make it in the event to also experience the event as well.”
Although some fans are disappointed, it could be worse, the mayor said.
“The way I see it is, it’s better to have the event here in the city of Chicago than to watch it on TV in Tampa,” he said.
Emanuel defended the celebration as City Hall released more details of Thursday’s event.
The new parade route will now begin at Washington and Racine and head east along Washington to DesPlaines, then south on DesPlaines to Monroe, then east on Monroe to Michigan Avenue, where the parade will end.
Double-decker buses carrying the players and front office personnel will lead the parade, which will begin at 10 a.m. Drinking is strictly prohibited on the public way, City Hall said, promising a “zero-tolerance” policy.
The motorcade is expected to arrive at Soldier Field at 11 a.m., when the rally will begin. Soldier Field will be open to those holding free tickets beginning at 8 a.m. The parking lots will open at 5 a.m., but no tailgating will be permitted.
Ticketed fans were encouraged to arrive early for the mandatory security check. Fans carrying backpacks and large bags will undergo additional screening. Fans will be allowed to carry unopened water bottles into the rally.
Fans were encouraged to take public transportation, but expect large crowds and delays. The CTA and Metra are adding service to accommodate additional passengers.