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South Loop businesses cheer on proposed repeal of Wintrust Arena parking ban

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) has moved to repeal a parking ban around Wintrust Arena that angered local businesses. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

After weathering complaints from customers angry about parking tickets associated with a parking ban accompanying the South Loop’s new Wintrust Arena, area businesses could soon be getting a reprieve.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) on Wednesday introduced an ordinance repealing the cumbersome ban that was assailed by South Loop businesses and residents alike. The ordinance would require full City Council approval.

“We had wanted to give the arena an opportunity to see what impact it was going to have on the community,” Dowell said.

“Over the last month and a half, we’ve been meeting with the community, and have come up with an ordinance that responds to the needs of residents and businesses that we’ve heard during the discussions,” Dowell said.

Bonita Sanchez-Carlson | James Foster/For the Sun-Times
Bonita Sanchez-Carlson | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

In a December Chicago Sun-Times story, South Loop businesses complained they’d been sold the new arena with the allure of gaining customers from DePaul games here. But over the holidays, customers came out to find blocks and blocks of cars ticketed under the Wintrust event parking ban enacted mid-October.

“We did it!” said Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, president and executive director of the Near South Planning Board, a business group. “All the businesses got together and had a special meeting with the alderman. What it ultimately came down to was, ‘It’s time to repeal that ban.’ We just couldn’t figure out anything else that made sense. We’re so glad the alderman listened to our concerns. Businesses are truly excited!”

RELATED: TELANDER: Wintrust Arena isn’t helping DePaul win any games, gain any trust

The area already operates under a parking ban during Soldier Field events. But the ban associated with the 10,000-seat Wintrust has added a burden upon businesses to keep up with its myriad events — including small ones that unnecessarily held miles of streets hostage — and warn customers before they earned $60 tickets.

“We’ve heard it’s just a lot of events, and it’s hard to comply with that,” Dowell said.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) | Sun-Times file photo
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) | Sun-Times file photo

“And it’s not just the number of events. It’s also the size of events. Some of them are very small, some are very large. It’s not a consistent use of the arena that we can see at this point,” Dowell said. “The whole goal was to protect the neighborhood and protect the residents and the businesses from what I thought would be an onslaught of cars into the community. After months of activity, we now have a sense.”

The Soldier Field parking ban remains intact. However, its footprint would be amended under the proposed ordinance, addressing additional concerns by businesses that it impacted blocks far from both venues. Bounded by Roosevelt Road, Interstate 55, Clark Street and Lake Shore Drive, Cermak Road would become the southern boundary.

Addressing residents’ concerns, Dowell said they would no longer need to display both Soldier Field and residential parking permits during events, just residential permits. The ban also would be lifted from Dearborn Homes, where residents complained they don’t get event traffic.

“This is awesome news! The current situation has been frustrating for many people,” said Cristina Hall, president of the Greater South Loop Association, a residents’ group. “We’re thrilled this will no longer be a concern for area businesses and residents.”