‘A game-changer’: Chicago City Council members, residents react to return of Democratic convention

The Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday morning that Chicago will host the 2024 convention next August. Chicago beat out New York and Atlanta.

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The United Center message board on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, declaring the arena as the site of the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

The LED screen outside the United Center was already spreading the news on Tuesday: the Democratic National Convention will be held there next year.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

O’Dell Boyd lived in Chicago when the city last hosted a Democratic National Convention in 1996. Now, she is “excited to show off our city” when it returns next year.

The South Loop resident said Chicago’s “amazing lakefront” and landscaping make the city “the best all-around” place to host the convention.

“I think it’s a good thing. Chicago is a wonderful place. We have everything to offer,” said Boyd.

The Democratic National Committee’s choice of Chicago for the August 2024 gathering was announced Tuesday, with Chicago beating out New York and Atlanta.

The convention, being held from Aug. 19-22, is expected to draw 5,000 to 7,000 delegates and about 50,000 visitors to Chicago, the Sun-Times previously reported. Aside from voting on a platform and other party matters, delegates’ main item of business will be officially nominating their presidential ticket.

O’Dell Boyd, photographed in the 100 block of East Cermak Road in South Loop on April 11, 2023.

O’Dell Boyd, walking in the South Loop on Tuesday, said she’s excited that the 2024 Democratic National Convention will be held in Chicago.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Daytime meetings and events will take place at McCormick Place Convention Center in the South Loop, while the main events in the evenings, including the eventual acceptance speech by the party’s presidential nominee, will be held at the United Center on the Near West Side.

Far South Side residents Cesar Sanchez and his wife, Gail,— who were eating at the Palace Grill near the United Center on Tuesday morning — said they are glad the convention is coming because of the business it will bring to the city.

“Anything that brings business to Chicago — whether it’s the Republican convention or the Democratic convention — it’s a good thing,” said Cesar Sanchez, a retired pipefitter.

Cesar and Gail Sanchez said they think the DNC will bring business to Chicago. The South Side residents were at the Palace Grill near the United Center on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

Cesar and Gail Sanchez said they think the DNC will bring business to Chicago. The South Side residents were at the Palace Grill near the United Center on Tuesday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Ella Tupkalo, who lives in the South Loop, was out enjoying a warm spring day in the neighborhood with her 1-year-old daughter, Arielle, when she got the news.

Tupkalo thinks the convention will be “good for business” and some on the City Council would agree.

On Tuesday, two members already were eagerly anticipating the economic boost.

In a tweet, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) called the convention “a game-changer for Chicago’s tourism & hospitality industry; hundreds of small locally-owned businesses; and tens of thousands of hospitality workers!

“It will fill hotels, bars, restaurants, museums & cultural institutions. A strong economic catalyst just when we need it!” Reilly wrote.

Pilsen Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) called it an opportunity to showcase Chicago as “a blueprint for other cities instituting meaningful progressive policies.”

“I think it’s meaningful to have that conversation here after a mayoral election that really put a contrast between different wings in the party,” Sigcho-Lopez said of Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s victory over the more conservative Paul Vallas. “We landed on the side of working people in a hugely important election.”

Sigcho-Lopez said he wants to see the influx of visitors — and their out-of-town dollars — to spread beyond the United Center and McCormick Place. “We have 77 beautiful community areas. I hope that economic activity is shared across the city,” he said.

‘I don’t think this is necessary’

Some residents, however, expressed concern about the convention. Nae Shepard, who works in security at a public library near the United Center, said she wished the city were using the money it is spending on the convention for shelters and community centers.

“I don’t think this is necessary,” Shepard said about the convention.

Katya Lysander, who works at a social service agency near McCormick Place, said she expects “a big crowd.”

“I’m sure the CTA is going to be a zoo, but I’m not really worried,” Lysander said. “I’m sure it’s going to be bigger than some of the other big conventions that happen, but the auto show every year is similar.”

Isabelle Weiss, a talent agent who works in the South Loop, said having the Democratic National Convention in Chicago is “exciting,”

Isabella Weiss, a talent agent who works in the South Loop, said having the Democratic National Convention in Chicago is “exciting,” and wants politicians to focus on reproductive rights in 2024.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Robert Mitchum said he is confident the United Center can handle the traffic the event will bring. The West Loop resident said he does not see traffic issues during Bulls and Blackhawks games at the United Center.

Law enforcement and crowd control were issues Mitchum said he thinks may come up ahead of the convention next summer. Mitchum was a young boy during the Grant Park riots at the 1968 convention in Chicago, but he said he does not think anything like that will happen again.

Isabella Weiss, who works in the South Loop, said “it’s exciting” that the DNC will be coming to Chicago, but she does not think it will impact her much.

“I haven’t really paid attention to the conventions before,” Weiss said. “It seems to be more for the big donors, rather than average, everyday citizens.”

As a registered Democrat, Weiss she said she hopes to see politicians focus on reproductive rights and gun control in the 2024 election.

Lysander, also a Democrat, said hopes Democrats will discuss paid family leave and universal basic income. She added that she wants to see the Democratic Party “meet the needs of working people and Americans.”

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