Saint Anthony Hospital raises ruckus over Riot Fest

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Saint Anthony officials fear the Riot Fest crowd will block access to the hospital’s main entrances on 19th Street near Sacramento. | Sun-Times file photo

For four months, Saint Anthony Hospital officials knew Riot Fest, Chicago’s last summer music festival, would be setting up right across from the emergency room in Douglas Park.

With the three-day festival set to open Friday, hospital officials are raising a ruckus, filing a lawsuit and holding a press conference, fearing that ambulances, patients, doctors and nurses will be disrupted by fans of rocker Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt, punk rock godfather Iggy Pop, rapper Snoop Dogg, country music legend Merle Haggard and dozens of other acts.

“All we’ve been asking Riot Fest to do … is make sure we have access to this hospital,” Saint Antony spokeswoman Kathryn Grasso said Monday afternoon outside the hospital while festival crews were setting up tents and other equipment. “I believe there [are] some kind of walls they could put up and bounce the sound back” into the park, away from the 151-bed hospital.

Riot Fest has agreed to redirect the multiple stages, hoping to direct the sound away from hospital, according to spokeswoman Chris Mather. “They said there are not noise barriers when, in fact, the sound is directional, pointing away from the hospital and is within limits set by the city,” she said. “The particular sound system, and type of speaker set up, called line array, can point the sound in a particular direction — that is how they are able to have so many stages close to others without the sound bleeding between the stages.”

Saint Anthony officials fear many of the 45,000 fans expected at the festival each day will get off the CTA’s Pink Line, and head over to the park, blocking access to the hospital’s main entrances on 19th Street near Sacramento, Grasso said, while acknowledging that Riot Fest’s main entrance will be three blocks north of the hospital.

Mather dismissed Grasso’s fears, saying, “They said 45,000 people will be walking by the hospital and that is not how the traffic is being routed.”

This latest hullabaloo erupted Friday when the hospital filed a federal lawsuit to stop Riot Fest less than four months after the festival was forced out of Humboldt Park, where the music festival had been staged for the past three years.

Riot Fest co-founder Mike Petryshyn has criticized the hospital, saying his staff has had numerous meetings with Saint Anthony over the summer. Then last Wednesday Riot Fest got emails from Saint Anthony’s lawyers saying the hospital wouldn’t take legal action to block the festival if Riot Fest would pay $154,000 to cover the hospital’s expenses, including security and legal fees. On Sunday, Riot Fest released those emails from the hospital attorneys, who also sought assurances that there would be no festival entrances on 19th Street, and that neither 19th Street nor California Avenue would be closed during the festival.

Grasso declined to comment on the emails sent by attorneys from McGuireWoods, the hospital’s law firm.

Riot Fest is represented by attorney Homero Tristan, an ally of Ald. George Cardenas (12th), a strong supporter of Riot Fest’s relocation to his community.

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