Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new contract on Sunday to keep Lollapalooza in Grant Park for another 10 years.
Lightfoot said the festival will continue to take place in Chicago through 2032, revealing the news ahead of J-Hope’s headlining act on the Bud Light Seltzer stage on Sunday night.
“People have been telling me, ‘Mayor, we love Lolla. It’s the best thing that’s happening. I agree. So I’m here to tell you by fiat that we’re going to make sure that Lolla continues into the future,” Lightfoot said as the four-day event ended.
The contract will be in effect for the 2023 festival, with festival organizer C3 Presents and the Chicago Park District having the option to extend the contract under the same terms for five years. It was unclear Sunday whether the deal will go before the Park District board.
Full details of the contract were not available Sunday, including mention of the city’s entertainment tax, a final point in negotiations. Last week, C3 Presents executives were pressing the city for a guarantee that Chicago’s amusement tax would not increase further during the course of a new deal.
The charge increased from 5% to 9% for large-scale events over the course of Lollapalooza’s existing 10-year contract.
Lightfoot offered no further comment after taking the stage on Sunday. Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42, and Ald. Sophia King, fourth, the two aldermen whose districts include Grant Park, were not immediately available for comment Sunday. Friends of the Park, one of the city’s most active park advocacy groups, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“There are now a total of eight Lollapaloozas on four continents, but Chicago remains the center of the Lollapalooza universe,” said Charlie Walker, partner at C3 Presents, in a press release. “With the world’s best artists, incredible fans and our amazing partners in the city of Chicago, we’re excited to continue to deliver an unparalleled festival experience in Grant Park for the next decade.”
The Park District will receive between 5% and 20% of festival revenue during that time, based on total revenue from admission, goods and services at the festival, license sales, sponsorships, and broadcast deals. As with the existing contract, C3 will guarantee payments of at least $2 million if the full four-day festival takes place; $1.5 million for three days; and $750,000 if the festival does not take place.
The deal also capped attendance at 115,000, up from 100,000, and formalized the festival organizer’s $2.2 million commitment to Chicago Public Schools for arts education. C3 will also put up money for renovations to Grant Park’s tennis courts, although there does not appear to be an investment by the company to improve Grant Park’s infrastructure, as at least one councilman expected.
The festival will continue to be held on the last weekend of July or the first weekend of August.
“Lollapalooza is not only a major economic engine for our city, but a truly iconic Chicago summer festival,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am delighted to reach this agreement that will ensure that Lollapalooza is here to stay for the next decade, bringing music, culture and joy to residents and tourists alike for years to come.”
Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, the festival’s co-founder and co-producer, said in an interview Thursday that another decade-long deal had been struck. At the time, C3 representatives responded to the claim, saying negotiations were still ongoing.
The current agreement between the park district and C3 Presents was signed in 2012 and expired after last year’s festival. The parties opted for a year-long extension, and since then festival officials have been making more permanent investments in the city that suggested they’re here to stay: Texas-based C3 recently held the CPS initiative, which was announced on last year; hosted an inaugural Lollapalooza job fair this spring and expanded its partnership with the nonprofit After School Matters.
Fresh off an ad that Chicago turn the streets around Grant Park into a NASCAR racetrack for a televised Cup Series event in 2023 and beyond, Lightfoot’s Lollapalooza announcement could help bolster the mayor’s re-election case that downtown Chicago is on the mend. It would also ease the blow of the Chicago Bears’ potential loss to Arlington Heights.
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Lollapalooza found its home in Grant Park in 2005 and is said to generate millions in local economic impact and annual revenue for the Park District. The existing contract was celebrated as a victory for Chicago’s taxpayers, hotels, restaurants, cultural community and parks.
Under the current contract, festival organizers are required to pay sales, liquor, rental, and entertainment taxes. The festival began paying the amusement charge after the Chicago Office of Inspector General noted that while other festivals had to pay, Lollapalooza was exempt. At the time, in 2011, the festival gave 10.25% of its profits to a foundation that raised private funds for Chicago’s park district.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel raised the entertainment tax for major performances from 5% to 9% as part of his 2018 budget. The festival also began paying Cook County’s 1.5% entertainment tax after the board The county closed a loophole that exempted them in 2012. A source close to festival organizers warned that any additional tax increases would be passed on to ticket buyers.
Historically, Lollapalooza negotiations have been held behind closed doors. In the days leading up to this year’s festival, councilors whose districts include the park have said they had been left out of any ongoing discussion. Also Friends of the Parks. The one-year extension signed in 2021 was done behind closed doors, without public debate or vote. That was also the case with the decision to extend the festival from three days to four starting in 2016.
Since Lollapalooza returned in 2021, after COVID-19 caused the in-person festival to be canceled in 2020, C3 and the city have been less transparent than in previous years about police activity and fan hospitalizations. In previous years, organizers publicized the number of arrests, citations and hospital transfers on a daily basis. This year, as was the case in 2021, a C3 official said they will share total numbers after the event is over, following the lead of the city’s Office of Communications and Emergency Management.