Chicago revises Olympic venue sites

By Deanna Bellandi

CHICAGO- An Olympic stadium would be built in a historic South Side park as part of the city’s proposal to host the 2016 Summer Games that was unveiled Wednesday.

The city initially had considered using both Soldier Field where the Chicago Bears play and a temporary stadium nearby to host opening and closing ceremonies.

Now, Olympic organizers want to build a 95,000-seat stadium to hold those ceremonies and the track and field events in Washington Park, a more than 300-acre park listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Chicago is a finalist along with Los Angeles and San Francisco to be the U.S. bid city for the 2016 Games.

If the USOC picks an American bid city, the International Olympic Committee won’t pick a 2016 host city until 2009.

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    “We need a state of the art athletics facility to win and we had the land here that will allow for that,” Chicago Olympic committee chairman Patrick Ryan said at the park.

    While Ryan and Mayor Richard Daley were joined at Wednesday’s announcement by South Side aldermen excited about the economic impact the Olympics would have on their community, the stadium idea received a cool reception in other circles.

    The president of a parks advocacy group says there are other undeveloped parcels of land on the city’s South Side that would make better and less-threatening stadium sites.

    An original designer of Washington Park was Frederick Law Olmsted, who is renowned for creating New York’s Central Park, according to The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago, a project of the Chicago History Museum and the Newberry Library.

    “The idea of a 95,000-seat stadium just doesn’t fit within an Olmsted-designed park,” said Friends of the Parks president Erma Tranter.

    Daley called the site “perfect” because it would spread the wealth of any potential Olympics beyond the city’s downtown nucleus.

    He said building a stadium in the park would have enormous economic impact on the surrounding neighborhoods by creating jobs and other opportunities.

    Ryan wouldn’t say how much the stadium would cost to build, but he said it would be financed from private contributions.

    After the games, the stadium would be converted to a 10,000-seat amphitheater that would host other sporting events.

    Although it’s an election year, Alderman Dorothy Tillman said Daley didn’t change plans on the stadium and move it south for political gain.

    “No, I don’t think it’s political, I think it’s wise,” Tillman stated in an interview.

    Daley, first elected in 1989, has not formally announced if he will run for re-election in February but he has intimated his desire to do so.