Daley announces change in plans for Olympic bid
September 20, 2006 (WLS) -- The city of Chicago is making a change to its proposal for hosting the 2016 summer Olympic games. Washington Park on the city's South Side would be the site of the Olympic stadium in the city's revised bid.
As recently as last month, the mayor's plan called for the focal point of the games to be Chicago's lakefront -- closer to downtown. Now, the South Side will be the beneficiary of a revised plan.
There would still be events hosted at places like Soldier Field and McCormick Place but Chicago's South Side would be front and center if the city wins its bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics.
The mayor says the stadium would also bring huge economic benefits to the South Side.
"This is going to be a major effort, a rebuilding of Chicago," said Daley.
The mayor and his team of Olympic dreamers are bowing to pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee whose members say Soldier Field and the lakefront are simply too small to host the biggest Olympic events. The mayor proposes building in Washington Park, what would be a 95,000-seat stadium.
After the games conclude, most of the stadium would be removed, leaving behind a sunken 10,000 amphitheater. Two Astroturf fields would be constructed for track and field. After the Olympics, those would be converted to high school football and soccer venues.
"It's a beautiful park, would get spruced up a lot, but it would be much more usable and user friendly post Olympics," said Pat Ryan, Olympic Committee chairman.
If the stadium is built, it would sit on the north side of the 350-acre Washington Park. To the west of the park is a C.T.A. line and to the east is a Metra train station. There are many opportunities for economic development all around the park.
Proposing the stadium for the South Side is a smart political move for Daley, who may face as many as three African-American challengers in the upcoming mayoral election.
"In terms of housing and businesses, not just businesses that will be created just for the Olympics but businesses that are going to be left. We're going to have jobs," said Alderman Dorothy Tillman, 3rd Ward.
Those who regularly use this park hope the Olympics will bring opportunity to their community.
"A lot of things are downtown or on the North Side. So, it's really our turn, I believe. Our turn to show what the South Side is all about," said Henry Bowman, Washington Park user.
The mayor is not revealing the price tag for the proposed changes to Washington Park, but they promise it will be paid for with private funds.
Chicago Olympic committee chairman Patrick Ryan says the new plan will be submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco are the finalists to be U-S bid city for the 2016 games.
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