Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Sunday announced a new contract 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 Sunday evening.
“People have been saying to me, ‘Mayor, we love Lolla. It’s the best thing going.’ I agree. And so I’m here to tell you by decree, we’re gonna make sure that Lolla continues in the future,” Lightfoot said as the four-day event wound down.
The contract will be in place for the 2023 festival, and festival organizer C3 Presents and the Chicago Park District will have the option to extend the contract under the same terms for five years. It was unclear Sunday whether the agreement will go before the Park District board.
“There are now a total of eight Lollapaloozas on four continents, but Chicago remains the center of the Lollapalooza universe,” Charlie Walker, a partner at C3 Presents, said in a news release. “With the world’s best artists, amazing fans, and our incredible partners in the city of Chicago, we are excited to continue to deliver an unmatched festival experience in Grant Park for the next decade.”
The Park District is set to receive between 5% and 20% of revenue from the festival over that time, based on the total revenue from admission, goods and services at the fest, licensing sales, sponsorships and streaming 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 happen.
The deal also set an attendance cap of 115,000 — up from 100,000 — and formalized the fest organizer’s $2.2 million commitment to Chicago Public Schools for arts education and added money for renovations of Grant Park’s tennis courts, although there doesn’t appear to be an investment by the company to improve the infrastructure of Grant Park, as at least one alderman hoped.
The festival will continue to take place on the last weekend of July or the first weekend of August.
“Lollapalooza is not only a significant economic driver for our city, but a truly iconic Chicago summer festival,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am thrilled to come to this agreement that will ensure Lollapalooza is here to stay for the next decade — bringing music, culture, and joy to both residents and tourists for years to come.”
The announcement comes days after the two sides hit a snag in negotiations, with C3 Presents executives pressing the city for assurances that Chicago’s amusement tax would not rise higher during the course of a new agreement.
The charge increased from 5% to 9% for large-scale events over the course of the existing 10-year Lollapalooza contract.
Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, the festival’s co-founder and co-producer, said in an interview Thursday that another decadelong deal had been reached. Representatives for C3, which puts on the festival, said negotiations were ongoing.
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The current deal between the Chicago Park District and C3 Presents was signed in 2012 and expired after last year’s festival. The parties opted for a one-year extension, and festival officials have since been making more permanent investments in the city that suggested they were here to stay: Texas-based C3 recently celebrated the CPS initiative, which was announced last year; hosted an inaugural Lollapalooza job fair this spring and expanded its partnership with the nonprofit organization After School Matters.
Fresh off an announcement that Chicago would turn the streets around Grant Park into a NASCAR racecourse for a televised Cup Series event in 2023 and beyond, Lightfoot’s Lollapalooza announcement could help bolster the mayor’s reelection case that Chicago’s downtown is recovering. It would also ease the blow of the potential loss of the Chicago Bears to Arlington Heights.
[ Chicago will transform the Grant Park area into the first-ever NASCAR street race in 2023. Here’s a look at the course. ]
Lollapalooza found its home in Grant Park in 2005 and is said to generate millions in local economic impact and annual revenue to the Park District. The existing contract was celebrated as a win for Chicago taxpayers, hotels, restaurants, cultural community and parks.
Under the current contract, festival organizers are on the hook for sales, liquor, leasehold and amusement taxes. The festival started to pay the amusement charge after the Chicago Office of the Inspector General noted that while other festivals were required to pay, Lollapalooza was exempt. At the time, in 2011, the festival turned over 10.25% of its profits to a foundation that raised private funds for the Chicago Park District.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel raised the amusement tax from 5% to 9% as part of his 2018 budget. The festival also began paying Cook County’s 1.5% amusement tax after the County Board closed a loophole that exempted them in 2012. A source close to festival organizers warned that any additional tax hike would be passed on to ticket buyers.
Lollapalooza negotiations have historically taken place behind closed doors. In the days leading up to this year’s festival, aldermen whose wards include the park have said they’d been left out of any ongoing discussions. So did Friends of the Parks, one of the city’s most active parks advocacy groups. The one-year extension inked in 2021 was done behind closed doors, without any public discussion 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 prompted the cancellation of the in-person festival in 2020, C3 and the city have been less transparent than in prior years about police activity and hospitalizations involving fans. In past years, organizers publicized the number of arrests, citations and hospital transports daily. This year, as was the case in 2021, a C3 official said they will share the total numbers after the event ends, following the lead of the city Office of Emergency Management and Communications.