In selling the new, 10,000-seat Wintrust Arena to the South Loop community four years ago, the city called it a boon that would bring new customers to businesses in an area on the cusp of renaissance.
What the city didn’t mention was an accompanying event-parking ban — atop an existing Soldier Field events ban.
The result: lots of angry customers with $60 tickets. Businesses can get parking passes for their patrons from the alderman’s office — but they must chase down customers to get the passes back.
“Every one of my customers had parking tickets when they left recently, because apparently there was an event, and we didn’t know. And running back and forth to the alderman’s office for parking passes has created an extra burden,” said Raquelle Fields, owner of the 14 Parish restaurant, 2333 S. Michigan Ave.
“The arena may become popular in the long run, but right now, half of Chicago doesn’t know it exists, and this parking ban has proven a hindrance to small businesses in an area still struggling,” Fields added.
The city earlier this year expanded the 2010 ordinance banning parking on some streets during Chicago Bears games and other Soldier Field events. The revised ordinance added the arena, 200 E. Cermak Rd., and enlarged the parking ban footprint to include blocks far from both venues.
“Over the weekend, a great many of my customers and staff were ticketed. This arena will have many more events than Soldier Field. Between the two, if these signs stay, people will go elsewhere for a night out — somewhere where it’s easier to park. And angry customers said as much,” said Reginald Marsh, owner of M Lounge, 1520 S. Wabash.
The signs went up in mid-October. Enforcement began Nov. 11, when DePaul’s Blue Demons played Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish in their first home game in the arena.
Built and operated by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, Wintrust cost taxpayers…