When it was announced in September, Chi-Town Rising hoped it draw more than 100,000 people and help the city ring in the New Year outdoors for the first time since the early 1980’s.
But the event – originally free admission – is now ticketed and yes, you would have to pay to get in.
As reported by Chicago Business Journal Friday, the organizers behind the event decided to charge anywhere from $99 to $150 to view the festivities in two different viewing areas. Attendance is now expected to be only a few thousand people – if they’re lucky to get that at all.
Organizers said safety concerns were the reasons behind the change according to the Chicago Tribune. But the move may be related to ongoing protests taking place in Chicago after the release of video last month showing a white police officer shooting unarmed black suspect Laquan McDonald on the Southwest Side in October 2014. The sight of protesters crashing the event on live TV wouldn’t look good for the city – or for the corporate interests behind Chi-Town Rising, including Big Media conglomerates IHeart Media (owner of six local radio stations) and Comcast, whose NBC and Telemundo owns WMAQ-TV and WSNS-TV respectively, both who’ll air the event live on New Year’s Eve at 11:08 p.m.
This is the first major outdoor event in Chicago since the video was released.
Protesters have been marching peacefully for weeks after release of the video, calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s resignation – including a Black Friday protest last month in the Mag Mile shopping district on North Michigan Avenue. A recent story in Media Life about Chicago suggested local stations would be in for a windfall if Emanuel steps down or a recall election is held, but neither is likely since Emanuel has indicated he will not do so and chances for a recall election are at best, slim to none given the mayor’s overwhelming support among Democrats – though not among African-Americans.
As for the show itself, more details were released last week with Extra co-host and former Saved By The Bell star Mario Lopez named as emcee. Co-hosting is his wife Courtney Lopez, and two hosts from NBC’s American Ninja Warrior show, Matt Iseman and Abkar Gbaja-Biamila.
The special has been cleared on at least 40 NBC stations in the Central Time Zone, including fellow NBC-owned KXAS-TV in Dallas. In Illinois, clearances include WREX in Rockford; WGEM in Quincy; and WAND in Decatur (serving the Springfield-Champaign-Decatur market.) Milwaukee’s WTMJ, Green Bay’s WGBA, Madison’s WMTV, Memphis’ WMC, Mobile-Pensacola’s WPMI, and Minneapolis’ KARE are also scheduled to carry the event.
In addition, there’s one CBS affiliate carrying Chi-Town Rising: WMDN in Meridian, Miss.
As of this writing, the special has yet to clear St. Louis, Houston, San Antonio, Birmingham, or Kansas City. Chi-Town is being carried nationwide by Cozi TV. (UPDATE: NBC affiliates in these markets have no plans on carrying Chi-Town Rising.)
Telemundo is also cashing in on the fun for Spanish-language audience. Hosting the event is Penelope Menchaca, of 12 Corazones (12 Hearts) fame. Joining her are three Telemundo Chicago (WSNS) on-air personalities: Maria Elena Ponticello, Lily Fragoso, and Maricela Vazquez. The Spanish-language broadcast is also being carried by TeleXitos, a digital subchannel owned by Telemundo.
Not taking this lightly, ABC-owned WLS-TV ‘s annual celebration – hosted by Janet Davies and Mark Giangreco, have a secret weapon in their arsenal – Chance The Rapper. A local native who was named Chicagoan Of The Year by Chicago Magazine, the rising star is appearing via remote from the Rosemont Theater. The main broadcast is originating from the Burnham Ballroom at the Marriott Hotel downtown.
In its 25th year, the WLS celebration in 2014-15 drew a whopping 17.0 live-plus-sameday rating.- a number Chi-Town Rising is unlikely to top, or even come close to.
If there’s any benefit to watch Chi-Town Rising for free at home is you get to witness the train-wreck variety of it – Chicago’s past New Year’s Eve celebrations had a history of it, so why freeze your ass off in the cold and waste your hard-earned money?
(Updated at 2:50 p.m. on 2015-12-30.)