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We Pay, They Play

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Lynn Becker hit many points in his column about Millennium Park ["Inspiration or Exception?" September 3]. He also took the time to explain the many expensive mistakes that occurred during construction.

Becker correctly points out that the Gehry stage is but a variation on his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. For this we can thank Cindy Pritzker, who wouldn't accept Gehry's original design, a Mies style that was shown in Chicago magazine. So now, with her $20 million donation, we have an $80 million pavilion forever named for Pritzker. And Chicagoans have $270 million in new debt.

But what is most disturbing about the Gehry is that it can handle only 9,000 people for a concert, erasing its use during the gospel, blues, and jazz festivals, as well as Taste of Chicago concerts. And that is no accident; the Gehry is meant to be for the elitists who now can slum around with other elites during classical concerts and minor acts. But Chicagoans will have to pay the full cost of the $270 million despite its limited use.

Just last week the Reader published the concerts for the jazz festival. There are many acts that [performed] on temporary stages on Jackson when they could [have been] better heard and seen at the Gehry. But the only jazz act to play the Gehry [was] a Monday afternoon concert, some four days prior to the festival itself.

Even though I applaud all the hard work and moneys given by the likes of John Bryan, Millennium Park is an elitist exercise in how to get the commoners to pay for the wealthy patrons' fun.

Jim Ally

Lincolnwood

Lynn Becker replies:

That original Gehry design was so small and spartan I doubt it would have passed muster with Mies, who was quite capable of a grand gesture. But I agree that to make the Pritzker an asset for all Chicagoans, more festivals need to be staged there, and I'd guess that many events would fit quite comfortably within its capacity of 11,000--not 9,000--people. The public's $270 million share of the cost is for the entire park.

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