Crash and Burn – The Great Chicago Fire Festival

An estimated 30,000 people gathered around the Chicago River on Saturday October 4th for the first ever Great Chicago Fire Festival put on by the Redmoon Theater. The festival was supposed to showcase the grit, greatness, resilience and rebirth of Chicago after the historic and unforgettable Chicago fire of 1871. The idea for the event was imagined back in 2009 when Chicago was in the bidding process for the Olympics.

Redmoon-Garcia13-1024x697   GCFF_3DComp7_082214_Full-1024x682

On Redmoon Theater’s website, the event was advertised to be a “Grand Spectacle,” with floating caldrons of fire and a parade of wooden houses that were to be lit on fire and reveal modern metal structures symbolizing the rebirth of Chicago. In addition there was a street market with community artists, florists and bakers before the evening festivities.

The Redmoon Theater shared on its website that, “The inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival will light up the city with a spectacle of fire celebrating the city’s citizens and neighborhoods on the Chicago River.” However, shortly into the production things went wrong. Two of the three wooden houses failed to catch on fire because of electrical problems that were supposedly due to the rain earlier in the day. Instead of roaring flames shooting high into the sky, the audience watched little sparks of fire float down the river. Some spectators commented to the Chicago Tribune reporter, Gregory Pratt, saying that they had been to better bonfires. (Yikes!) After failing to light the wooden Victorian houses on fire, the Redmoon Theater quickly set off their firework finale to keep the thousands of spectators intrigued.

In the beginning, many people watched in awe as the kayakers and small boats pulled buoys of fire and as the caldrons of fire were lowered down into the river after being lit by Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. The firework spectacular at the end of the production was worth raving about as well.

Time, cost and performance are the three points of the project management triangle. Redmoon Theater had the cost under control, and plenty of time to prepare for the event, but their performance had no fire (literally).

Obviously, with all major productions something is guaranteed to go wrong, especially with outdoor events. Many are considering this year’s event just a “dress rehearsal” for many more Great Chicago Fire Festivals in the future. Was it the weather or just bad management that caused this 2 million dollar production to crash and burn?

What do you think? Was the weather or the project management team to blame? What could have been done to ensure more success for the festival? Word on the street is that the city of Chicago is giving Redmoon Theater a 2nd chance next year and even increasing their budget. Do you think this event is worth trying to put on again?





Beauty and DePaul’s Basketball Beast

New Depaul Arena Mccormick Place

DePaul and the city of Chicago are partnering to build a “large-scale tourism and economic development project” near McCormick place that will be home to DePaul’s men’s and women’s basketball programs. The city of Chicago will contribute $100 million, and DePaul will donate $70 million in order to make this plan a reality. The blueprints include street-level restaurants and shops, a 400-room hotel, an elevated pedestrian walkway, and will hopefully create 3,000- 5,000 permanent jobs and 5,000 additional construction jobs. DePaul also gains naming rights, income from DePaul ticket sales, and revenue from the Big East Conference.

This collaborative effort has been controversial since the city of Chicago does not appear to be in a financial place to make this sort of business move. As an example from recent news, 50 Chicago public schools are closing both due to lack of enrollment and for cost-cutting purposes.

DePaul’s basketball program is not exactly a powerhouse, and game attendance continues to dwindle. This facility will be closer to campus than the current Allstate Arena location, but it will still be 50 blocks away which doesn’t make the proximity ideal. To make matters worse, the United Center offered DePaul the option to benefit from 10 years of free rent plus all ticket revenues, but DePaul declined the proposal. As tuition continues to rise, many students question whether this is the way they feel their precious money should be spent. City representatives claim that the arena will break even the first year, but the numbers used to create these predictions seem to be optimistic and unrealistic.

On the other hand, a project like this could create jobs, further stimulate tourism, and increase tax revenue which could possibly strengthen the city of Chicago which has been struggling. “The majority of the money the city plans to put toward the construction is coming from the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which is a separate entity from the city of Chicago. This basically means the MPEA cannot use its resources to help avoid the struggling school system as its sole purpose is to expand Navy Pier and McCormick Place, which are two of the most frequented spots by tourists.” (Fox News) The new arena also offers DePaul an opportunity to rebuild their basketball program by encouraging a higher caliber of athletes that will be enticed by the top-notch facility.

What were your thoughts when you received the e-mail announcement about this new “partnership” from President Holtschneider? Do you think this is a good investment for DePaul? Do you think that it will help DePaul’s basketball program in both attendance and recruiting? Do you think this project will benefit the City of Chicago in the long run?

Sources: http://college-

Photo Source:

Will the Curse of the Billy Goat be Broken?


This statement has actually held true for the last 67 years. The Curse of the Billy Goat was supposedly placed on the Chicago Cubs in 1945 when the owner of Billy Goat Tavern was asked to leave the stadium because his pet goat stunk. To this day, it has been 105 long, sad years since our very own Chicago Cubs have won a World Series.



Can the curse be broken? It was announced Monday that the Cubs have come to an agreement with the city for a $500 million privately financed renovation of the historic Wrigley Field. They plan to use this money to redesign the locker rooms, revamp the food services, and build a new hotel and office building. They also said this renovation would bring jobs to the city and a better experience for the fans. Team Chairman Tom Ricketts even went further to say, “If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series.” As owner of this organization, Ricketts must make a change in order to keep the team alive.  They cannot continue with their same routines and expect to become a better team.

 The picture to the left shows owner of Billy Goat Tavern William “Billy” Sianis and his pet goat being denied into the game


The question that remains is do we want this renovation to take place or not? Is upper management making a cost effective and efficient decision? Or does this project contain too much risk that it could ruin the organization completely? I believe this could be a cost effective decision if the team starts winning some games. If the players are somehow motivated by a new stadium and can play more cohesively as a team, more people will attend the games, revenues will boost, and therefore this project would be worth it. This project can also contain a great amount of risk. If the team does not do well, many fans would be upset that the historical Wrigley Field was renovated for nothing.

As a Wrigleyville resident, I believe that the renovations would be somewhat of a nuisance. All of that construction going on right in my backyard is something I would not like to deal with. Management would have to find a way to keep the residence of Wrigleyville happy. On the other hand, if what they say is true and these renovations will bring jobs to the city and therefore boost the economy, I would not be opposed to that.



Another aspect to consider is the view of Tom Ricketts. As owner, he has a duty to create a successful team. What have the managers and owners done so wrong that this team has not been able to win for so long? Is there even any fault to be put on the managers and owners? I believe at least some of the fault can be put on the managers, but the players as well. It is their job as professional baseball players to win games.

 The picture to the right shows possible renovation ideas


The bottom line is that the Cubs need to win a World Series. How are they going to do this? What steps must management take in order for this project to work? Will renovating the field finally kill the Curse of the Billy Goat? Or will the curse live on…


Barrett, Joe. “Cubs Owner: Wrigley Plan ‘Will Win the World Series’.” Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc, 15 Apr 2013. Web. 17 Apr 2013.

NATO Summit: Planned Well?

We recently saw large-scale project management in action, during the NATO Summit in Chicago on May 20-21.  Staging that event certainly required a great deal of project management, risk assessment and contingency planning.  Many Chicagoans felt the event was not worth the hassle (although Deloitte’ economic study projected a $128.2 million impact).  While the event was a huge pain, I can’t say the project was implemented poorly.  The police invested over $1 million in riot-control equipment and spent months training.  The CPD performance was generally well-received.  I do think the police could have done a better done containing the protestors, during the event the media coverage made you feel like the protestors were everywhere.  As a safety precaution, the city installed new trashcans.  There were many street and highway closures.  That information was communicated through media outlets, a website set up by the city and the “Notify Chicago” system.  The street closures very inconvenient, but I don’t know a better alternative was available.  Business appeared to be well prepared as well.  I found it interesting that Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper was mocked for suggesting in January that businesses may need to board up windows and have employees work for home.  By May, many businesses were installing bullet-proof glass, closing offices or urging employees to dress down to avoid being targeted by protests.  Generally, the organization of the Summit itself was well-received.  As the Sun-Times said “By not failing, Emanuel and Chicago succeeded.”

Now that you’ve had time to digest the NATO Summit, what do you think?  Do you think Chicago would have been better without the event?  Was the event a success operationally?  Do you have any thoughts about specific aspects that could have been planned better?

A great deal of the proposed benefit was elevating Chicago on the world scene.  My general sense is Chicago is not viewed as world-city.  Organizers of the 2016 Olympic bid were disappointed Chicago did not resonate more with IOC members – they simply didn’t view Chicago as one of the world’s great cities.  And while many foreign journalists praised Chicago, I don’t think the awareness created by NATO will translate into tangible benefits. 

Also now that the images from protests are not fresh, I think the event was organized fairly well.—foreign-journalists-favorably-impressed–news-46.php