A Mile South & Four Years Later....

Rosslyn Smith
On election night 2008 Grant Park was thronged with Obama supporters waiting to see their man emerge on the specially-built stage at the south end of huge lakefront park to bask in his historic victory. The planning process for such an event requires a long lead time. A couple of weeks ago Chicago blogger Kevin Dujan of HillBuzz noted that there seemed to be no such plans afoot this year according to his contacts in the Chicago Park District. Instead, Obama is planning to spend election night 2012 a mile to the south of his 2008 triumph. Rather than being in the open air with the impressive Chicago skyline as a backdrop and a sea of adoring souls at this feet Obama will be inside that brutish looking scar upon Chicago's lakefront known as McCormick Place. Is this significant? DuJan thinks it is.

  

 Grant Park Looking north from where the 2008 stage was located.

Despite being within sight of the Museum Campus and Soldier Field, McCormick Place is a fortress-like island surrounded on most sides by freeways or railroad tracks (with the lake on the other side). This is where the G-8 summit was held, so the dignitaries could be isolated and kept as far away from the public as possible in downtown Chicago. Because the only realistic way of reaching McCormick Place is by taxi (or car, if people drive themselves) this is clearly not a place Obama would be holding an election night event if he really thought he was going to win the election. How on Earth would his throngs of supporters be able to reach him if he won and the event was held here of all places?

 

Aerial shot of McCormick Place looking south.

While the need for security may have a part in the change of venue, McCormack Place offers other benefits for a campaign that seems uncertain in its direction these final weeks, which has overestimated crowd size before -- and which might have a rough draft of a concession speech being readied for final polishing. As a convention center, McCormick Place was designed to cater to a wide range of space needs and image control for those planning events whose final shape is unknown.

I was an event planner here in Chicago for several years before the 2008 presidential campaign. I planned events in McCormick Place for various trade shows; it's a building designed with flexibility for downsizing an audience if the need suddenly arises so that the participants do not feel lost in too much extra space. There are modular walls that achieve this, with dividers capable of cutting a space in half... and then in half again... if that's what needs to be done to make a sparse crowd seem bigger for cameras.

Obama's staff was caught way off guard when the official campaign kickoff was unable to fill the arena at Ohio State. They gave a reason for moving Obama's convention speech from the massive outdoor Bank of America football stadium to the much smaller indoor Time Warner Arena that even their friends in the media found implausible. It seems that whatever else might be happening, Obama's campaign planners are not going to be guilty of overestimating their space needs for election night.

On election night 2008 Grant Park was thronged with Obama supporters waiting to see their man emerge on the specially-built stage at the south end of huge lakefront park to bask in his historic victory. The planning process for such an event requires a long lead time. A couple of weeks ago Chicago blogger Kevin Dujan of HillBuzz noted that there seemed to be no such plans afoot this year according to his contacts in the Chicago Park District. Instead, Obama is planning to spend election night 2012 a mile to the south of his 2008 triumph. Rather than being in the open air with the impressive Chicago skyline as a backdrop and a sea of adoring souls at this feet Obama will be inside that brutish looking scar upon Chicago's lakefront known as McCormick Place. Is this significant? DuJan thinks it is.

  

 Grant Park Looking north from where the 2008 stage was located.

Despite being within sight of the Museum Campus and Soldier Field, McCormick Place is a fortress-like island surrounded on most sides by freeways or railroad tracks (with the lake on the other side). This is where the G-8 summit was held, so the dignitaries could be isolated and kept as far away from the public as possible in downtown Chicago. Because the only realistic way of reaching McCormick Place is by taxi (or car, if people drive themselves) this is clearly not a place Obama would be holding an election night event if he really thought he was going to win the election. How on Earth would his throngs of supporters be able to reach him if he won and the event was held here of all places?

 

Aerial shot of McCormick Place looking south.

While the need for security may have a part in the change of venue, McCormack Place offers other benefits for a campaign that seems uncertain in its direction these final weeks, which has overestimated crowd size before -- and which might have a rough draft of a concession speech being readied for final polishing. As a convention center, McCormick Place was designed to cater to a wide range of space needs and image control for those planning events whose final shape is unknown.

I was an event planner here in Chicago for several years before the 2008 presidential campaign. I planned events in McCormick Place for various trade shows; it's a building designed with flexibility for downsizing an audience if the need suddenly arises so that the participants do not feel lost in too much extra space. There are modular walls that achieve this, with dividers capable of cutting a space in half... and then in half again... if that's what needs to be done to make a sparse crowd seem bigger for cameras.

Obama's staff was caught way off guard when the official campaign kickoff was unable to fill the arena at Ohio State. They gave a reason for moving Obama's convention speech from the massive outdoor Bank of America football stadium to the much smaller indoor Time Warner Arena that even their friends in the media found implausible. It seems that whatever else might be happening, Obama's campaign planners are not going to be guilty of overestimating their space needs for election night.