Elgin Council supports casino plan for 4th of July concert, fireworks
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org @DanaheyECN February 12, 2014 7:28PM
The fireworks display last July at the Northwest Fourth-Fest in in Hoffman Estates. The Elgin City Council voted Wednesday night to approve a Grand Victoria Casino-sponsored concert and fireworks display in Elgin. | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: February 14, 2014 2:37AM
ELGIN — After months of deliberation and an absence of six years, Elgin will hold a Fourth of July fireworks show and concert this year.
By a 7-2 vote Wednesday night, the city council approved working with the Grand Victoria Casino, which will pay for the bulk of the event.
The nay votes were cast by Councilmen John Prigge and Terry Gavin.
Gavin expressed concern that the city would spend money that had not been budgeted, especially in light of mounting costs for Elgin related to this winter’s rough weather. He called the plan a mistake and not well thought out.
Prigge questioned if there would be enough room for crowds that might show up for the festivities. He said he would not be averse to planning for an event with the casino in 2015 but did not want to rush into something that is only 18 weeks away.
Prigge suggested that Elgin residents head to Hoffman Estates to get back some of the money Elgin spent there the past two summers supporting the initial Northwest Fourth Fests.
For each of the past two summers, Elgin contributed $15,000 in cash and $5,000 in public safety staff time to the Fourth of July fireworks night at the inaugural Northwest Fourth Fests on the grounds of the Sears wCentre in Hoffman Estates.
Hanover Township and the village of Hanover Park also have contributed funds to the event, which had Kia as its major corporate sponsor in 2013. Citing its own budget woes, Hanover Park recently backed out of further participation, too.
In December, Elgin Council members Tish Powell, Gavin, Anna Moeller, Prigge and Toby Shaw cast the “no” votes that canceled involvement for 2014 in the Hoffman Estates event.
Wednesday night, Shaw said he was torn about voting for the Elgin event. He ultimately did so, after being convinced by Councilman Rich Dunne that there would be space along the new Riverside Promenade for people to watch the event for free — and for the importance of the holiday. As such, he wants the city to look at the possibility of limiting or cutting funding to other city-sponsored events.
Elgin last held its own Fourth fireworks at the Sports Complex on the far west side in 2008. The complex butts up to the now-completed Highlands Golf Course, which disallows it as a spot for such a show in Elgin.
There frequently were traffic issues when the complex was home to the event. Council members including Moeller and John Steffen said the downtown would have more options for parking and be easier to get in and out of than the complex was.
Still, City Manager Sean Stegall noted there could be challenges in what to expect from a first-time event.
Last month, the Grand Victoria Casino pitched hosting a Fourth of July event in Festival Park, which is adjacent to its operation.
According to supporting material for Wednesday’s meeting, city police, fire, and special events staffs have met with casino staff and someone from the fireworks company, and “A launch site on the west side of the river was identified as a suitable location to launch up to 4-inch shells. The fire department is continuing to study the details and work with the fireworks company to work out the details.”
That site is on property owned by the Commuter Rail Division of the RTA, ComEd and the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.
According to meeting material, the Grand Victoria would begin the festivities in the afternoon, then hold a concert at 7 p.m. with fireworks beginning at 9:15 p.m. There would be a $5 fee to enter the park for those over the age of 12.
A portion of Grove Avenue adjacent to the park would be closed to allow for concessions and allow for more room in the park for patrons and a concert from a ’70s or ’80s band.
The casino has asked Elgin to provide and pick up the tab for fire, police, public works and land management crews needed for the event, with staffing costs estimated at $31,000. Sources said the casino would spend about $200,000 to put on the event.