Chicago has hosted some pretty legendary New Year’s Eve bashes, but to ring in 2016, the whole city is going all-out. In a Time Square style bash, the city is putting on its first countdown event, dubbed Chi Town Rising, right along the river banks with live entertainment, mass celebration, and in a twist, a star rising up the west tower of the Hyatt Regency. But just what is involved in this celebration, and how is the city readying itself?
Without precedent in the city, it’s hard to know just how Chi Town Rising will be received, but the city has big hopes. Rock band American Authors and Chicago have been booked to headline the evening, and have set up the entire river walk between Michigan Ave. and Columbus with events and entertainment.
The event will culminate in the ascension of a six-pointed star reminiscent of the Chicago flag up 36 stories on the Hyatt Regency’s west tower before reaching its midnight peak, surrounded by a fireworks show over one of the most iconic stretches of the city skyline.
The event itself is free, currently being billed as a means to encourage more winter tourism in the city and will be broadcast by a regional television network, according to its planners.
Behind The Scenes
Though the city is promoting the event through its tourism branch, Choose Chicago, in partnership with the Illinois Office of Tourism, the whole thing is actually privately funded. Corona Extra and Hyatt Gold Passport are footing the bill for 2016’s first city-wide celebration, and the budget has already crossed over into the seven figure bracket.
The sponsors are sparing no expense, and they have a lot riding on it. John Murray, founder of Arena Partners, is producing the event along with his company. Murray and crew have a mixed record in the city, setting up the 2011 Chicago Sports Commission that brought the NFL draft to the city, but failing in the 2016 Olympics bid effort.With well over a million already sunk in Murray, Hyatt, Corona, and all see this year as an investment that they’re hoping will pay off in the future.
The desire both on behalf of the sponsors and the city is that Chi Town Rising will turn into an annual event – a winter staple in the same vein as New York’s Time Square celebration that will pay for itself in tourist dollars infused into the local economy. Of course, Hyatt is offering VIP viewing and room packages, but the ethos of the event is much larger. As the Great Chicago Fire Festival fails to pick up steam as the signature event the city hoped for, all eyes are turning to Chi Town Rising to see what Chicago plans to garner attention and bring in low-season tourist dollars.
One thing is for sure – it will be a spectacle. But with the host of parties around the city that have already been sold out for months and a lack of national attention or notoriety, it’s to be seen just how high Chi Town will rise in the first minutes of 2016.