Music fest's growth leads to move to Hoffman Estates

  • The growth of the annual Spring Awakening electronic music festival, including more and bigger stages, spurred its move this year from the 10-acre Addams/Medill Park in Chicago to a 27-acre site outside the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates.

    The growth of the annual Spring Awakening electronic music festival, including more and bigger stages, spurred its move this year from the 10-acre Addams/Medill Park in Chicago to a 27-acre site outside the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. Courtesy of React Presents

 
 

The continuing growth of the Spring Awakening electronic music festival led its organizers to say goodbye to their former home in the 10-acre Addams/Medill Park on Chicago's Near West Side and embrace a new, more spacious location in the suburbs.

Internationally known musicians and tens of thousands of fans are expected at a 27-acre site outside the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates for the eighth annual edition of Spring Awakening, which kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday, June 9.

"Every year it's gotten bigger," said Pat Grumley, co-general manager of Chicago-based React Presents, which organizes the festival. "This is our biggest year yet. We have more stages than ever."

The ongoing construction of a new field house at Addams/Medill Park presented an additional challenge for organizers this year, but even without that, the logistics of putting on the fest within a neighborhood park in an urban environment were becoming an issue, Grumley said.

"We had to find a new home somewhere," he added.

Along with its ample outdoor space, the Sears Centre had the facilities needed by the festival's staff.

While fans come from around the world, organizers says the suburbs have been strongly represented at earlier versions of Spring Awakening, initially held at Soldier Field before moving to Addams/Medill in 2016.

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Nevertheless, there was some initial criticism of the move to the suburbs from past attendees.

"A lot don't recognize the problems that we had (at Addams/Medill)," Grumley said. "It's really difficult to be in an urban city environment."

The performers ultimately will drive the popularity of each festival, and ticket sales for this year have been promising, he said. While sales typically spike just before each year's festival -- with early buyers typically being those flying into Chicago -- a significant number of suburban residents have been among those early purchasers this year, according to Grumley.

Hoffman Estates officials expect about 10,000 to 15,000 attendees on Friday and Sunday and between 20,000 and 25,000 on Saturday.

The festival is partnering with public transportation by providing about 75 shuttles between the festival grounds and Metra stations in Barrington and Elgin, as well as the CTA Blue Line station in Rosemont.

As ideal as the Sears Centre location may seem, Spring Awakening won't necessarily be there forever. A decision about a potential second year in the Northwest suburb won't be made until organizers meet with Hoffman Estates officials after this year's fest, Grumley said.

A return to Chicago isn't out of the question if the right spot can be identified in advance, he added.

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