GRANT PARK — Downtown will see an increased police presence and an additional 900 private security officers in Grant Park as officials prepare for Chicago’s first NASCAR street race this weekend.
NASCAR and city officials Wednesday shared safety plans for both the NASCAR Chicago Street Race and Fourth of July festivities that will coincide this weekend.
Typically, the Fourth of July attracts large crowds Downtown for fireworks and other events. Crowds are expected to be even larger this year, with Saturday and Sunday’s NASCAR race expected to attract 100,000 people. Navy Pier will host its “Independence Weekend” fireworks show at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Similar to past years, Chicago police will increase patrols Downtown and days off will be cancelled, interim Police Supt. Fred Waller said at a press conference Wednesday.
Police will also provide additional resources on the CTA, but Waller did not specify what that will entail.
The Chicago Fire Department and paramedics will also have additional units set up in and around the NASCAR race, officials with the agency said. NASCAR has contracted with a private emergency medical services group, but the Fire Department will take over in case of a major emergency, officials said.
The NASCAR and Fourth of July events will take place as Chicago is struggling with some of the worst air quality among big cities in the world. That has some questioning whether or not the NASCAR Chicago Street Race should take place this weekend.
Officials from the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications said they’ve been in constant contact with the Environmental Protection Agency and have been told that conditions will clear by Thursday.
“If we are not in this air quality alert then we will definitely continue to have the NASCAR event as we see fit,” said Jose Tirado, acting executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
Even with rain forecasted Saturday, the NASCAR race and events will still be held unless there is lightening, said Julie Giese, president of the Chicago Street Course.
If lightening occurs Saturday, both races will happen Sunday. If there’s an additional delay Sunday, the races will be held Monday morning, Giese said.
The city’s emergency management agency and “local and federal partners” will monitor the NASCAR event from a command center within Grant Park, officials said. The event will also enlist the help of 900 private security guards who are contracted for the event.
Although there will be an increased police presence Downtown, officials said emergency resources will not being rerouted from other neighborhoods.
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