entertainment 1 week ago

Aragon Ballroom to become Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom

Chicago Tribune — Jessi Roti Chicago Tribune

Aug. 14--Changing the name of historic Chicago landmarks doesn't typically go over well with the locals. Consider how many Chicagoans still call Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the White Sox, Comiskey Park.

Cue Live Nation's Wednesday morning announcement via press release that the Aragon Ballroom, the storied Uptown ballroom turned roller skating rink, boxing venue, "discotheque" then concert venue will become the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom.

"For more than 100 years, Byline Bank has been committed to putting its customers first, and investing in the neighborhoods in and around Chicago," the statement reads in-part. "This partnership will be more than a name change, demonstrating both Byline Bank's and Live Nation's commitment to investing in and preserving the legacy of this historic Chicago music venue for years to come."

As of late 2017, Live Nation held a controlling stake in Lollapalooza promoter C3 Presents and ownership of the Aragon after a hostile takeover from Jam Productions -- adding it to the more than 200 venues it operates globally. The concert promoter also manages 500 musical acts and in 2017, it presented more than 30,000 shows and sold half a billion tickets, according to the New York Times.

The Aragon hosts over 70 events each year, welcoming an estimated 250,000 live music fans annually, according to reports.

"At Byline, we see the true value of a community bank as finding ways to meet the financial needs of our neighbors, and the businesses and institutions who serve them," said Alberto J. Paracchini, President and Chief Executive Officer of Byline Bank. "As the name-in-title sponsor of the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom, we're excited to be part of such a historic Chicagoland tradition, and look forward to building many more memories in this amazing space together."

Live Nation's President Jason Wright added in a statement, "Byline Bank is committed to building relationships within the community, which is why we felt they are such a natural partner for this historic venue. Together, we will be able to establish genuine bonds with members of the community who have a passion for live music through seamless brand integration."

Live Nation's "seamless brand integration" within Chicago's live music community is ongoing. In May 2018, the entertainment conglomerate was in talks with developer Sterling Bay to bring as many as five venues to the the proposed 70-acre, $5 billion-plus mixed-use project, Lincoln Yards on the North Side.

At the time of the initial announcement, Sterling Bay managing principal Andy Gloor said in a news release, "Chicago already has a reputation as an entertainment hub and we are excited for the community to have easy access to a variety of new events with some of the biggest names in music."

The Tribune reported that the venues could potentially range from a 100-seat amphitheater to a 6,000- to 8,000-seat venue. Dean Marks, principal and general counsel at Sterling Bay, told the Tribune the smaller venues could cost about $50 million combined. The same year, owners of local venues such as Hideout and Empty Bottle protested, forming the Chicago Independent Venue League, claiming the development threatened their existence.

The proposal was rejected by Ald. Brian Hopkins of the 2nd Ward in January 2019, who called for the prospective entertainment district to be "replaced by restaurants, theaters, and smaller venues that will be scattered throughout the site."

Hopkins added, "Live Nation will have no ownership interest in any of these venues."

Ahead of this year's Lollapalooza music festival, Tribune critic Greg Kot asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot about the health of Chicago's local clubs and the future of the Lincoln Yards development.

"I am a huge supporter of local clubs. I like listening to music in a much more intimate setting if I had my druthers. So I'm sensitive to that," she told the Tribune. "The arrival of Lincoln Yards gave the clubs an incentive to get organized like never before. I live in Logan Square, and I drive by the Double Door vacancy (in Wicker Park) and think, 'What a loss.' I cut my teeth in clubs like the Elbo Room and other smaller venues in Chicago, so I want to see them continue to thrive."

Responding to whether or not the development was a threat to the scene, she added that she initially saw it as a "problem," but sees local clubs organizing to push back by forming the CIVL coalition as a "good thing."

"I supported that effort. It demonstrated the vibrancy of a local club scene to provide opportunities for local artists.

"I don't know that we know (if Lincoln Yards will include new music venues), but I know they've made a commitment to the clubs in response to CIVL, led by Katie and Tim Tuten of the Hideout," Mayor Lightfoot added. "Whatever is put in there, and as long as I'm mayor, we're going to make sure that nothing there has an adverse impact on those local clubs."

jroti@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @jessitaylorro

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