"One Big Mess": Obama Rally Could Draw More Than a Million

By Jenny Berg November 3, 2008, 1:59 PM EST

There's one day to go before Obama's election night rally in Grant Park. And according to Friday's Crain's Chicago Business, there's one thing city officials are betting on: The downtown area is “going to be one big mess." 

Though admittance to Hutchinson Field will be limited to roughly 70,000 ticket holders, some reps for the city estimate that more than a million people will flock to Grant Park and surrounding areas. Not that they'll all be welcomed. Despite Mayor Richard Daley's statement in The Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday that “no way I'm gonna tell people they should not come down and celebrate ... you cannot make [the rally] just an exclusive party for a few,” Ray Orozco, executive director of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, told Crain's: “If Grant Park reaches capacity, people will be turned around. This is for public safety.”

Orozco also warned that the evening could prove particularly uncomfortable for the elderly or parents with small children, as rally attendees can count on a long evening with standing-room only. The Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday that gates to Hutchinson Field will open at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and the event is expected to wrap up around 1 a.m.

Of course, there's no telling when all the returns will be in, or at what time Obama and Biden will finally speak. There's no word yet as to what will happen if results haven't been called by 1 a.m.; but as Crain's pointed out, key states including Virginia and Ohio are in the Eastern time zone, so there's a chance results will hit Chicago relatively early. 

To prevent the predicted “big mess" from extending to traffic patterns, said the Crain's piece, parking anywhere between the Chicago River and Cermack Road will be prohibited after rush hour on November 4. Additionally, major streets including Michigan Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, and parts of Columbus and Balbo drives will be closed.

According to The Chicago Sun-Times, those who will get tickets to Grant Park will be notified by the Obama campaign via an email, which will go out this evening between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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