Festivals' trade-off: traffic hassles

Editor's note:

Here are the closures for Bloomington Gold. And here is a map of the Bloomington Gold site.

Here are the MTD reroutes for Bloomington Gold.

Here is the map for downtown Champaign for the Blues, Brews and BBQ festival.

CHAMPAIGN — Nothing gold can stay — nor can it come without traffic hassles, apparently.

If you're not enjoying the Bloomington Gold Corvette show at State Farm Center or the Blues, Brews and BBQ festival this weekend in downtown Champaign, you're probably dreading the major traffic headaches that come with each major event.

Kirby Avenue and First Street will be tied up into Sunday, and road closures in downtown Champaign around the festival could mess up your travel or parking plans. The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District has rerouted some of its buses this weekend to avoid impassible streets.

But local officials involved in the events are asking residents to bear it just for the weekend — they say the net benefit to the community as a whole is well worth it.

Visit Champaign County President and CEO Jayne DeLuce said her group worked hard with local agencies to make sure routes were staked so emergency vehicles could get through and that everyone had enough public parking. They're trying to alert residents to the fact that the closures are relatively "short-lived," and everything is still accessible.

"It's making sure that they understand that there's a way to get to everywhere," DeLuce said. "You don't have to walk further than a couple blocks to get to the festival."

She said the closures are such that, even if they don't plan on checking out the events, people will not have to go far to still get to their favorite bars, restaurants or other entertainment venues around Champaign.

"We didn't close as many streets as we did last year, so this year, I think people will find it much more manageable," she said.

Mayor Don Gerard had roughly the same message.

"We sent the message out," he said. "We're going to have a lot of visitors. Plan accordingly."

With the Illinois Marathon annually presenting major traffic difficulties in the spring, he thinks residents are starting to get the idea that major community events have the traffic drawback. "At this point, people understand that when these events happen, they need to avoid" the traffic closures, he said.

"It's part of being in a community," Gerard said. "It brings a lot of revenue."

DeLuce said Visit Champaign County officials have not completed an economic benefit analysis of what the Bloomington Gold Corvette show brings in, but it is safe to say it's in the millions, she said.

It's a multi-day event and Champaign County has nearly sold out all its hotel rooms, she said. Those visitors — from all over the country and some international ones — are patronizing bars and restaurants while they're here. DeLuce thinks the dollar value of the event to the community is very large.

And there's a not-so-measurable benefit, she said. The Corvettes number in the thousands.

"This one, Corvettes are so showy," DeLuce said. "You see them around town, you see them parked at hotels where they're staying or restaurants that they're going to."

The Corvettes have been on display around State Farm Center, and on Saturday, they travel in a procession from Champaign to Monticello and back.

"I think it's a unique group of people that are truly, this is a lifestyle, this is more than a hobby," DeLuce said. "It's a culture of the people who generally see their Corvettes as part of their family."

Gerard said the events make great use of downtown Champaign and the economic "ripple effect" is obvious. He remembers it rained during the Blues, Brews and BBQ fest last year, but that had a somewhat ironic benefit for local businesses: "The rains came and put a little damper on the festival and pushed people into all the businesses downtown."

Bus routes change

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District had to make 16 tweaks to its bus routes near State Farm Center today to deal with road closures related to the Bloomington Gold Corvette show. The following routes will be affected, largely adjacent to the University of Illinois E-14 parking lot.

1N Yellow

1S Yellow

1N YELLOWhopper

1S YELLOWhopper

9A Brown

9B Brown

10E Gold

10W Gold

10E GOLDhopper

10W GOLDhopper

14E Navy

14W Navy

27N Air Bus

27S Air Bus

A detailed explanation of the reroutes is available on the MTD website. Visit Champaign County has also posted a detailed list of road closures on its website.

Comments

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Michael Murphy wrote on June 27, 2014 at 10:06 am

Way to throw a big wet blanket on events that this community worked hard to get here. This guy is quite the ambassador. Good thing I don't own a local business or I'd be really annoyed... Oh wait... I DO... AND I AM!!

Skepticity wrote on June 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm

These events bring in visitors and money.  The festivals are great events.  The "traffic hassels" the events will cause in this town are minor compared to regular daily traffic in Chicago or St. Louis. 

Why not just do a positive story on the great events, and include the bus route changes and likely high traffic areas so non-participants can avoid them?