NASCAR boots softball leagues from downtown Chicago

Softball leagues are being ousted from Grant Park this summer due to the city’s NASCAR deal and other big-ticket festivals like Lollapalooza, frustrating longtime players.

Daniel Lally has been organizing the Architect-Engineers 16-inch Softball League since 2016. He’s been playing in the recreational league at Grant Park since 2013 and the league itself has been around since the early 1940s.

When Lally reached out to start the permit process for the 2023 season, Park District officials said a full season would not be possible.

“It looks almost impossible to run a consistent Softball League down at Grant Park this Spring/Summer,” a park supervisor for Grant Park wrote in an email Lally provided to Block Club Chicago. “I know you are aware of the events that are being held in Grant Park this year. We may have a couple of windows of time that we could host a quick tournament or a couple of games.  A full season does not seem doable.”

The only month available is for local teams is in April, the supervisor wrote, adding that event shutdowns start in early May and run through September.

“I may have a weekend or 2 in June. I could try to help you find an alternate location if needed,” the park supervisor said.

Lally and other league organizers are worried this could be the beginning of the end of their softball tradition in Grant Park.

“Are we really not gonna play at Grant Park again, moving forward? I mean, yeah, we’ve always had Lollapalooza as kind of a constraint at the end of the season, but with Sueños being introduced in 2022, and now the street racing and concert series with NASCAR,” Lally said.

A spokesperson for the Park District told Block Club Friday it’s “working to balance the needs and interests of all park users.”

“We’re being shut down because the park district is more interested in generating revenue than they are about keeping traditions that have been going on in the park for almost 100 years now,” Stern said.

Traditionally, the softball season has run from May through early July, with two to four leagues playing every night Monday through Thursday, Stern said.

“I would like to see people working at Grant Park who actually give a s— about softball,” Stern said.

“I hope I’m wrong,” Stern said. “But until I see it, I’m not convinced that we will be playing softball at Grand Park ever again.”