While gone for well over a decade, Chicago’s lakefront airport—Merrill C. Meigs Field—is not forgotten, with at least one of the key candidates for mayor of the Windy City making its reopening part of his platform.
More than a dozen candidates are vying for mayor in the general elections that will be held tomorrow. Willie Wilson, a businessman who founded a medical supplies company and in the past owned McDonald's franchises, is running in the crowded field as a nonpartisan. He previously has run as a Democrat for president and mayor.
As part of his campaign platform, he has cited the re-opening of Meigs Field as a revenue-raising goal, estimating that such a move could generate more than $500 million. “To raise new revenues, you have to come up with new ideas,” he told the City Club of Chicago. He also has been quoted in Chicago media as saying he'd rather have the jobs from the airport than a park rarely used.
Once among the busiest single-strips in the U.S., Meigs had operated as an airport for nearly 55 years until the evening of March 30, 2003, when then-Mayor Richard Daley ordered the use of bulldozers to carve giant Xs in the runway pavement, effectively destroying its use.
The FAA fined the city $33,000—the maximum permitted—for the move and ultimately ordered the repayment of $1 million in misappropriated FAA Airport Improvement Program funds used to demolish the airfield and build Northerly Island Park that now stands on its site.