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Concert Venues :: Kinetic Playground


Now Known As
Date Opened 1928
Venue Capacity
Venue URL
Venue Address 4812 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640

Venue Information

As early as 1894, the site was occupied by a small roadside restaurant that likely enjoyed a robust business.

During the next twenty years, urban growth gradually engulfed the Clark Street roadhouse. As the area grew, the roadhouse changed. By 1905, its owners had added a second floor to the restaurant and erected a two-story beer hall, a bowling alley, an outdoor dance floor, and several stand-alone refreshment stands.

By the summer of 1917, the pleasure spot had come to be known as the Moulin Rouge Gardens, with DUrbanos Eccentric Italian Band heading the bill of entertainers.

Shortly after the end of the First World War, Chicago restaurateurs Fred and Al Mann took over the Moulin Rouge Gardens. The pair changed the name of the place to Rainbo Gardens, reportedly in memory of Als wartime service in the 42nd "Rainbow" Division of the American Expeditionary Forces.

In 1921, Fred Mann set about giving the old pleasure spot a million-dollar make-over. Plans called for a redesigned outdoor gardens for summertime events and the construction of a two-story structure to house a cocktail bar and dining room that would remain open year round. The rebuilt gardens opened in June 1922.

In 1927, Mann converted the outdoor gardens into an indoor sports arena with 1,726 permanent seats.

During the wee hours of the morning of 5 February 1928, agents raided the Rainbo and at least ten other Chicago night clubs without the use of search warrants.

Following the February 1928 raid, federal authorities ordered Rainbo Gardens closed.

In February 1929, with the Rainbo still padlocked, Mann fell into bankruptcy. The Rainbo did not reopen until November 1929, with the Charley Straight Band providing the entertainment. Shortly after reopening, a fire forced the Rainbo to close yet again. It reopened in December 1929, after a month of reconstruction and redecorating, but by then many Chicagoans had found other places to enjoy themselves.

For a few months in 1934, the second year of the Century of Progress exposition, it reopened as the "French Casino." A few years later, in 1939, theatrical producer Michael Todd and a group of investors purchased the Rainbo Gardens complex. After spending an estimated $60,000 on repairs and new decorations, Todd reopened the old Rainbo Casino, calling it the Theater Cafe. The new cafe and its spectacular stage show proved very popular. Disagreements between Todd and his backers, some of whom may have been associated with the notorious Nitti gang, led to the formers ouster in May 1931. Following Todds departure, police raided the cafe and discovered employees selling liquor to minors. The city subsequently revoked the night clubs licenses, forcing it to close yet again.

After the Second World War, new operators reopened the Rainbo, holding wrestling matches in the Fronton. A bowling alley was also built on part of the property. An ice skating rink was installed in 1957.

The Rainbo Gardens ice rink was actually next door and the Gardens management originally operated the concessions at the Electric Theater, which opened on April 5, 1968.

The owners of the Electric Circus in New York sued Russo over the Electric Theater name and in an out of court settlement the name was changed to the Kinetic Playground some time in the summer of 68.

Entering the front door after giving up your ticket or cash, you entered a curved wall maze of mirrors. Into the showroom, large carpeted geometric shapes rise from the floor around the perimeter of the varnished wood-planked main floor, always crowded but the rarely unfriendly audience awaitng the start of the show. Once the show had begun it could be extremely difficult to safely navigate through the people seated on the floor, because of the light show and nearly impossible if you were up and walking when they turned on the brightest strobe lights known to man, running around the bottom of the circular control/projection booth suspended from the center of the showrooms ceiling.

In the end the Electric Theater/Kinetic Playground closed after suffering a fire that caused significant damage.

The arena was demolished November 2003 for a 127-unit residential project scheduled to be constructed on the site.

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