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McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink
An ice skating rink with dozens of skaters

An open air cafe with umbrellas over the tables
Ice skating and people-watching (top) view from AT&T Plaza during the summer (bottom)
Location 55 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago, Illinois
Opened December 20, 2001
Owner City of Chicago
Construction cost $3.2 million
Architect OWP&P Architects
Capacity 150 for offseason dining[1]
Ice Skating Rink
Park Grill

McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink or McCormick Tribune Plaza is a multi-purpose venue within Millennium Park in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois, USA. On December 20, 2001, it became the first attraction in Millennium Park to open.[2] The $3.2 million plaza was funded by a donation from the McCormick Tribune Foundation.[3] It has served as an ice skating rink, a dining facility and briefly as an open-air exhibition space.

The plaza operates as McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, a free public outdoor ice skating rink that is generally open four months a year, from mid-November until mid-March, when it hosts over 100,000 skaters annually. It is known as one of Chicago's better outdoor people-watching locations during the winter months.[4][5] It is operated by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs rather than the Chicago Park District, which operates most major public ice skating rinks in Chicago.

For the rest of the year, it serves as Plaza at Park Grill or Park Grill Plaza, Chicago's largest outdoor dining facility.[6] The 150-seat park grill hosts various culinary events as well as music during its months of outdoor operation,[6][7] and it is affiliated with the 300-seat indoor Park Grill restaurant located beneath AT&T Plaza and Cloud Gate. The outdoor restaurant offers scenic views of the park.



McDonald's Cycle Center BP Pedestrian Bridge BP Pedestrian Bridge Columbus Drive Exelon Pavilion NE Exelon Pavilion NE Exelon Pavilion SE Exelon Pavilion SE Exelon Pavilion NW Exelon Pavilion NW Exelon Pavilion SW Exelon Pavilion SW Harris Theater Jay Pritzker Pavilion Lurie Garden Nichols Bridgeway Nichols Bridgeway Chase Promenade North Chase Promenade Central Chase Promenade South AT&T Plaza Boeing Gallery North Boeing Gallery South Cloud Gate Wrigley Square McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink Crown Fountain Michigan Avenue Randolph Street Rectangular map of a park about 1.5 times as wide as it is tall. The top half is dominated by the Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn. The lower half is divided into three roughly equal sections: (left to right) Wrigley Square, McCormick Tribune Plaza, and Crown Fountain. North is to the left.
Image map of Millennium Park. Each feature or label is wikilinked.

Lying between Lake Michigan to the east and the Loop to the west, Grant Park has been Chicago's front yard since the mid 19th century. Its northwest corner, north of Monroe Street and the Art Institute, east of Michigan Avenue, south of Randolph Street, and east of Columbus Drive, had been Illinois Central rail yards and parking lots until 1997, when it was made available for development by the city as Millennium Park.[8] As of 2007, Millennium Park, which is located in the northwest corner of Grant Park, trails only Navy Pier as a Chicago tourist attraction.[9]

The earliest plans for Millennium Park were unveiled by Chicago's mayor, Richard M. Daley, in March 1998 and included "a reflecting pool that would double as a skating rink in winter".[10] The architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill came up with the master plan for the park; their original design for the ice rink placed it along upper Randolph Street, on the park's northern edge. However, McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink was built on the western edge of Millennium Park. The Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin called this move "a masterstroke" and praised the new location "where the skaters symbolize the year-round vitality of the city".[11] Kamin noted the location on the east side of Michigan Avenue allowed those at the plaza and ice rink to enjoy the skyline of the Historic Michigan Boulevard District.[11] Another addition to the plaza and rink's design was the 300-seat restaurant;[2] the final architectural design was completed by OWP&P Architects,[11] who were also the architects for the adjoining Wrigley Square.[12]

Although the rink was budgeted for $5 million, it was constructed for only $3.2 million ($3.9 million in current dollar terms), making it one of the few Millennium Park attractions to cost less than was initially budgeted.[13] The rink was funded by and named for the McCormick Tribune Foundation,[3] which was established by former Chicago Tribune owner and publisher Robert R. McCormick. The McCormick Tribune Foundation is a supporter of the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum and the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, both of which are also located in Chicago.[14][15]

An ice skating rink with a few skaters and a large metallic sculpture in the background
McCormick Tribune Plaza Ice Rink and AT&T Plaza with the Cloud Gate

McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink was the first feature in Millennium Park to open. Its grand opening was celebrated on December 20, 2001,[16] a few weeks ahead of the Millennium Park underground parking garage. Mayor Daley, McCormick Tribune Foundation Chairman of the Board John W. Madigan, Millennium Park private donor group chief John Bryan, actress Bonnie Hunt and other local celebrities attended the event.[2] The new ice rink was seen as a replacement for "Skate on State", a public skating rink on State Street in the Loop[17][18] which closed in 2001.[19]

From June 21 to September 15, 2002, McCormick Tribune Plaza hosted the inaugural exhibit in Millennium Park,[20] Exelon Presents Earth From Above by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a French aerial photographer. Arthus-Bertrand used planes and helicopters to photograph sites in over 60 countries on every continent,[21][22] and displayed more than 120 of these photographs in dozens of cities, starting in Paris and including Tokyo and Geneva.[23] In the summer of 2002, the book associated with the exhibit had sold over 1.5 million copies,[21] and the photographs were displayed in Brazil, Lebanon, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Britain, Norway, Hungary and along the banks of the Volga River in Russia.[23]

Chicago was the first American city to host the Earth From Above exhibition.[21][24][25] The exhibit featured 4-by-6-foot (1.2 m × 1.8 m) photographic prints that were laminated onto thin 5-by-7.5-foot (1.5 m × 2.3 m) aluminum panels that protected them from ultraviolet rays.[23] The photographs included scenes of natural beauty such as a Filipino Bajau village built on coral reefs, a formation of rocks in Madagascar, an inlet in the Ionian Islands that is home to endangered sea turtles, and architectural highlights such as the Palace of Versailles and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It also showed scenes of tragedy such as the 1999 earthquake in Turkey and the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest.[21][24] The exhibit used photovoltaic solar panels to store electrical energy during the day that then lit the exhibit at night.[23][26]

Part of the 2006 film The Weather Man, starring Nicolas Cage, was shot at the rink.[27] In 2008, Millennium Park hosted a winter celebration called the Museum of Modern Ice. The installation included a 95-by-12-foot (29.0 m × 3.7 m) ice wall in the park and a large abstract painting by Gordon Halloran, which was embedded in the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. The works were titled Paintings Below Zero.[28] In 2008–2009 the logo for the unsuccessful Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics was displayed in the rink's ice.[29]


An empty ice skating rink with tall buildings in the background
Viewed from the south end of the rink

The ice skating rink at McCormick Tribune Plaza is 200 feet by 80 feet (61 m × 24 m). Due to the rink's rounded corners, the total skating surface is 15,910 square feet (1,478 m2),[30][31] which critic Blair Kamin called "amply sized".[11] For comparison, this is a considerably larger skating surface than the Rockefeller Center rink in New York City, which is 120 feet by 60 feet (37 m × 18 m).[32]

The Millennium Park rink has a lobby to provide skaters a respite from the natural environs, as well as toilets and public lockers.[3] During the 2003–04 season the rink rented 77,667 pairs of ice skates.[32] By 2009–2010, its ninth season, it was attracting more than 100,000 skaters a year. While availability of the rink depends on the weather, it also has a state-of-the-art chiller system that can maintain the ice in the event of unseasonably warm weather. Thus, temperature is not the only factor involved in decisions to close the rink.[3] In his review of the plaza and rink, Kamin gave it two stars (out of a possible four), called the structure "solid, though unremarkable", and praised its uses throughout the year.[11]

When the rink is closed, its surface becomes a 150-seat cafe that complements the 300-seat indoor Park Grill dining facility.[30][33] Street level features such as McCormick Tribune Plaza are linked to elevated features such as Cloud Gate and AT&T Plaza, which are atop the Park Grill Restaurant and can be reached via balustraded stairs.[34]


An ice resurfacing machine in action at a skating rink
The McCormick Tribune Zamboni operates every two hours.

Through 2006 and 2007, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink was one of several operated by the Chicago Park District.[35] Since then, although the Chicago Park District still operates ten public ice skating rinks,[36] the Millennium Park ice rink is operated by a division of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs,[37][38] itself a Department of the City of Chicago Government.[39][40]


Ice rink

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is generally open for skating afternoons and evenings seven days a week, with longer hours on weekends.[41] However, it is occasionally closed for private events.[35][36] Skating is free and skate rental is available.[30] Except for its first year, the rink has been scheduled to be open from mid-November until mid-March, weather permitting.[35][36] For the 2009–10 winter season, the rink is scheduled to be open from November 20, 2009 to March 14, 2010, with abbreviated holiday schedules on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.[41] Skating is accompanied by loudspeaker music,[4] which is mostly seasonal music during the holidays.[42]

Part of an ice skating rink viewed from above with dozens of skaters to one side mostly standing behind cones on the ice.
February 2010 Chicago Winter Dance

Rink attendance is heavier on the weekends and other times when school is not in session.[43][44] Romantic holidays such as Christmas Eve and Valentine's Day are also quite crowded.[42] The ice rink is a popular people watching location during the winter months;[4][5][31] many view events at the McCormick Tribune Plaza from AT&T Plaza, above and to the east.[45] The ice skating rink has become so popular that when the weather was too warm for the rink's opening in November 2005, the story became international news.[46] The book 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die suggests a visit to McCormick Tribune Plaza during the skating season, and describes Millennium Park as a renowned attraction.[47]

There are days when themed skating is encouraged. Santa attire was encouraged on Saturday, December 13, 2008, and zombie attire was encouraged the next day, as part of an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for number of zombies on ice.[48] The rink also serves as a host to the annual Chicago Winter Dance Festival; during the festival there is a month of free skating instruction and demonstration at the rink, and there is free dance instructions behind the glass doors of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage.[49][50][51]

Park Grill Plaza

A cafe behind a set of trees and grass
Viewed from the northwest during the summer

During much of the offseason alfresco dining is available in a 150-seat cafe set up on the ice rink,[33] in what is then referred to as the Park Grill Plaza. This outdoor dining experience is associated with the Park Grill Restaurant and the Park Grill Cafe, which are both located under the Cloud Gate on AT&T Plaza.[3] Architecture critic Blair Kamin compares the in-park eating options availed at the Park Grill with New York's former Tavern on the Green and Chicago's Cafe Brauer.[11] The Park Grill Plaza is the largest outdoor dining venue in Chicago,[6] and hosts a variety of events, including a benefit called "Chefs on the Grill" in which guests interact with invited chefs who are competing to produce the best dish. Wine tastings are also hosted there,[7] and during the summer, the Park Grill Plaza hosts musical performances on Thursdays.[6] During the skating season, there are rinkside tables and the Park Grill Cafe offers take out and to-go service.[52] Outdoor dining service begins in May.[53]

McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink is one of two features in the park to include accessible restrooms; the other is Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The restrooms are located adjacent to the Park Grill.[1] Although McCormick Plaza is a winter focal point, the park's restroom facilities at this feature are not heated for winter use.[54]

According to Fodor's, the restaurant is known for a view that makes up for unimpressive service.[55] However, Citysearch speaks positively about the service.[56] Metromix, Fodor's and Frommer's all laud the location of the restaurant,[55][57][58] which serves New American cuisine.[55][57][59] Frommer's gives the restaurant 2 out of 3 stars and notes that the restaurant has a kids menu to accommodate the numerous families that visit the park.[57] Metromix notes that the restaurant is well-known for its signature Park Grill Burger. The northern area of the Plaza has been named the North Lounge and has furniture for lounging; it has a distinct menu including options from the Plaza's menu, as well as its own offerings.[58] The indoor restaurant has seating for 300, a VIP room,[58] and serves dinner, lunch, and weekend brunch.[56][58]


  1. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". City of Chicago.,+engine+has+been+restarted& Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  2. ^ a b c "Mayor Daley, McCormick Tribune Executives Cut Ribbon on Spectacular Skating Rink at Millennium Park". Millennium Park News. Public Building Commission of Chicago. Winter 2001–2002. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Art & Architecture: McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink". City of Chicago. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  4. ^ a b c Davey, Monica (2008-01-18). "Winter Day Out in Chicago". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  5. ^ a b Davey, Monica (2008-01-18). "5 Big Cities, 1 Winter Day (Slideshow)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Your Outdoor Table". Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  7. ^ a b "Park Grill Events & Activities". Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  8. ^ Gilfoyle, Timothy J. (August 6, 2006). "Millennium Park". The New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Crain's List Largest Tourist Attractions (Sightseeing): Ranked by 2007 attendance". Crain's Chicago Business (Crain Communications Inc.): p. 22. 2008-06-23. 
  10. ^ Martin, Andrew and Laurie Cohen (2001-08-05). "Millennium Park flounders as deadlines, budget blown – Poor plans, constant changes slow progress, drive up price – and city taxpayers may have to help make up difference". Chicago Tribune. newsbank. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f Kamin, Blair (2004-07-18). "McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink – (star)(star) – Michigan Avenue and Washington Street – Conceived by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Chicago, completed by OWP&P Architects, Chicago". Chicago Tribune. p. 8, Arts & Entertainment section. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  12. ^ Barner, Craig. "Special Project – Chicago's Millennium Park Project". Midwest Construction. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  13. ^ Ford, Liam (2004-07-11). "City to finally open its new front yard – Millennium Park's price tag tripled". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  14. ^ Dardick, Hal (2008-04-11). "Daley defends naming rights plan for Children's Museum". Chicago Tribune.,1,4355615.story. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  15. ^ "Mission & History". McCormick Foundation. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  16. ^ Satler, p. 170
  17. ^ Washburn, Gary (2000-04-18). "Block 37 Artists, Skaters To Move On Mega-Project Set For Long-Vacant Loop Land". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, Metro section. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  18. ^ Madhani, Aamer (2001-12-21). "New rink skates around delays at Millennium Park; Millennium Park gets 1st attraction". Chicago Tribune: p. 3, North Sports Final Edition. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  19. ^ Thomas, Mike (2005-01-01). "Holiday on ice, Chicago style". Chicago Sun-Times: p. 26. 
  20. ^ "Metro". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. 2002-06-19. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  21. ^ a b c d Kinzer, Stephen (2002-06-16). "Art/Architecture; The World as a Cavalcade Patterns, Not Always Pretty". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  22. ^ "In This Issue". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. 2002-05-26. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  23. ^ a b c d Kogan, Rick (2002-05-26). "The Face Of The Earth – Millennium Park's First Big Show Uses Stunning Photography To Send A Global Message". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  24. ^ a b "The big pictures – ` Earth From Above ' focuses on the world and how it's changing". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. 2002-06-28. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  25. ^ Kim, Jae-Ha (2002-06-21). "Bird's-eye view Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent more than 5 years flying over 60 countries to photograph the earth from above . More than 120 of those photos are now on display in Millennium Park. The work is also chronicled in his book, Earth from Above . Bora Bora. Worker Resting on Bales of Cotton. Grand Prismatic Spring. – Millennium Park showcases the photography of Yann Arthus-Bertrand". Chicago Sun-Times. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  26. ^ "Chicago photo exhibit illuminated by photovoltaics from Commonwealth Edison". Power Engineering International. PennWell Corporation. 2002-07-02. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  27. ^ Elder, Robert K. (2006-04-23). "Reel Chicago – Corncob Towers, Brawny Streetscapes and the Endless Lakefront Keep Us on the Movie Map". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  28. ^ Howard, Hilary (2008-01-20). "Datebook". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  29. ^ "Revised Hours for the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park for the Holidays and the New Year". City of Chicago. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  30. ^ a b c "McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park". Metromix. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  31. ^ a b "Wrigley Square Dedicated To Donors Who Raised $100 Million For World-Class Park at Chicago's Front Door". Millennium Park News. Public Building Commission of Chicago. Summer/Fall 2003. Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  32. ^ a b Gilfoyle, p. 324.
  33. ^ a b "Dining and Accommodations". City of Chicago. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  34. ^ Christensen, Ellen (2003). Images of America: Central Michigan Avenue. Chicago Architecture Foundation/Arcadia Publishing. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7385-2024-7. 
  35. ^ a b c "The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park Opens for the 2006–07 Season on Wednesday, November 15". Millennium Park. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  36. ^ a b c "Come Out and Skate". Chicago Park District. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  37. ^ "The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park Opens for the 2007-08 Season on Wednesday, November 14". Chicago Department of Public Affairs. 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  38. ^ "Contact Us". Millennium Park. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  39. ^ "City Departments". City of Chicago. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  40. ^ "Chicago Park District Ice Rinks". Chicago Park District. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  41. ^ a b "McCormick Tribune Ice Rink". Millennium Park. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  42. ^ a b Jeffers, Glenn and Lauren Viera (2007-11-17). "Choose your own holiday". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  43. ^ "McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  44. ^ Mastony, Colleen (2007-12-15). "One Fine Day". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  45. ^ Kamin, Blair (2004-08-29). "A people's park for the future". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  46. ^ Cameron, Doug (2005-11-14). "Observer: Thin ice". The Financial Times. The Financial Times Ltd. Retrieved 2008-07-31. "Millennium Park in the city's downtown is one of the environmentally friendly mayor's proudest achievements, but Mother Nature has declined to help out with what has become one of the city's leading attractions. An unseasonably mild November - this is Chicago, so wrap up - has delayed the opening of the ice rink, which attracts 100,000 skaters a year. City officials are hoping for a drop in temperatures to allow it to open this week" 
  47. ^ Schultz, Patricia. 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die. Workman Publishing. pp. 490–91. ISBN 0761136916. 
  48. ^ O'Donnell, Maureen (2008-12-15). "A really dead crowd at downtown rink – Zombies haunt Millennium Park – but they're much better behaved than those drunken Santas". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  49. ^ "Chicago Winter Dance Festival". ABC Chicago. 2010-02-07. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  50. ^ "Chicago Winter Dance: Dancing". City of Chicago. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  51. ^ Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (2009-12-11). "New This February: Chicago Winter Dance Festival Features Free Ice Skating Instruction, Ice Dancing Performances, and Dance Lessons In Millennium Park". Press release. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  52. ^ Elder, Robert K. (2006-02-23). "Stop eavesdropping and get in on a tour". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  53. ^ "McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink". City of Chicago. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  54. ^ Kamin, Blair (2004-07-18). "Creature comforts – (star)(star)(1/2 star) – Located throughout the park – Various designers". Chicago Tribune. p. 10, Arts & Entertainment section. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  55. ^ a b c "Park Grill Review". Fodor's. Fodor's Travel. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  56. ^ a b "Park Grill". MapQuest. MapQuest Inc.. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  57. ^ a b c "Park Grill". Frommer's. Wiley Publishing, Inc.. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  58. ^ a b c d "Park Grill". Metromix. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  59. ^ "Park Grill". Zagat Survey, LLC.. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 


  • Gilfoyle, Timothy J.. Millennium Park: Creating a Chicago Landmark. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226293491. 
  • Satler, Gail. Two tales of a city: rebuilding Chicago's architectural and social landscape. Northern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0875803571. 

External links

Coordinates: 41°52′57.68″N 87°37′25.55″W / 41.8826889°N 87.6237639°W / 41.8826889; -87.6237639


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