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McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink or McCormick Tribune Plaza is a multi-purpose venue located along the western edge of Millennium Parkmarker in the Historic Michigan Boulevard Districtmarker of the Loopmarker area of Chicagomarker in Cook Countymarker, Illinoismarker, USAmarker. Opening in 2001, it was the first attraction in Millennium Park. The plaza was funded by a donation from the McCormick Tribune Foundation. It has served as an ice skating rink, a dining facility and briefly as an open-air exhibition space.

For four months a year, it operates as McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, a free public outdoor ice skating rink that it is generally open from mid-November until mid-March. It is known as one of Chicago's better outdoor people watching locations during the winter months.

For the rest of the year, it serves as Plaza at Park Grill or Park Grill Plaza, Chicago's largest outdoor dining facility. The park grill hosts various culinary events as well as music during its months of outdoor operation, and it is affiliated with the indoor Park Grill restaurant located beneath AT&T Plazamarker and Cloud Gatemarker. The outdoor restaurant is highly regarded for its location with its views of the park.

History

File:Millennium Park Map labels.png|
Image map of Millennium Park.
Each feature or label is wikilinked.
|400px|thumb|leftrect 51 18 145 80 McDonald's Cycle Centermarkerrect 338 2 496 94BP Pedestrian Bridgemarkerrect 497 62 536 101BP Pedestrian Bridgemarkerrect 497 6 631 34 Columbus Drivemarkerrect 10 88 154 104 Exelon Pavilion NErect 47 108 79 131 Exelon Pavilion NErect 619 95 754 112 Exelon Pavilion SErect 728 113 759 135 Exelon Pavilion SErect 10 246 166 263 Exelon Pavilion NWrect 47 265 78 288 Exelon Pavilion NWrect 613 243 762 258 Exelon Pavilion SWrect 736 260 757 275 Exelon Pavilion SWrect 44 149 174 229 Harris Theatermarkerrect 175 103 572 288 Jay Pritzker Pavilionmarkerrect 573 134 757 238 Lurie Gardenmarkerrect 572 311 718 329 Nichols Bridgewayrect 516 298 777 306 Nichols Bridgewayrect 58 350 207 396 Chase Promenade Northmarkerrect 291 350 453 396 Chase Promenade Centralmarkerrect 537 350 687 396 Chase Promenade Southmarkerrect 313 397 431 424 AT&T Plazamarkerrect 37 434 227 473 Boeing Gallery Northmarkerrect 516 433 757 469 Boeing Gallery Southmarkerrect 337 426 416 470 Cloud Gatemarkerrect 60 486 216 546 Wrigley Squaremarkerrect 287 477 457 543 McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rinkmarkerrect 557 488 727 543 Crown Fountainmarkerrect 308 567 439 583 Michigan Avenuemarkerrect 1 316 23 442 Randolph Streetdesc bottom-leftLying between Lake Michiganmarker to the east and the Loop to the west, Grant Parkmarker has been Chicago's front yard since the mid 19th century. Its northwest corner, north of Monroe Street and the Art Institutemarker, east of Michigan Avenuemarker, 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 Parkmarker. Today, Millennium Park trails only Navy Piermarker as a Chicago tourist attraction.

The ice rink celebrated its grand opening on December 20, 2001, a few weeks ahead of the Millennium Park underground parking garage. Thus it was the first feature of Millennium park to open. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, John W. Madigan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, John Bryan, head of the Millennium Park private donor group, actress Bonnie Hunt and other local celebrities attended the event. The rink was named after the McCormick Tribune Foundation of the late Chicago Tribune owner and publisher, Robert R. McCormick. The McCormick Tribune foundation is also a supporter of both the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum and the McCormick Tribune Campus Centermarker at the Illinois Institute of Technologymarker, both of which are also located in Chicago.

From June 21–September 15, 2002, McCormick Tribune Plaza hosted the inaugural exhibit in Milllennium Park, Exelon Presents Earth From Above by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. French aerial photographer, Arthus-Bertrand, took 120 photographs from planes and helicopters flying over 70 countries on every continent. He displayed the photographs in dozens of cities starting in Parismarker and including Tokyomarker and Genevamarker. The book associated with the exhibit sold over 1.5 million copies before the summer of 2002. During the summer of 2002 the Earth From Above was also displayed in Brazilmarker, Lebanonmarker, Polandmarker, Swedenmarker, Germany, Britainmarker, Norwaymarker, Hungarymarker and along the banks of the Volga River in Russia. Chicago was the first American city to host the exhibition. The exhibit was composed of photographs that were trimmed to prints that were laminated in a thin aluminum panel that protected them from ultraviolet rays. The exhibition was renowned for capturing the humanity of tragedy as well as beauty. Among the scenes of beauty were a village built on coral reefs by Filipino sea gypsies, rock formations in Madagascarmarker and a picturesque inlet in the Ionian Islandsmarker, home to endangered sea turtles, and of architectural wonders such as the Versailles Palacemarker and the Hagia Sophiamarker in Istanbul. Among the scenes of tragedy were the 1999 earthquake in Turkeymarker and the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest. The exhibit used photovoltaic solar electric panels to store energy during the day that lit the exhibit through the night.

In past years, the ice rink has been one of the ten parks on ice in the Chicago Park District. For the 2007-2008 skating season, this was not the case. In 2008, Millennium Park hosted a winter celebration called the Museum of Modern Ice. The installation included a ice wall and a large abstract painting by Gordon Halloran, which was embedded in the park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. The works were titled Paintings Below Zero.

Operations

Ice rink

The rink is generally open from 10:00 A.M. until 10:00 P.M. seven days a week for skating. However, it is occasionally closed at 8:00 P.M. for private events. Except for its first year it has been scheduled to be open weather permitting from mid-November until mid-March. The rink is open for abbreviated schedules on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Skating is free and skate rental is available. Skating is accompanied by loudspeaker music, which is mostly seasonal music during the holidays. The zamboni operates every two hours beginning at 11:30 A.M. The rink has been open for free public skating each winter since opening. It has drawn over 100,000 skaters each year, with heavier attendance on the weekends and other times when school is not in session. Romantic holidays (Christmas Eve and Valentine's Day) are also quite crowded. It is a popular people watching location during the winter months, rivaled only by the Rockefeller Centermarker rink. Many viewing events at the McCormick Tribune Plaza from AT&T Plazamarker above and to the east. In fact, the ice skating rink has risen to a level of popularity that when the November 2005 weather was too warm for the rink's opening, the story became international news.

Park Grill Plaza

Viewed from the northwest during the summer
During the offseason alfresco dining is available in a 150-seat cafe set up on the ice rink, 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 Gatemarker on AT&T Plazamarker. The Park Grill Plaza is the largest outdoor dining venue in Chicago, 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 here, and during the summer, the Park Grill Plaza hosts musical performances on Thursdays. During the skating season, there are rinkside tables and the Park Grill Cafe, which is associated with the Park Grill Restaurant, offers take out/to-go service. McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink is one of two features in the park to include accessible restrooms. The other is Jay Pritzker Pavilionmarker. The restrooms are located adjacent to the Park Grill.

The restaurant is known for a view that makes up for unimpressive service, according to Fodor's. However, Citysearch speaks positively about the service. Metromix, Fodor's and Frommer's laud the location of the restaurant. The restaurant serves New American cuisine. Frommer's gives the restaurant 2 out of 3 stars and notes that the restaurant has a kids menu to accomodate the numerous families that attend the park. 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 as well as a distinct menu including options from the Plaza's menu as well as its own offerings. The indoor restaurant has seating for 180 and a VIP room. The restaurant serves dinner, lunch, and weekend brunch.

Details

Ice skating and people watching
The ice skating rink is , but due to the rounded corners of the skating surface it totals of skating surface. This is considerably larger than the Rockefeller Center rink which is . The rink has a lobby for a respite from the natural environs, as well as toilets and public lockers. During the 2003-04 season the rink rented 77,667 pairs of ice skates. Availability of the rink depends on the weather, but the ice rink 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. During the offseason it becomes the 300-seat Park Grill dining facility. Although the rink was budgeted for $5 million, it was constructed for only $3.2 million, making it one of the few Millennium Park attractions to cost less than was initially budgeted.

Although the rink is fairly new, it has begun to appear in pop culture. Part of The Weather Man, starring Nicolas Cage was shot at the rink. Alcohol is allowed in the McCormick Tribune Plaza when the park is open (6:00A.M. to 11:00P.M. daily)

Notes

  1. Gilfoyle, p. 324.


References



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