McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink in Chicago
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. The $3.2 million plaza was funded by a donation from the McCormick Tribune Foundation. 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. As of 2007, Millennium Park, which is located in the northwest corner of Grant Park, trails only Navy Pier as a Chicago tourist attraction.
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". 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". who were also the architects for the adjoining Wrigley Square.
Although the rink was budgeted for $5 million, it was constructed for only $3.2 million ($ million today), making it one of the few Millennium Park attractions to cost less than was initially budgeted. The rink was funded by and named for the McCormick Tribune Foundation, and displayed more than 120 of these photographs in dozens of cities, starting in Paris and including Tokyo and Geneva.
Chicago was the first American city to host the Earth From Above exhibition. The exhibit featured 4 x photographic prints that were laminated onto thin 5 x aluminum panels that protected them from ultraviolet rays.
The Millennium Park rink has a lobby to provide skaters 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. Since then, although the Chicago Park District still operates ten public ice skating rinks, the Millennium Park ice rink is operated by a division of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, itself a Department of the City of Chicago Government.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is generally open for skating afternoons and evenings seven days a week, with longer hours on weekends. Skating is accompanied by loudspeaker music, The ice rink is a popular people watching location during the winter months; many view events at the McCormick Tribune Plaza from AT&T Plaza, above and to the east. 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. 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.
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. 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.
Park Grill Plaza
During much of 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 Gate on AT&T Plaza. 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 offers take out and to-go service. Outdoor dining service begins in May.
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. However, Citysearch speaks positively about the service. Metromix, Fodor's and Frommer's all laud the location of the restaurant, The indoor restaurant has seating for 300, a VIP room,<ref name=PGM/> and serves dinner, lunch, and weekend brunch.<ref name=PGC/><ref name=PGM/>