The McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink celebrated its grand opening to the public on December 20th, 2001. The site is a multi-purpose venue located by the western edge of Millennium Park in the Historic Michigan Boulevard District of Chicago, Illinois. The site was the first attraction to open in Millennium Park and serves as an ice skating rink, dining facility and at one point was an open-air exhibit space.
Operating for four months a year as a free public outdoor ice skating rink, the park is open for skating from mid-November through mid-March. McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is one of the best outdoor people watching locations in Chicago, during the winter months.
During the rest of the year, the venue serves as the Plaza at Park Grill or simply Park Grill Plaza, and is Chicago's biggest outdoor dining facility. The park hosts many culinary events as well as features live music during the months of outdoor operation.
When operating as an ice rink, the park is open daily seven days per week from 10 am until 10 pm. However, the rink is occasionally closed for private events at 8 pm. The ice rink is opened for abbreviated schedules on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Skating is free of charge and the facility also has skate rentals available. The skating is accompanied by loudspeaker music, which is traditionally featured during the holiday months. The venue draws an estimated 100,000 skaters every year, with more people visiting on the weekends and during school break periods.
The skating rink is 200 feet by 80 feet and due to rounded corners the skating surface totals 15,910 square feet. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is larger than Rockefeller Center in New York, and has a lobby, restroom facilities and public lockers. Whether or not the rink will operate is dependent upon the weather, however, the park has a state-of-the-art chilling system that can maintain a frozen state in the event of unseasonably warm conditions.
During the skating offseason, the site is used for alfresco dining and has a 150-seat cafy set up on the ice rink. At this time, the site is referred to as the Park Grill Plaza. The outdoor dining experience is located under the Cloud Gate sculpture on AT & T Plaza. Park Grill Plaza is the largest outdoor dining location in Chicago, and hosts a large variety of events, including a benefit called "Chefs on the Grill''. During the benefit, guests are welcomed to interact with invited chefs who are in competition to make the best food dish. Also hosted here are wine tastings, and during the summer music festivals and events are held on the grounds. During the skating season, the facility has rink-side tables and the Park Grill Cafy offers a take-out/to-go service.
Cloud Gate is a magical piece of artwork that adds charm and appeal to Millennium Park. The sculpture reflects the Chicago Skyline and holds something special for the viewer. Visiting Cloud Gate is a unique was to truly experience a work of art like no other in the world.