Chicago - January 2015 - Maggie Daley Park

It was pretty cold on this trip to Chicago, and this affected my picture-taking. The Northern part of Grant Park, which is across the street toward the lake from Millennium Park, has been getting rebuilt for a couple of years now. It used to contain a playground, several tennis courts, and a lot of trees and plants. One day a couple of years ago I saw that it was GONE(!), trees and all. It was pretty unbelievable, but, apparently it was built on top of a huge underground parking garage that was having trouble with the membrane between the garage's ceiling and the dirt of the park. The city had decided to scrape the existing park off, fix the membrane, and rebuild it better than ever.

A three-year project, it would be called Maggie Daley Park, in honor of the wife of the long-time mayor Richard Daley. The plans looked fantastic, it would contain a skating ribbon, the world's largest outdoor climbing wall, and a large children's playground, not to mention picnic areas. They were even going to make hills. We got to see this new park being built up from nothing, and we enjoyed seeing the progress that had been made as we traveled to Chicago every few months. For this trip, they had actually completed the skating ribbon and opened the area to the public. We were able to see the climbing wall under construction, and parts of the children's playground were open.

The Plan

To the left is the plan for the entire park - you can see the curvy bridge at the middle left where visitors can walk over Columbia Street into the new Maggie Daley Park. Three detail pieces are shown below (left to right): the skating ribbon and climbing walls, the play garden, and the tennis courts. Click on these images to get to larger ones, where you can actually read the elevations on the plan. The hill to the left of the tennis courts is to be 48 feet high, so I expect that it will become a sledding hill next winter. That is, unless they put permanent picnic tables at the bottom of it! You can see that to the left of the tennis courts, they left the Cancer Survivor's Garden intact.

The Skating Ribbon

This is a great idea, and I wonder if they thought of it because of the shape of the existing bridge over Columbus Street, with its unique shape? In the picture on the left, you can see part of the climbing wall as well. In the summer, I believe they're going to allow rollerblading where the ice is now, at the same time that people will be using the climbing wall. It should lead to some cool pictures.

The Play Garden

This looks like a great place for kids to play. The sign said 12 and under, but I decided to try a few things out myself. Unfortunately, my camera battery had just run out, so I couldn't get any pictures. I did the slide pictured to the left - it was steep and fast! It was pretty cramped getting up to the top, the inside of the red-and-white spiral was a series of steps that an adult can barely crawl through, but that guarantees that no fall higher than a couple of feet could occur.

The Climbing Wall

It isn't finished yet, but you can see what it's going to look like when it is done, and it's going to be spectacular! I wish I had access to this sort of thing when I was young and thin. I'm finding rock-wall climbing to be a lot of fun, but it sure would have been easier when I was 25 pounds lighter!

In the picture below left, you can see the skeleton of the remaining section. It looks like they've basically finished the highest structure, no doubt to be climbed only using ropes, but they are still working on the lower structures, which probably have both rope-assisted climbing areas and no-rope "bouldering" lines. When we climbed in Canmore, Alberta this summer, they had areas that had both - if you were without a harness, you could only go to the 12-foot-high painted line, then had to drop or climb back down. If you were roped in, you could climb all the way to the top. I prefer the lower climbing, my fear of heights starts to kick in around 20 feet up, maybe less! Hopefully they will have a similar setup here, and allow us to boulder on the lower part of the wall. I wonder what they're going to do for padding, perhaps bringing pads in and out of the weather, and closing the climbing wall in wet, and perhaps even cold, weather?