A Ribbon Runs Through It

December 1, 2015, Department, by Marti Mueller

The innovative ice ribbon skating rink at Chicago's Maggie Daley Park is celebrating it's one-year anniversary.When a Zamboni has its own Twitter handle (@MaggieDaleyPark), you know you’ve got a popular ice destination. That’s the case just one year after a novel ice-skating experience debuted in downtown Chicago. A quarter-mile long refrigerated “ice ribbon” — the longest in the United States — is a signature element of the Windy City’s new 20-acre Maggie Daley Park. Designed by ice consultant Stantec, the meandering 20-40-foot wide skating trail provides 27,500 square feet of ice surface — almost twice the size of a traditional rink. Unlike the common oval rink, the ice ribbon winds through the undulating park landscape with mild grades, providing an added dimension to the skating experience. 

The ice ribbon can hold up to 700 skaters at a time and is modeled after the lazy river concept. The Chicago ice ribbon geometry draws inspiration from the gracefully winding Frank Gehry BP Pedestrian Bridge that connects Maggie Daley Park to Millennium Park. “The ice ribbon at Maggie Daley Park provides an ice-skating experience unlike any other,” says Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, communications director for Chicago Park District. “The skating ribbon is dramatically different from typical civic ice rinks, creating a multisensory activity that is integrated into the landscape. In the heart of downtown Chicago and with the city’s skyline as a backdrop, this ribbon of ice winds through a rolling landscape where skaters can experience ‘alpine in the city’ as they lace up their ice skates and follow a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.”

 The ice ribbon has been enjoyed and praised by locals and tourists alike. It has received recognition from national news outlets like the Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. “This trail offers a great skating experience that keeps people coming to the park year-round,” observes Jim Maland, Stantec’s chief recreational facilities designer. Maxey-Faulkner adds: “The ice ribbon is intended to engage and inspire visitors of the park. We want to be able to create fun and excitement in the community, encouraging people to go out more and appreciate nature.”

— Marti Mueller, Public Relations Lead, Mid-Atlantic/Midwest, for Stantec