Photo by Laura Rojas
Even though it was at least 10 degrees below freezing and the wind numbed my lips, my discomfort was replaced by wonder as I watched patrons glide over the icy, curved paths of what is known as the ice ribbon at Maggie Daley Park.
It isn’t the predictable oval ice rink we are so accustomed to. Instead, it’s a winding, loopy trail with two sharp turns at its farthest points and wider curves in the middle.
The new recreational center opened Dec. 16, 2014. You can rent a pair of skates for only $12 and skate as long as you desire — or at least before you begin to lose feeling in your fingers and toes. It’s open Monday through Thursday from noon to 8:00 p.m., Fridays from noon until 10:00 p.m., and on the weekends from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m, excluding the few hours each day it’s closed for ice resurfacing.
There is also an elaborate children’s play center on the park grounds. It isn’t being used as regularly during these winter months as it will be used in the summer. When I was there, the children’s park was nearly void of children, and who I saw going by were couples and families, people who had just gone ice skating. One particular family enthusiastically relayed their visit. A young patron, Josh F., had never visited Chicago before and he described his first encounter as, “Colder than I thought, but it’s really cool because the buildings are really big.”
Wes and Josh, both of whom are first time patrons of the park, enjoyed their time snaking across the twisting track as they tried to race each other. Wes, a citizen of Chicago from Logan Square in his 40’s, explains that he hasn’t gone ice-skating in nearly 30 years, since he was a teenager.
He had hurt his arm this evening falling on the ice and even that hadn’t soured his experience. His brother-in-law Josh, who is 14 years old and lives in Louisiana, had just tried ice skating for his first time and said, “I think I got better faster than I thought I would.”
Wes, assuming the big brother role, quickly retorted, “I don’t think he was good at all.” They laughed at each other and both expressed their eagerness for their next visit to Maggie Daley Park.
Hearing their excitement and sharing in their enjoyment made me feel like my commute from the northwest suburbs was truly worth my time. The skyline is breathtaking in the dim evening light and the unique form of the skating path urges you to step foot on the ice and give it a try. You may also be excited to know that there should be a rock climbing wall ready for use when the weather permits. With this harsh winter season Chicago has been going through, Maggie Daley Park gives us something to look forward to when our city will finally be able to shake away its frost and show off its blossoms.