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Chicago Ice Skating: Check Out Our Guide to the City's Ice Rinks

By David Matthews | February 12, 2015 5:38am | Updated on February 16, 2015 8:43am
 Visitors taking in the Maggie Daley Park skating ribbon. 
Visitors taking in the Maggie Daley Park skating ribbon. 
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

MAGGIE DALEY PARK — There are only three weekends left to ice skate at most rinks in Chicago — and you might just encounter big crowds before they close.

Ice skating is popular at the new Maggie Daley Park, so much that many Chicagoans check a feed of a park construction camera to look for crowds before heading to the new ribbon.

Other visitors who don't check often have to wait, especially if they want to rent skates. 

More than 28,000 skates have been rented, and more than $300,000 in fees collected, since the Maggie Daley skating ribbon opened late last year. The ribbon has capacity for 700 skaters, but given demand, the Chicago Park District said in a statement it will "continue to evaluate the park operations and make efficiencies."

Maggie Daley Park's ribbon is one of nine ice sheets — one for about every 300,000 Chicagoans — run by the park district throughout the city. City Hall runs the Millennium Park ice rink, which is also often packed.

That's a lot of residents per rink, considering how cold it can get in the Windy City. Other residents of cold-weather cities in the Midwest have more options: Detroit's recreation department operates three rinks (one for every 230,000 residents), while Minneapolis has 47 (one for every 8,500).

But Chicago has significantly more than New York, which has eight public rinks or one for every 1 million residents.

But large tracts of land in Chicago remain unserved. Chicago's most famous skater, Olympic Gold Medalist Shani Davis, is from the South Side but trained in Evanston as a child.

Unlike some suburbs, and cities like Madison, Wis., skating is not permitted on frozen lagoons or ponds in the city.

And even if your neighborhood has a rink, it's not always easy to find a time to skate: Five of the park district rinks aren't even open on Monday or Tuesdays, while none are open before noon during the week.

Park District officials did not respond to questions about whether they would consider skating on frozen bodies of water. A Park District spokeswoman claimed "there is not a big demand for skating in the morning."

But there's still time to hit the ice before most of the city's rinks close starting March 1. Here is a map of the 14 public and private rinks which have open skating times where you can get your skate on. (Two other rinks open in recent years, at Wrigley Field and atop the John Hancock Center, have closed.)

In addition to the public rinks, the alternative rinks include:

Lakeshore Sport & Fitness

Lakeshore's Lincoln Park gym at 1320 W. Fullerton Ave. recently opened a rooftop synthetic ice rink of its own. Skaters must bring their own skates, and a day pass costs $5. 

Lincoln Park Zoo

The zoo operates a rink at the Farm-in-the-Zoo on weekends until March 1. It costs $5 to skate and $5 to rent skates.

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Parson's, 2952 W. Armitage Ave., opened its rink earlier this year with largely weekend hours. Via e-mail, Parson's co-owner Peter Toalson said the Logan Square restaurant now opens the rink daily to accommodate demand.

"It's definitely something that the larger community, beyond Logan Square even, has warmly embraced," Toalson said in an e-mail. "It's far from the finest skating option in town, but the setting is fairly unique and the overall process is pretty mellow."

Toalson said Parson's plans to close the rink March 16. 

The Peninsula Chicago

The Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St., has run a synthetic ice rink on its fourth-floor terrace for three winters now. A popular spot for couples and marriage proposals, the rink sends proceeds to charity. The rink has raised $30,000 so far this winter for the Lurie Children's Hospital and Hephzibah Children's Association. The rink, which has a suggested donation of $10 for kids and $15 for adults and teens over 12, closes March 1, a Peninsula spokesman said.

Johnny's IceHouse

Another skating option, Johnny's IceHouse, has two indoor facilities on the Near West Side, including a new "studio rink" on Madison Street near the United Center. While it doesn't offer open skate times, its expansion does provide a look at skating's growing popularity in Chicago. Boosted by the resurgent Blackhawks, who practice at Johnny's IceHouse West, Johnny's skate classes regularly sell out, owner Tom Moro said; parents report that some kids' classes fill within hours of registration opening up online. Meanwhile, an adult hockey class is so popular that participants are chosen through a lottery.

The park district is also capitalizing on the Hawk's success by offering Blackhawks hockey clinics at its rinks. 

"We see plenty of Kane and Toews jerseys at the learn-to-skate, and some of those kids would have never tried skating if they hadn’t seen hockey on TV," Moro said. "Where we are, on the West Side, there’s a lot of vacant land. So our hope is if there's a need to expand, we have an opportunity." 

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