The grand opening of the Skate Plaza and Performance Space in the southern corner of Grant Park kicked of Saturday with a party featuring local Chicago DJs, contests and giveaways sponsored by a number of local skate shops and brands.
Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy, has spearheaded the plans for the skate park since June, gaining support from Ald. William Burns (4th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel‘s wife Amy Rule and Park District Supt. Mike Kelly.
The skate park was originally planned to open at the end of 2014, but with help from the community and the landscape architecture firm Altamanu, which was in charge of the construction of the park, it was able to open nearly a month early.
Sean McKay, Altamanu’s professional landscape architect, said the $2.65 million budget for the park was not affected by the park’s early opening.
The proposed budget was approved in late June – $2.5 million of the budget came from the 2nd Ward’s incremental tax funding (TIF) and the rest was from the Chicago Park District, according to information from the Chicago Park District.
As for the remaining 1.9 acres needed for the Skate Plaza, the Chicago Park District bought it from the city for just $1.
In addition to the skate plaza, the new Grant Park project includes a performance stage, a projection screen and mini amphitheater.
The residents have been fighting for 2nd Wards TIF money to be used to create more green space said Alex McCann, member of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance’s board of directors.
O’Neill said 90 trees were added to the south corner of Grant Park, which he said he hopes will bring more college students to the South Loop.
“I think it is great to have a lot of students out in the South Loop. They are out late at night, which keeps it safer and more active. They also shop at the stores in the area, which brings more pedestrians and younger crowds, as well as brings a nightlife to the area that was missing,” O’Neill said. “We love having more students in the area, and we hope to attract more.”
Along with hopefully bringing more tourists and young skateboarders to the South Loop, O’Neill said he hopes the skate plaza and performance space will mean more concerts and art shows.
Chuka Aguanunu, 24, of Humboldt Park, was at the opening Saturday and said the addition of the skate park will give him more reason to visit the South Loop.
“I only visit Grant Park when I have friends in town who want to see the tourist spots,” Aguanunu said. “However, now I will definitely be making more trips this way in the summer. This park brings a great asset to the area that was missing.”
O’Neill said the Grant Park Conservancy has more ideas planned for the South Loop, including making a large organic vegetable garden along Michigan Avenue and connecting the south corner of Grant Park to the museum field in a more interesting way—with ideas of adding art work, sculptures and bike and walking paths to the area.