11 Fun Facts To Celebrate Millenium Park’s Birthday

Happy 11th birthday Millenium Park (and happy 15th to this Bean visitor).

Happy 11th birthday Millenium Park (and happy 15th to this Bean visitor).

It’s a meeting place, a concert venue, an ice rink, and a photo backdrop for wedding parties and quinceañeras. It is, of course, Millenium Park, which today celebrates it’s 11th birthday. In lieu of 11 candles, here are 11 fun facts about the park.

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate

1. Cloud GateCloud Gate (“The Bean”) was inspired by liquid mercury.

New Eastside Chicago skyline with Millennium Park and Grant Park

2. Building the park wasn’t cheap, and certainly more expensive than originally planned. The proposed budget was $150 million, but the final cost was $475 million. Chicago taxpayers and private donors paid the tab. The latter picked up about half of the cost overruns.

Long before Sox Park, the White Stockings played ball at what is now Millenium Park.

Long before Sox Park, the White Stockings played ball at what is now Millenium Park.

3. The site of Millenium Park was a baseball field in 1871, and was home to the Chicago White Stockings, until it was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.

4. When you walk through Millenium Park, you’re standing on a roof—in fact, its one of the largest green roofs in the world, constructed on top of a railroad yard and parking garages.

Millennium Park under construction

Cloud Gate

5. The Excelon Pavilions on Madison Street are four structures that generate solar energy and provide enough juice to power 14 Chicago homes.

6. The Pritzker Pavilion was classified by the city as a “bandshell” to avoid a legal hurdle. That’s because a building of its height would exceed the maximum allowed in Grant Park.

Even zombies love Millenium Park.

Even zombies love Millenium Park.

7. Artist Anish Kapoor’s centerpiece sculpture Cloud Gate consists of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, polished to hide the seams.

Model of Cloud Gate

Model of Cloud Gate

8. Some construction experts questioned whether the Cloud Gate design could even be implemented, and like the park itself, it fell behind schedule.


Crown Fountain

9. The video sculpture Crown Fountain is made out of black granite and uses light-emitting diodes to display images.

10. The metallic, curvy BP Pedestrian Bridge over Columbus Drive connecting Millennium Park to Maggie Daley Park was designed by Frank Gehry (as was the adjoining Pritzker Pavilion).

Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park

Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park

11. The BP Pedestrian Bridge’s design does more than just look striking—it meets highway standards to manage heavy loads. It also offers a noise barrier to block honking horns and traffic sounds.

Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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