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Big Plans For Grant Park's Daley Bicentennial Plaza

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Richard J. Daley Bicentennial Plaza in the northeast corner of Grant Park is about to get a facelift.

As CBS 2's Kris Habermehl reports, everyone knows the ice rink, the Cloud Gate or "Bean" sculpture and the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. But just to the east across Columbus Drive, Daley Bicentennial Plaza is more obscure, with an older ice rink, tennis courts, and a low-slung field house that is tucked under Randolph Drive.

While there would be no mistaking Millennium Park, the nearly blank page for Daley Bicentennial Plaza on shows a picture of the fountain in Daley Plaza, several blocks away at 50 W. Washington St. in the middle of the Loop.

But now, the Chicago Sun-Times reports the Chicago Park District is set to unveil a multimillion-dollar plan for the plaza on Wednesday evening at the Farimont Chicago Millennium Park, 200 N. Columbus Dr.

The Park District brought in a New York design team that has prepared a series of plans for the plaza. They reflect calls from neighbors for exercise and picnic spaces and areas to bring children, the Sun-Times reported.

The Sun-Times reports the plan for the plaza includes lot of green space among the 20 acres, as well as an ice skating "ribbon" that would be the length of two laps around the current elliptical rink. The ice ribbon might stretch around tree groves, and a hot chocolate stand, the newspaper reported.

During the summer, the ribbon could be turned into a walking or exercise path, flanked by climbing walls and playground towers for large motor development, the Sun-Times reported.

New hills will also be constructed, the newspaper reported.

Plans to overhaul the park, which extends south to Monroe Drive, are moving forward because it has to be dug up to fix a leaky roof above an underground parking garage, the Sun-Times reported.

Previously, Daley Bicentennial Plaza was selected as the site for a new Chicago Children's Museum. In 2008, the City Council approved the controversial $100 million plan for to bring the museum to the plaza, over the objections of Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

Mayor Richard M. Daley was a strong backer of the move.

The vote came after five redesigns for the museum, the last of which called for it to be built mostly underground.

Nonetheless, the vote set the stage for a court fight over 172 years of legal protections -- affirmed by four Illinois Supreme Court rulings -- that have kept Grant Park "forever open, clear and free," as civic leader Montgomery Ward sought.

And ultimately, the point became moot. While museum spokeswoman Natalie Kreiger says Grant Park remains a "viable option" for the museum, she told the Chicago Tribune in October that most of the efforts are focused on the current facility at Navy Pier.

But Grant Park Advisory Council and Conservancy president Bob O'Neill said the plan for the Children's Museum in the park was "dead," the Tribune reported in October. The museum is expected instead to remain at Navy Pier.

The price tag for the plaza renovation project is not certain yet, but the Park District is looking into using some of the $35 million set aside in the deal that led to a private lease for the city's underground parking garages.

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