MILLENNIUM PARK — As renovations to Millennium Park continue, both Chicagoans and tourists eagerly await the reopening of the best place to introduce your midwestern parents to conceptual sculpture art. But fans of 2000’s era mixed-media sculpture are in for a surprise when the park officially reopens as Chicago makes the decision to remove Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and replace it with twenty new pickleball courts.
Cloud Gate — affectionately known as “The Bean” to locals — was opened to the public in 2006, and immediately became a must for people looking for free things to do on dates that aren’t going very well.
“Part of our decision to remove The Bean is that everyone’s seen it by now,” said Jorge Nunez, 56, head of public outreach for the Chicago Parks District. “They’ve looked at it, touched it, maybe even kissed it. Everyone’s gotten a chance to go under it and look up into the crazy reflection while high on edibles, it’s time to move on. Out with the old and in with the new.”
The Bean will be removed from its location in Millennium Park to a scrap yard off of Pulaski, netting an impressive $1479 in bulk scrap metal for the city. The newly renovated “Cloud Gate Memorial Pickleball Courts,” will be open as soon as spring 2024, and will feature over twenty Pickleball courts where Chicagoans and tourists from around the world can play the newly popular paddle game.
“Millennium Park has always been about showcasing Chicago’s grand architecture, honoring its past while looking forward to what’s new,” said Nunez. “And that’s Pickleball. I’m a big fan, I play at least three times a week, and yes, I’m one of those people who gets way too into it and starts screaming. People are always like ‘calm down Jorge, the neighbors are going to call the cops again’ and I’m like ‘good, I’ll kick their asses at Pickleball too!’”
While the significant portion of the city’s population that’s still really into extramural sports supports the change, others have expressed concern that the renovation represents yet another public space being paved over to make playgrounds for the rich.
“First they turned Wrigleyville into a big mall, now this?” said Nancy Morton, 43, a bus driver. “Someday soon you’re not going to be able to go anywhere in Chicago that isn’t an ax-throwing bar or indoor mini-golf or some other fad sport.”
“That’s stupid. Art’s not forever. Paintings can be destroyed, sculptures melted down,” said Nunez when we shared some of the public’s concerns. “You know what you can’t kill? A people’s love for Pickleball. That’s forever. Pickleball is forever.”