Join our newsletter for deals and moreCaret
Hero Image

About Us

Mission

Navy Pier is the People’s Pier, Chicago’s lakefront treasure, welcoming all and offering dynamic and eclectic experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder.

Values

Excellence
We strive to offer:

  • Exceptional service to our guests and partners
  • An authentic Chicago experience
  • An architecturally stunning environment offering access to extraordinary vistas of the lake, land and skyline

Integrity
We aspire to:

  • Deliver high-quality experiences, cultural and educational programs and guest services
  • Cultivate a skilled, talented and motivated team
  • Best-in-class nonprofit operating standards and financial accountability

Inclusion
We aim to:

  • Embrace and celebrate a diverse community and workforce
  • Attract dynamic, inventive partners and collaborators
  • Offer affordable options and opportunities for engagement to all

Stewardship
We endeavor to:

  • Celebrate the Pier’s rich history rooted in the Burnham Plan of Chicago
  • Manage our assets and environmental resources with foresight and prudence
  • Engage donors and other stakeholders in our efforts

About Navy Pier, Inc.

Navy Pier, Inc. (NPI) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established in 2011 to maintain Navy Pier and oversee the redevelopment of one of the most important civic landmarks in the United States and the top-visited leisure destination in the Midwest. Looking ahead to Navy Pier’s 100th anniversary in 2016, NPI created The Centennial Vision, a framework for reimagining Navy Pier. Grounded in the noble principles of its founding designers, The Centennial Vision adds a visionary and contemporary lens for the future. 

NPI’s mission to be a world-class public place that celebrates and showcases the vitality of Chicago and provides for the enjoyment of Chicago-area residents and visitors year-round. NPI manages Navy Pier within a business framework that provides for its long-term financial stability.

While looking forward to what is relevant for Chicagoans today, NPI leadership is ever conscious of famed architect Daniel Burnham’s vision to transform the lakefront into attractive and useful public space for active recreation and social interaction – a source of pride and common ground that fosters a sense of community within the city’s diverse population.

NPI’s objectives for the future remain consistent with Burnham’s enduring values for the ‘People’s Pier’ to be a place where local residents and visitors from around the world come to experience the natural beauty of the lakefront and Chicago’s magnificent skyline.

Navy Pier History

Historic Navy Pier® is the #1 leisure destination in the Midwest, welcoming 9.2 million visitors annually.

Navy Pier has enjoyed a remarkable evolution. Originally designed for shipping and recreational purposes, the facility has evolved into a premiere entertainment and exposition center.

Detailing its successful rebirth as one of Chicago's most important historical landmarks, the following timeline illustrates the challenges and changes faced by Navy Pier over the years. Our history continues to take shape as we build excitement and reimagine Navy Pier for our second century. 

Historical Images

1909

  • Daniel Burnham creates the "Master Plan of Chicago" which originally envisioned five piers. Eventually, only one 1.5 mile long recreational pier with freight and passenger ship docking facilities was commissioned to be built near the mouth of the Chicago River.

1914

  • Construction begins under the direction of the nationally known architect Charles Sumner Frost. Completed in two years, construction of the Pier costs $4.5 million.

1916

  • Municipal Pier opens to the public. It is the only pier to combine the business of shipping with the pleasure of public entertainment.

1917–1918

  • When the U.S. enters World War I, the Pier houses several regiments of soldiers, Red Cross and Home Defense units as well as a barracks for recruits.

1918–1921

  • The Pier boasts its own streetcar line, theater, restaurants and an emergency hospital.

1921–1922

  • The Pier enters its "golden age" of recreational and cultural activity as Chicago Mayor William H. Thompson's "Pageants of Progress" draw nearly a million visitors during 15 days of events.

1926

  • The Chicago Federation of Labor establishes its pioneer radio station and transmission for WCFL, "the voice of labor," in the north tower.

1927

  • Municipal Pier is officially renamed Navy Pier as a tribute to Navy personnel who served during World War I.

1929

  • The Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression, as well as the increased use of automobiles resulted in the decline of freight and passenger ship activity. During the 1930's, the Pier housed various New Deal agencies.

1930–1940

  • Navy Pier's freight and passenger traffic declines with the onset of the Great Depression, though cultural and recreational use continues.

1933

  • Century of Progress Exposition (World's Fair) on the lakefront draws 1,500 conventions and 1.5 million visitors.

1942

  • Pilot training orientation commenced at Navy Pier. Eventually, 15,000 pilots were qualified for military service, including a young airman named George H.W. Bush, the future President of the United States. As many as 200 WWII planes still rest at the bottom of Lake Michigan as a result of accidents during training.

1945

  • The Navy operated various training programs at Navy Pier throughout the war. Those enrolled often became aviation machinist's mate, metal smiths or diesel engine technicians. By the time training ceased in July 1946, some sixty thousand people—including sailors from Great Britain, Canada, Brazil and Peru—were trained at Navy Pier.

1946

  • The Navy moves out and the University of Illinois takes up residence, transforming the facility into a two-year undergraduate branch campus that remains in existence until 1965. The Navy's main mess hall becomes a giant library considered "the largest reading room" in Illinois.

1950—1960

  • The Pier handles 12-16 huge trade shows/exhibits and social events annually. Until McCormick Place opens in 1960, all trade shows in Chicago are held either on Navy Pier or at the Union Stockyards Amphitheater.

1959

  • The Pier was widened by 100 feet with the construction of the South Dock. At its peak in 1964, Navy Pier handled 250 overseas vessels annually and was one of the greatest inland ports in the world.

1960

  • The city's first Holiday Folk Fest is held at the Pier, featuring food and products from countries represented by Chicago's many ethnic groups.

1965

  • The University of Illinois moves from Navy Pier to its new Circle Campus, just west of the city.

1967

  • Fire destroyed the original McCormick Place. Navy Pier helped keep many conventions and trade shows in Chicago for the four years it took to rebuild McCormick Place.

1971—1975

  • After McCormick Place re-opened, Navy Pier falls into disuse.

1976

  • The spectacular Grand Ballroom undergoes a renovation as part of the city's observance of the country's Bicentennial Celebration.

1977

  • City Hall designated Navy Pier as a Chicago Landmark.

1978–1982

  • Navy Pier hosts ChicagoFest, drawing millions of visitors with music, food and entertainment.

1989

  • The Illinois General Assembly created the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) and designated it to manage and operate both McCormick Place and Navy Pier. The Authority moved swiftly to redesign Navy Pier into one of the country's most unique exposition and recreation facilities.

1994

  • As part of the $150 million Navy Pier redevelopment project, improvements are made to nearly every aspect of the Pier. The 1,500-seat outdoor Skyline Stage opens to the public.

July 12, 1995

  • The newly renovated Navy Pier re-opened, featuring a mix of year-round entertainment, shops, restaurants, attractions and exhibition facilities.

1996

  • Navy Pier celebrates its first anniversary season.

1997

  • Navy Pier officials and the Shakespeare Repertory Theater announce plans to build Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier. Additionally, construction is completed on a new six-story parking garage, bringing the number of on-site parking spots to 1,740. Navy Pier draws record attendance with an estimated seven million visitors between July 1996 and June 1997.

1998

  • Navy Pier hosts the City of Chicago's first-ever Tall Ships festival.

1999

  • Navy Pier opens its newest attraction, Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Modeled after London's Swan Theatre, it features an intimate 525-seat courtyard-style theater with unequaled views of the lakefront, an English-style pub, a studio theater, a bookstore, a Teacher's Resource Center and an English Garden.

2000

  • The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows debuts at Navy Pier. It is the first museum in the United States dedicated solely to stained glass windows. This permanent display of 150 stained glass windows is housed in an 800-ft.-long series of galleries along the lower level terraces of Festival Hall, showcased both secular and religious windows divided by artistic theme into four categories: Victorian, Prairie, Modern and Contemporary.

2005

  • Navy Pier celebrated the 10th anniversary of its re-opening, with a special ceremony in which city and state leaders, VIP guests and MPEA officials thank the estimated 76 million guests who have visited the site during the past decade. The tribute ceremony culminated with performances by the renowned South Shore Drill Team, a fly-over by the Lima Lima Air Team and the introduction of a new Navy Pier mascot, named Patch the Pirate Dog.

2006

  • Navy Pier hosts Cirque Shanghai, a crowd-pleasing performance of Chinese acrobats and contortionists that draws tens of thousands of visitors to the Pepsi® Skyline Stage.
  • Navy Pier again plays host to the popular Tall Ships Chicago 2006 event. Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans board majestic maritime sailing vessels docked at Navy Pier and along the Chicago River.

2007

  • Navy Pier is featured in Crain's Chicago Business as the #1 Tourist attraction in Chicago.
  • Navy Pier is named in Midwest Living Magazine as the #1 location in Illinois to take an out-of-town guest.
  • In September, the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel reached a significant milestone: its 10 millionth rider. Ronald McDonald and Patch the Pirate Dog, Navy Pier's mascot, were on hand to award an array of prizes to the lucky rider.

2008

  • Navy Pier featured in the March/April Issue of West Suburban Living as Chicago Area's #1 Must-Go Place to take out-of-town guests.
  • Navy Pier is honored by Illinois Meetings & Events Magazine with the "Best Of" Award in the category of Chicago Attractions.
  • In July, Navy Pier hosts the Hollywood-style red carpet movie premiere of "The Dark Knight". Scenes from the movie were filmed at Navy Pier. Navy Pier IMAX Theatre hosts 75+ hours of continuous screenings during the film's opening weekend.
  • Navy Pier's Chicago Shakespeare Theater wins the 2008 Tony Award for Best Regional Theater in the country.

2009

  • Three major tenants joined the Navy Pier family, providing exciting new dining options for our customers—Harry Caray's Tavern at Navy Pier, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, and Jamba Juice.

2010

  • Navy Pier is the exclusive host for Pepsi® Tall Ships Chicago 2010. This maritime festival features the largest gathering of tall ships ever at Navy Pier and attracts 850,000 attendees, more than any event in Navy Pier history.
  • Navy Pier's Winter WonderFest, one of Chicago's most popular holiday festivals, marks its 10th anniversary.
  • MPEA commissioned a study by Urban Land Institute (ULI)—a nationally-respected, 501© (3) non-profit research and education organization—and instructed its panel of experts to re-imagine Navy Pier's future based upon realistic assumptions about the availability of public and private capital. On November 10, 2010, ULI released its report, which recommended a balance between public uses of Navy Pier, with commercial and cultural attractions, in order to maintain its purpose as "the People's Pier."
  • On December 31, 2010, MPEA Trustee recommended a new governance structure to the Governor and Illinois General Assembly, as required by MPEA reform legislation enacted last spring. The recommendation called for Navy Pier to be leased to a newly formed not-for-profit corporation—Navy Pier Inc.—that would separately govern and manage the Pier. Thirteen Chicago civic leaders would serve on the corporation's first board of directors.

2011

  • MPEA enters into a long-term lease with Navy Pier, Inc. (NPI), the not-for-profit established to maintain Navy Pier as a historic public landmark and oversee its redevelopment.
  • NPI unveils The Centennial Vision, a new redevelopment framework that reimagines Navy Pier as a world-class attraction with dramatic, engaging public spaces and expanded entertainment, dining and retail options to draw more year-round and adult visitors. As part of The Centennial Vision, NPI announces that it will launch an international search for design teams to submit creative ideas for the Pier’s public areas or “Pierscape.”
  • The free public art exhibition and the largest outdoor installation of its kind in the country, Navy Pier Walk returns to Navy Pier featuring sculptures of various sizes, designs and materials.

2012

  • Over two days the five “Pierscape” design team finalists present their visions for a reimagined Navy Pier in public presentations at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The finalists’ complete design proposals were on display in public exhibition at Chicago Architecture Foundation from February through mid-May. In March, the NPI Board announces that acclaimed landscape architecture and urban design firm James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) has been selected to reimagine Navy Pier’s public spaces.
  • Chicago Children’s Museum extends its stay at Navy Pier and signs a 90-year lease agreement.
  • Outdoor art exhibition Navy Pier Walk is renamed BIGart at Navy Pier and returns in partnership with the Gagosian Gallery to display a signature Roy Lichtenstein sculpture Brushstroke Group as well as Monochrome II Chicago, an installation incorporating aluminum boats and wire cable to form a bursting web-like structure, by American sculptor and artist in residence Nancy Rubins.

2013

  • NPI unveils details of the design for redevelopment of a bolder, greener, more contemporary Pier.
  • Chicagoan and Navy Pier’s own Pier Park operations manager, Clinton Shepherd, becomes GUINESS WORLD RECORDS® holder for the longest marathon on a fairground or theme park attraction by riding the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel for 48 hours 8 minutes 25 seconds with no sleep on May 17–19.
  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Navy Pier and MPEA announce Elevate Chicago, a $1.1 billion tourism and tradeshow infrastructure redevelopment program that will create thousands of new jobs and infuse hundreds of millions of dollars in local economic growth.
  • In the fall of 2013, construction begins at Navy Pier on Pierscape, part of Phase I in The Centennial Vision

2014

  • The Polk Bros Foundation announces a $20 million legacy gift in honor of the Polk Family supporting Navy Pier’s vision to better serve Chicago. Navy Pier’s 13-acre green front door is renamed Polk Bros Park in recognition of their contribution. A new design for the Park is unveiled, including a graceful new promenade, an expansive plaza anchored by an interactive fountain and two new performance lawns and stages.
  • Navy Pier engages Chicago’s performing arts community and accessibility leaders on informing the design of new performance spaces in Polk Bros Park, translating to a better universal experience for all users, including performers, families and differently-abled people.
  • An innovative stormwater management system is installed along the Pier’s South Dock to help prevent flooding and improve water quality. Innovative tree tubs built into the Dock are funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

2015

  • With the physical transformation well underway, Navy Pier begins to redefine its future vision and mission as a cultural institution and launches a comprehensive planning process to create a master plan for robust arts and discovery programming that will help the Pier become a cultural force.
  • 30,000 people ride the iconic Ferris wheel for the last time before it is removed to make room for a new wheel. The wheel had nearly 17 million riders since it opened in 1995.

2016

  • The Centennial Wheel opens on May 27, standing 50 feet taller than the previous wheel and featuring 42 climate-controlled gondolas from which to enjoy breathtaking views. Today, it stands among the six tallest wheels in the country.
  • A new food experience brings an elevated and flavorful dining experience to the Pier focused on local restaurants and fare. It includes a newly created dining area with waterfront views and social seating.
  • Like the Spanish Steps in Rome, the Wave Wall stairs are a natural gathering place. Featuring dramatic curves and seamlessly connecting the South Dock to Pier Park, the stairs serve as both a beautiful focal point and an impromptu amphitheater.
  • Polk Bros Park Fountain & Plaza turns Navy Pier’s front entrance into a destination in its own right. A dramatic fountain anchors the Park, evoking interest and wonder by mimicking the movements of waves, schools of fish and flocks of birds through hundreds of programmable jets.
  • With shady trees, grasses, and benches, the renovated pathways of the South dock transform what was once a cramped commercial gauntlet into an airy boulevard, perfect for walking, sitting, or just soaking up sunshine.
  • As the Pier expands, so will the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. A new 950-seat house will replace the Skyline Stage and compliment the theater’s existing spaces, while accommodating audiences of all sizes for bigger, more ambitious performances with its new convertible/scalable seating.
  • Boasting over 200 rooms and unparalleled views of the lake and skyline, the new hotel will be part of the bold reimagining of the Pier under the Centennial Vision, making Navy Pier not just an exciting place to visit, but an incredible place to stay.
  • The Centennial Wheel takes its inaugural spin on May 27th. Standing 50 feet taller than the previous wheel and featuring 42 climate-controlled gondolas from which to enjoy breathtaking views year round, it’s one of the six tallest wheels in the country.
  • 100 non-profits are invited to share free rides on the brand new Centennial Wheel with the communities they serve in celebration of the Pier’s 100th anniversary.
  • For the first time ever, an America’s Cup race is held on fresh water, with Chicago selected to be the stage. A record-breaking crowd of over 200,000 people watches this celebrated sailing race from Navy Pier as competitors whip up and down the coast, fighting for position in a pulse-pounding finale dubbed “Super Sunday.”
  • On June 25th, Navy Pier hosts Chicago’s first pride celebration outside of the Lakeview neighborhood with family-friendly entertainment and Chicago-centric sections of the AIDS memorial quilt on display.
  • After an intense 18 month planning process with Dickerson Global Advisors and conversations with artists like Jamie Bennett on how to connect communities through art and self-expression, Navy Pier debuts brand new arts, cultural and community programing to celebrate Chicago’s diversity. From the dazzling choreography of the Chicago Dancing Festival to the extraordinary rising stars of Chicago Beatbox LTD, there’s never been more to experience at Navy Pier.
  • Navy Pier throws the celebration of a century, giving back to guests with free, fun activities and a birthday cake as big as the occasion. When it comes time to blow out the candles, the Pier makes the wishes of Chicagoans come true with a grand fireworks finale that lights up smiles across the city.
  • Polk Bros Fountain & Plaza turns Navy Pier’s front entrance into a destination in its own right. A dramatic fountain anchors the Park, evoking interest and wonder by mimicking the movements of waves, schools of fish and flocks of birds through hundreds of programmable jets.
  • The second phase of the Centennial Vision redevelopment plan is approved, clearing the way for the construction of a hotel, the addition of an elevated walkway and water feature to the East End Plaza, a welcome pavilion and seasonal ice rink in Polk Bros Park and more.
  • To reflect the Pier’s ever-evolving role, a new mission statement is created, anchoring the Pier as “The People’s Pier” and “Chicago’s lakefront treasure,” while committing to be “welcoming of all and offering dynamic and eclectic experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder.” The Pier announces four values as well, keeping excellence, inclusion, integrity and stewardship at the forefront of everything they do.
  • Navy Pier is awarded with the prestigious SITES Gold certification in recognition of the Pier’s sophisticated level of sustainability. SITES certification takes water use, soils, vegetation, material selection, human health, construction, maintenance and innovative design into account to determine and recognize the most sustainable landscapes in the world.
  • As a part of the Pier’s expanded commitment to Arts and Culture programming, SOFA and EXPO return Navy Pier’s exhibition halls. Showcasing exceptional three-dimensional and contemporary artworks respectively, these shows bring the latest in the international creative culture to the People’s Pier.
  • As a part of the Fifth Third Bank Centennial Celebration, Navy Pier welcomes the return of the Tall Ships festival. Guests can view, board and sail on more than 15 vessels, including the Viking Ship Draken Harald Hårfagre and El Galeon Andalucia, a 170-foot replica of a real 16th century Spanish Galleon.
  • WTTW marks the Centennial of the People’s Pier with an hour-long documentary. The film follows Geoffrey Baer as he highlights the evolution of the Pier, from mixed-use shipping center to modern lakefront paradise.
  • After the rally downtown, Navy Pier celebrates the Cubs’ historic World Series victory by putting the Cubs logo on the Centennial Wheel and offers discounted rides all day long. Thousands come to “Ride the W.”
  • Navy Pier marks the holidays with its first ever tree lighting ceremony in the new Polk Bros Park. Guests enjoy carol singers, free hot cocoa and even a visit from Santa.
Board of Directors

William J. Brodsky
Chairman, NPI Board

Chairman of the Board
CBOE Holdings Inc.

Norman R. Bobins
Vice Chairman of the Board
The PrivateBank

Michelle Collins
Secretary, NPI Board
President
Cambium LLC

Sarah Garvey
Treasurer, NPI Board
Former Chairman
Shedd Aquarium and NPI

Lisa Konik Aronin
Board Member
Boys & Girls Club

Bruce R. Bachmann
Director
Polk Bros Foundation

Berle Blitstein
CEO
Crown Packaging International

Douglas R. Brown
Civic Leader

Devon Bruce
Attorney
Powers, Rogers & Smith, P.C.

John Bucksbaum
CEO
Bucksbaum Retail Properties LLP

Gery Chico
Attorney
Chico & Nunes PC

Lew Collens
President Emeritus, Illinois Institute of Technology
Senior Advisor, Dobrusin Associates

Nora Daley
Chairman
Cultural Advisory Council

Patrick F. Daly
CEO
The Daly Group

Marilynn K. Gardner
Ex-Officio, NPI Board

President & CEO
Navy Pier, Inc.  

Brett Hart
Ex-Officio, NPI Board

Executive Vice President and General Counsel
United Continental Holdings

Lori Healey
Ex-Officio, NPI Board
CEO
MPEA

Roger J. Kiley, Jr.
Ex-Officio, NPI Board
Attorney
Roger J. Kiley, Jr. Law

Donna LaPietra
Executive Producer
Kurtis Productions

Charles R. Matthews
President
Peoples Gas

Katie McClain
NPI Board
Senior Manager
Invenergy LLC

Michael O’Rourke
President
Signature Bank

Terry Peterson
Chairman
Chicago Transit Authority           

Jorge Ramirez
President
Chicago Federation of Labor

James Reilly
NPI Board
Former CEO
MPEA   

Sandy Reynolds
Senior Vice President
IntraLink Global               

John Schmidt
Partner
Mayer Brown

Jennifer Steans
President & CEO
Financial Investments Corporation

Michael Toolis
Principal
Stantec Architecture

Sustainability
NPI has incorporated sustainable infrastructure into its redevelopment design and created a 30-year Sustainability Master Plan to help integrate sustainable best practices into our daily operations. For more information about green partnerships, plans and progress, click here.
Doing Business at Navy Pier
Navy Pier, Inc. through Navy Pier’s Department of Procurement Services, contracts with various vendors providing a wide range of services from, but not limited to, landscaping, advertising, accounting services, construction and electrical. If you would like to be included within NPI’s vendor directory, please complete our on-line vendor application at navypier.diversitycompliance.com. This on-line application automates the process and allow vendors to submit their information and documents electronically. Upon acceptance by Navy Pier’s Procurement Department, vendors will be able to self-manage their company information.

If you want to know what business opportunities are available, please visit the Navy Pier website regarding contracting opportunities. NPI encourages minority and women-owned enterprises to seek business opportunities at Navy Pier. Find more information here.

Share This Page

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Sponsored

Pepsi
American Airlines