Rink donation not so dinky

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The $60-million renovation of Prospect Park’s rundown skating rink into a multi-purpose, year-round venue took a small step closer to reality last week, thanks to a private donation of $1.5 million — the first outside grant for the ambitious project.

Construction of the new “Lakeside Center” isn’t slated to start until next year, but when it is finished, the current Wollman rink will give way to two state-of-the-art facilities that can host a events, concerts and educational programs.

And, of course, provide hours of skating.

“If Prospect Park is the heart of Brooklyn, then the heart of Prospect Park is made of ice,” said Borough President Markowitz.

The $60-million renovation is about average for an undertaking of this kind, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said.

But there’s nothing average about this project, he added: “This will be the greatest recreation facility in Brooklyn when it’s finished.”

And park officials are certain it will be, despite the fact that only $23 million of the $60-million cost has been allocated.

“We’re in the design phase now,” which is fully funded, said Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Eugene Patron, who added that park officials were confident that Brooklyn’s elected officials would soon be able to secure funding for the construction phase.

The Alliance would also be hitting up the private sector for contributions — Independence Community Foundation’s $1.5 million is the first major private grant to the project.

The Wollman Rink was built in 1961. Some believe that the rink did severe damage to Olmsted and Vaux’s pristine design of Prospect Park, but much of the area’s landscape will be returned to its original appearance as part of the Lakeside Center project.

To celebrate the Independence Community Foundation grant, kids of all ages got to use the skating rink for free all day on Friday.

Alliance President Tupper Thomas dubbed it, get this, “Independence Day.”

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