Sunday’s skating in Wollman Rink in Prospect Park was bittersweet — not just because it was the last day of the season, but because there won’t be any ice time at all for the next two years.
Yes, two new and improved rinks are being built as part of the larger overhaul of the lakeside — but would-be Evan Lysaceks bemoaned the loss of ice skating for two seasons in the heart of Brooklyn.
“Two years without a rink is a real problem,” said Mark Pennell, who brought his two kids to the rink. “Building a new one is a great thing, but kids grow up fast.”
The current rink, which opened in 1961 during Robert Moses’s reign as Parks Commissioner, is dilapidated and well past its lifespan, according to industry standards.
The good news is that planned renovations include two rinks that will accommodate ice skaters for five months instead of four — and will serve as a roller skating area during warmer seasons.
“The park is for a wide variety of people, so if it can offer a wider variety of activities, that’s for the better,” said Alvin McDonald, who was at the rink with his 10-year-old son. “Roller-skating complements ice-skating, so it’s a good idea.”
Skaters did express skepticism about the two-year construction timetable, as well as the need to close the current rink while the project is implemented.
“Take everything else down!” pleaded Pennell. “The lockers, the bathrooms, the concessions — just leave the ice! Or just move the thing.”
But park officials say that budget constraints made an interim rink impossible.
“There was some preliminary research done into [an interim rink],” said Prospect Park spokesman Eugene Patron. “But it seems that it is not economically viable — the footprint of building a temporary rink requires several buildings to support it, such as bathrooms, chillers and a rental facility, making it difficult to find a suitable location in Prospect Park.
“Temporary rinks seem to work best in places with constant, high-volume traffic and tourists, like Bryant Park,” he added.
Some skaters said they could cope with the inconvenience of no skating, provided the park stuck to its constructions plans.
“It’s a shame it won’t be open, but we can go to Floyd Bennett Field or Battery Park [to skate],” said Holly Kilpatrick, who was at the rink with her 7-year-old daughter. “I just hope it stays on schedule.”
Once completed, the land where Wollman Rink is will be converted into a green area that looks towards an island that will serve as a natural area reserved for animals.
Patron said that given a little luck, the rink could reopen in one year, but park officials were saying two seasons to avoid disappointment.
“Architects and construction planners say this should last two seasons at the most,” he said.