By Stephen Witt
Skating enthusiasts will be taking slap shots and doing figure 8’s within three years at two brand-new ice skating rinks in Prospect Park. Word leaked out that city officials plan to come to the park February 20 to announce they have chosen an architect for the project, dubbed the Lakeside Center. “We’re so excited that the plans for the park’s new Lakeside Center are moving closer to realization,” said Tupper Thomas, president of the Prospect Park Alliance (PPA) and the Prospect Park Administrator. “Not only will people get to enjoy a new place to skate in Prospect Park, but the lakefront will be restored so there will be new, lovely spots to picnic and even better opportunities for bird watching,” she added. Thomas also gave special thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the Brooklyn delegation of the council, as well as Rep. Anthony Weiner. According to PPA spokesperson Eugene Patron, Bloomberg’s office, Markowitz’s office and the City Council each put in $7.5 million for the project and Weiner received just under $1 million in federal funds to bring a total $25 million allocation. The total project including restoration of the lakefront near the rink is expected to cost about $37 million, he said. The preliminary plans call for a two-rink facility to accommodate the large number of hockey players, figure skaters and those who want to enjoy free skating, Patron said. Patron said construction of the rinks will occur on the parking lot footprint next to the Kate Wollman Rink. When it nears completion, the Wollman Rink will be dismantled, he said. The indoor part of the Lakeside Center will also have some community meeting areas as well as areas for lockers, skate rentals and concessions, he said. “The Wollman Rink was built and finished in 1961 and was originally built into the lake in what was then called Music Island and all that was destroyed,” Patron said. “People used to come on nice days and see musicians who used to row out to the island,” he added. Patron said the total plan calls for the restoration of Music Island and the lakefront in bringing back the park’s architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s original vision. Some of the still needed funds might be raised by using the rink platform when not in season for special events, much as they do at the rink in Central Park, he said. Patron said about 100,000 people skate at the Wollman Rink, which is outdoors annually during the winter season, generally from Thanksgiving to mid-March. There are [freezing] pipes but the rink is way past its life expectancy of 20 years and each year it’s harder to get it up and running,” he said. Patron said they hope to have a shovel in the ground this year and completion of the project in 2010.