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Prospect Park Fishing For Funds For New Ice Rinks

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Two new ice skating rinks may replace Prospect Park’s aged Wollman Rink by 2010. Tupper Thomas, the Prospect Park administrator, told members of Community Board 14, gathered at the board office, 810 East 16th Street, for the January meeting of the board’s Community Environment Committee, that the Prospect Park Alliance (PPA) has been raising funds for the costly endeavor, and is now in a push to get the remaining money necessary from private sources and from New York State to create the park’s Lakeside Center. The project, said Thomas, is estimated to cost $35 million. So far, she said, PPA has gotten funding commitments adding up to about $23 million, chiefly from the City Council, the mayor and the borough president, though the efforts of two local Representatives, Major Owens and Anthony Weiner, have also brought in close to $1 million, she said. The remainder of the funding, said Thomas, will be raised through private funding, with a major campaign to that end upcoming. According to Thomas, the new rinks would be located on the site of the present parking lot. “The first phase will be to take the parking lot area and figure out how we can fit into that area two rinks,” she said. “We are just beginning the design process,” Thomas told the assembled board members. One of the rinks, she said, would be a, “Standard hockey-size, that will have some sort of covering over it to protect it from the elements.” The rink could be used, as well, for events, Thomas noted. The second rink, said Thomas, would be smaller, “More of a leisure skating rink. On a Saturday or Sunday, we could open both of them to the public. We could use one or the other for private things, and still have public ice more often than we do now.” The project, Thomas stressed, “Will be a whole restoration of this area, the lake edge with the island that used to be here.” While it used to be one of the park’s most beautiful areas, she said, now it is underutilized. “Nobody wants to go here because it looks out on an empty skating rink. One of the great things we will be doing is bringing back a lot of the lake.” The goal, Thomas added, is to promote year-round use of the area. “Hopefully, the outdoor, uncovered rink could be something with water play, fun, a nice place to come with your kids and get yourself a sandwich,” she noted. The other, covered rink could serve in summer as a “covered picnic ground, so you could actually have it for your church social or your PTA party, during the summer months. People have huge reunions in Prospect Park, and if it’s raining, there’s no place to go.” The Picnic House, the other alternative, costs, said Thomas, “Something like $4,000” to rent for a special event. For upkeep of the Lakeside Center, Thomas said that PPA was, “Looking at the possibility of a catering facility up above that and looking out, that could also help raise money to maintain the rinks. One of the main things we have to look at is sustainabi­lity,” she stressed. Will the project require the park’s skating facility to be closed? “I hope to have the rink closed for maybe one season,” replied Thomas. Nonetheless, the board’s Chairperson, Alvin Berk, cautioned Thomas about closing the rink even for a single season. “In terms of maintaining the clientele,” he said, “anything you could do to keep one of the rinks remaining in service would be very helpful. You could lose a whole generation of children.” “The whole business plan for the project,” she rejoined, “depends on not losing the clientele we’ve built up over the years.” Berk also cautioned Thomas to make sure that the new rinks are not overly costly for skaters. “One of the great things about the Kate Wollman Rink at Prospect Park is its democratic quality,” he emphasized. “It’s important that in constructing a financial plan that you not construct a price structure that would eliminate the democratic quality.” Thomas assured Berk that was her intention. She noted that she has already said, “That I still want it to be the cheapest of the rinks in New York.” Admission to the rink is currently $5.00 per person, $3.00 per child, with skate rental an additional $5.00. Even though the new rinks would be built on the current parking lot, there will still be parking available at the rink, said Thomas. “We are going to keep a minimum of at least 200 spaces,” she told her listeners. “The parking lot was put in by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1867 because it was a carriage concourse, and they parked their carriages there. It is also important because the Police Department uses it in emergencies.”

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