Ice-skating returns to Prospect Park as part of the most ambitious construction project in that institution’s history

by Industry staff • photos by Michael Moran / otto

For the largest borough in the city in terms of population, we are woefully under-equipped when it comes to ice-skating. Yes, there’s the Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island (on Coney Island Boardwalk and West 19th Street) and the Aviator Sports and Events Center just to the east of Marine Park (3159 Flatbush Avenue), and until it closed, the hundreds of thousands who live northeast of that stretch of South Brooklyn had their own version of the Wollman Rink, but that was it…and that was all.

Until now.
Opened early last year, Lakeside Prospect Park is the largest and most sweeping construction project since our 585-acre green jewel’s creation a century and a half ago. Spanning no fewer than 26 acres, the $74 million Lakeside project is now a scenic and recreational mecca, crowned in wintertime by the Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Center, which provides, at varying points on the calendar year, rollerskating, biking, boating, and a kids water play area.

Opened in December, 2013 and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (in collaboration with Prospect Park Alliance’s lead landscape architect Christian Zimmerman), the LeFrak Center consists of two rinks (one uncovered) which can be connected to allow for an expansive skating course. Low-lying buildings surrounding them shelter the Bluestone Café at the Chase Pavilion, along with an event space and a smaller snack bar, plus an outdoor eating area overlooking the skaters. Its architects were at pains to design an at once modern yet subtle facility that paid homage to the old Wollman Rink, while updating it for a new millennium.

“Constructed of rough-hewn dark Canadian granite, the Center is set into the topography of the park,” explained the architects, whom this year were given the commission to design the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. “Earth and extensive planting cover the structure, so rather than looking like a building, the Center appears to be only a series of stone retaining walls in the landscape. A regulation-size hockey rink sits beneath a 108-foot-wide and 230-foot-long canopy, the underside of which is midnight blue and incised with silver painted lines, inspired by figure skating footwork patterns. In the off season, it serves as a roller rink and event space, bringing public roller skating back to the Brooklyn community for the first time since 2007.”

When approaching the rink facility from the north side of the park, for example, it’s impossible to see the uncluttered lines of the roof at all, owing to park topography, and the selection of naturally hued granite helps further embrace a natural architectural viewpoint.

Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Center
Skating classes: January 2 through February 5, and February 6 through March 19 5-week sessions. Register by December 26th and January 30th, respectively. $140 ($125 for season pass holders). Prospect Park Alliance members receive additional discounts at Lakeside, including free skate days / prospectpark.org

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