Before Central Park was completed in the 1870s, there was a lake in the park, connected to the City's water system, that was used for skating. On October 13, 1857 the Board of Commissioners of Central Park offered prizes of four hundred to two thousand dollars for the four best proposals for "laying out the park." Contest entries came from both professional and amateur designers. First prize went to plan 33, the "Greensward" plan, submitted by the park's superintendent, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the English-born architect Calvert Vaux. On this plan the lake was labeled "skating pond". In order to ensure proper skating conditions, the Lake was drained to a level that eased the freezing of ice each year.
The world's first artificial ice rink was made in London in December 1841. But it wasn't made from frozen water: the means to freeze large amounts of liquid simply didn't exist at the time.
The world's first mechanically frozen ice rink was the Glaciarium, opened by John Gamgee in a tent in a small building just off the Kings Road in Chelsea, London, on 7 January 1876.
The first indoor rink in New York City with a large ice surface of 20,000 square feet for ice skating was open in 1894 in Ice Palace at Lexington and 107th Street. This was the first of three artificial ice rinks that were operating in New York City during the mid-1890’s.
Two years later st. Nicholas Rink, the home of the St. Nicholas Hockey Club of the American Amateur Hockey League, was open on the northeast corner of 66th Street and Columbus Avenue. The builders included Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Jacob Astor.
In 1949, philanthropist Kate Wollman donated funds for a new kind of "artificial rink" to be built in Central Park. Ms. Wollman gave $600,000 toward the construction of Wollman Rink as a memorial to her parents, Mr. J. Wollman and Mrs. Bettie Wollman, and her four brothers.
The rink has been a success from the day it opened – over 300,000 skaters glided across the ice in its first year of operation. For the next 30 years Wollman Memorial Rink was one of New York's most picturesque seasonal joys. This rink has been included as a backdrop for numerous NYC movies, including “Serendipity” and “Love Story.”
The rink was closed in 1980 for a proposed two years of renovations. The renovations were suppose to take 2.5 years, but 6 years later the rink was still in disrepair. The project was delayed repeatedly by errors in design and planning, and in 1986 it was halted because of leaks in its new refrigeration system. The rink was an emblem of civic dysfunction and the city seemingly had no idea how fix it.
In June 1986 the 39-year-old Donald Trump made an offer to Mayor Ed Koch to rebuild the Wollman Memorial Skating Rink in Central Park at the city's expense. He brashly offered to reopen the rink before Christmas. “If Koch doesn’t like this offer,” Trump said, “then let him have the same people who have built it for the last six years do it for the next six years.”
Donald Trump said in an interview with the Times, "I don't want my name attached to losers. So far the Wollman Rink has been one of the great losers. I'll make it a winner.''
The offer was accepted and Trump finished the job in just four months at a final cost 25% below the budget. “I guess it says a lot about the city,” Trump said at the grand opening of the Wollman Rink, “but I don’t have to say what it says.”
Last week, February 12 2018, President Donald Trump mentioned his successful Wollman Rink renovation from 1986 at a press conference for his proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
"It's really no different" than roads or bridges, he said of fixing the rink. A key feature of Trump's proposed infrastructure plan is a reduction of regulatory red tape, streamlining projects typically given a timeline of five to 10 years down to two.
The Wollman Rink is open for skating from late October to early April weather permitting . The price for the skating is high: $19( weekend) plus $9 for rent plus $5 for the locker. And meanwhile there is a place in Central Park where you can skate absolutely free if you have your own skates! Located on the East Side between 72nd and 75th Streets, Conservatory Water is open for free ice skating when conditions permit and the ice is consistently at least six inches thick.