By Carol Tannenhauser
It was never a bargain to skate at Wollman Rink, the iconic ice skating rink at the southern end of Central Park. When the Trump Organization ran it — before it was wrested from the former president’s company as a result of his alleged part in the January 6th insurrection — it cost a family of two adults and two children, $100 for admission and to rent skates and lockers on a weekend — and that doesn’t include food or drinks.
In November, when the rink will hopefully reopen, it’s going to get even more expensive. Some prices at Wollman Rink are set to rise under the new concessionaire chosen to renovate and run it for the next five years, according to a document compiled by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office. That hypothetical family of four will now pay $116.
Wollman Park Partners, LLC (WPP) is the entity that was awarded the Wollman contract on July 6th. It is composed of The Related Companies, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (a New Jersey-based agency that owns the New Jersey Devils and Philadephia Flyers), and Equinox, partly owned by Related. A spokesperson for WPP contends that the increases in price are limited to adults, and will pay for costly renovations and reduced or free admission for first responders, nonprofits, and low-income groups.
“This is a non-profit endeavor with the goal of upgrading Wollman Rink and making it accessible to all of New York in a way that it hasn’t been previously,” said a spokesperson for WPP. “The rink requires significant investment to modernize and upgrade. We have kept pricing the same for children and seniors, while introducing new discounts for first responders and our community partners. We have proposed a small increase in the adult admission, which will then allow us to provide free or low-cost programming to non-profit groups and youth who would not otherwise be able to have access to the facility. This is about creating a pricing structure that achieves accessibility, allows for long overdue upgrades to the site, and serves New Yorkers from all walks of life.”
Following are price comparisons between the Trump-run rink and what WPP proposes. (We apologize for the poor quality of the reproduction.) It shows other price increases, including for skate and locker rentals and groups. Testifying at a public hearing before the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC) on July 21st, Brewer said, “I do not consider these prices to be affordable.”
In addition to skating fees, Comptroller Scott Stringer questioned the potential cost of food and drinks under WPP in a letter to the FCRC.
“The Agreement does not allow for the City or the public to understand the total cost of a visit to this location, such as the cost of food and beverages,” he wrote. “A sample menu was included in its proposal but was not included in this Agreement. If prices are not included in this Agreement, the City cannot hold the contractor accountable over the five-year contract, making it imperative that fair and reasonable prices are locked before the contract is finalized.”
Brewer also called for clarification of the percentage of hours that will be devoted to private events and “buyouts,” which would restrict use of the rink to the public. She stressed “the importance in limiting the number of events that would prohibit the public from accessing this new space,” and called for “a hard cap on these types of large scale events. Wollman Rink is a public asset and should remain accessible to the public, so this cap on restrictions to the public is a necessity,” she said.
Brewer stated upfront that her choice for concessionaire was the Central Park Conservancy. “For decades, the Central Park Conservancy has been the steward of Central Park, taking care of all maintenance and operational needs and has the experience and history to be the best operator of Wollman Rink,” she said. She cited WPP’s lack of experience, pointing out that it had only been formed on June 9th, 2021, and “could not possibly have any operational experience of any sort.”
Brewer called for the Central Park Conservatory to assume control of Wollman Rink in five years, after the WPP contract runs out.
The contract was awarded to WPP by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which stood by their choice.
”Wollman Park Partners’ standout qualities include their commitment to community partners, programming, and capital improvements for the immediate future as operator of Wollman Rink—promising not to take profit and instead invest in the park and the community,” a Parks spokesperson said. “We will work with Wollman Park Partners throughout the term of their agreement to ensure that the concession is accessible and affordable.”