By Carol Tannenhauser
Wollman Rink, the storied ice skating rink at the southern end of Central Park, is scheduled to reopen on November 14, a spokesperson for the rink’s new concessionaire told WSR. “Opening day will offer a ‘free skate’ for the public,” he revealed.
Wollman will no longer be operated by The Trump Organization, which lost the contract in the wake of Donald Trump’s alleged incitement of the January 6 insurrection. In July, a group called the Wollman Park Partners LLC (WPP) won a new contract in a competitive bidding process, edging out the Central Park Conservancy, which some, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, thought was a better choice. WPP is a joint venture between Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils, and the Related Companies and Equinox.
It doesn’t get more corporate than that, but WPP emphasizes that it is nonprofit, in the sense that “it is not seeking or accepting any of the profit from operating Wollman Rink. Any net proceeds generated during the concession term will be reinvested in the facility and through community partners providing services at Wollman Rink,” a release said.
Liz Neumark, founder of the catering company, Great Performances, calls herself “the food and beverage partner.” She will be curating those key elements for the rink’s cafe. For those expressing concern, yes, there will be burgers ($6), grilled cheese ($4), “high-quality” hot dogs ($3), vegan hot dogs ($3.50), and tacos ($4). “We’d be killed if we weren’t affordable,” she said, in a phone interview. “Chicken nuggets aren’t on the menu yet, but they will be.” Neumark said she will “deliberately source from local, women and minority-owned small businesses.” The culinary offerings will be updated over time, she added.
“My mission is to serve delicious and affordable food, and to use Wollman as a platform for small businesses that typically get left out of large-scale concessions,” Neumark explained. “WPP has made diversity and inclusion one of its main pillars and that’s why I’m delighted to be involved.” Another reason might be that she grew up on the Upper West Side, skating with her two sisters at Wollman Rink, on winter weekends. “We will offer a diverse array of local vendors and businesses from the five boroughs to ensure a true representation of New York City’s incredible spectrum of delicious food and beverages,” she concluded. One vendor will be Community Partner Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem.
Other community partners include the YMCA, Ice Hockey in Harlem, Figure Skating in Harlem, The Boys’ Club of New York, and Green City Force. The clients of these nonprofits, will get free access to introductory programs and ice time. “We are refining our programming to be inclusive and accessible to all, and are finalizing some ideas, which might include a Tuesday afternoon pay-as-you wish model and a Wednesday afterschool special that bundles admission + skates + hot chocolate,” the spokesperson said.
What about the regular price of admission, skate rentals and lockers? Here they are for the 2021-22 season. (Pardon the presentation. We cut and pasted from the WPP contract.)
WPP also announced that the concession agreement has been finalized, but that seems moot, since they said redevelopment and construction are already underway. The contract runs for five years. They named Stefanie Tomlin as the rink’s new Vice President and General Manager to oversee operations and guide long-term strategic growth. Tomlin joins with more than ten years of extensive experience. Most recently, she served as the General Manager of Kings Theatre in Brooklyn.
“The second I learned about WPP’s plans for Wollman Rink I knew I had to become involved to support one of the City’s most historic destinations,” she said.
WPP is hiring for multiple positions. Interested applicants can apply here.