Wollman Rink is a public ice rink in the southern part of Central Park, Manhattan, New York City. It is named after the Wollman family who donated the funds for its original construction. The rink is open for ice skating from late October to early April; from late May to September it is transformed into Victoria Gardens, an amusement park for children.
The Wollman Rink is currently operated by the Trump Organization, the Victoria Gardens Amusement Park by Central Amusement International, LLC (CAI), who also operate the Luna Park amusement park in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
The rink was opened in 1949 with funds donated by Kate Wollman (1869–1955), who donated $600,000 for the rink to commemorate her entire family from Leavenworth, Kansas. Kate's brother was William J. Wollman, who operated the W.J. Wollman & Co. stock exchange firm, originally in Kansas City and later in New York. After he died in 1937, she helped administer his estate.
For many years the rink was the venue for a series of outdoor summer rock, pop, country and jazz concerts. Then it was known as The Wollman Theater or "The Wollman Skating Rink Theater". In the summer of 1957, WOR radio personality Jean Shepherd hosted a series of jazz concerts at the Wollman with Billie Holiday, Bud Powell, Lionel Hampton, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Dinah Washington, and others. The first summer music festival at the rink opened on July 1, 1966, and was sponsored by Rheingold Beer. The Rheingold Central Park Music Festival took place during the summer of 1967. The next summer, Schaefer Beer took over sponsorship. The first annual Schaefer Music Festival opened on June 27, 1968, and continued each summer through 1976. The following summer, Dr Pepper became the sponsor, and the first Dr Pepper Music Festival opened on July 6, 1977, and ran annually through 1980. Led Zeppelin, the original Allman Brothers Band and singers Tammy Wynette, Peggy Lee, Judy Collins, and Pete Seeger are some of the greats who played the 5,000-seat Wollman during those years. Wollman Rink no longer hosts concerts, but in the summer it contains the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park.
In 1974, the Parks and Recreation Department started planning a renovation of the rink, including switching the refrigeration system from brinewater to liquid Freon to lower the operation costs, but plans had to be put in hold due to New York City’s fiscal problems. The rink had to be closed in the winter of 1980 when its concrete floor buckled; at that time, the renovation was estimated to cost up to $4.9 million and to take two years. Due to the necessity of soliciting bids for three separate contracts and a series of planning errors, construction mishaps, and flooding caused by heavy rains, the renovations had not been completed by May 1986 when the city decided to use brinewater in plastic pipes. By that time, $12.9 million had been spent, with an additional $2 to $3 million estimated to complete the work by the winter of 1987.
Donald Trump then offered Mayor Ed Koch to rebuild the rink at his expense within six months in return for the leases to operate the rink and an adjacent restaurant to recoup his costs. The final agreement was that the city would reimburse Trump for the costs up to the agreed limit and that he would donate the profits of rink and restaurant to charity and public works. Trump asked his contractors, among them HRH Construction, to also do the work without making a profit, promising them publicity but not mentioning their contributions to the press afterwards. The work was completed two months ahead of schedule and $750,000 under the estimated costs.
When the rink reopened in November 1987, ticket prices were raised from $2.50 to $4.50, and attendance was up from 130,000 in 1980 to 250,000 in 1987. As part of its agreement with the city, the Trump Organization donated most of the profit to public works, including $50,000 for the rink’s electricity costs, and to charity, among them United Cerebral Palsy, Partnership for the Homeless, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis.  The Trump Organization continues to hold a contract to operate the rink through April 30, 2021.
In popular culture
Wollman Rink has been featured in several movies and music videos, including Love Story, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Two Become One and Serendipity. It is also featured in the video game Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX. Wollman Rink has also been featured on Impractical Jokers.
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- Venue information and background
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