Rockefeller Center will open a roller skating rink

The winter ice skating season may be coming to an end at Rockefeller Center, but this year the party will continue past the thaw. Get ready for rollerblading.

For the first time since 1940, a roller skating rink will occupy the plaza below in the heart of Midtown’s Art Deco complex. Rockefeller Center owner Tishman Speyer contracted Los Angeles-based Pinball’s Roller Boogie Palace for the project.

Once the rink closes on Sunday, its surrounding walls will be lifted from the square by a crane, to be stored until the ice skating season returns next winter, and a smaller rink will take its place. The opening of the new skating rink is scheduled for April 15; tickets ($20 for adults) are on sale now.

With the move to a wheel-friendly rink, Rockefeller Center appears to be embracing the retro roller-skating craze that took off during the pandemic, harkening back to when rinks dotted the city. (The LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park, another established rink, also offers ice skating and roller skating, depending on the season).

The Rockefeller Ice Rink is also part of Tishman Speyer’s attempts to rebrand his complex as a hotspot, hip enough to attract locals as well as tourists and office workers (most of whom are still not back on the streets). places).

The company introduced new retailers and restaurants, like Lodi, an Italian cafe and bakery, and record store Rough Trade, formerly of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Most recently, the new Pebble Bar, in which actor Jason Sudeikis and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson are investors, was the site of “The Batman” after-party premiere.

Liberty Ross, the founder and creative director of Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, is the daughter of Ian (“Flipper”) Ross, who opened the original Flipper roller rink in Los Angeles in 1979. Located in a former bowling alley, it had murals by John Kosh, a graphic designer who also designed the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. The rink attracts celebrities including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jane Fonda and Laura Dern, then a teenager.

Ms Ross, a model, wrote a book about Flipper’s and has now teamed up with entrepreneur Kevin Wall, who grew up working at his own parents’ skating rink in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to resurrect the brand . They plan to install ice rinks in London and Los Angeles. The New York Flipper’s, designed by fashion show producer Alexandre de Betak, will be the first to, uh, roll out.

There will also be a skate shop at Rockefeller Center. To find it, visitors will be able to use a new landmark: a monumental trowel-shaped sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, due to be installed on Friday. The store, just west of the sculpture, will carry the classic four-wheeled, ankle-high “quads” that were worn on the original Flippers – complete with a royal blue suede boot and red laces and wheels. The same skates will also be available for rent at the rink.

The owners of Rockefeller Center have long tried to find ways to liven up the square and draw visitors to the shops in the underground concourse that surrounds it.

After the complex opened in 1933, the lobby shops languished because people did not want to walk down the steps to the plaza and back. Then someone had the idea of ​​installing an ice rink. It opened in 1936 and has operated every year since.

Roller skating was briefly tested there in 1940. Tennis courts came and went. The square has also been the scene of flower shows and concerts, including Aerosmith in 2018.

News of the roller rink coincides with the completion of a year-and-a-half renovation of the lobby. What was once a dark, low-ceilinged space is now more open and bright, with exposed ceilings, new Art Deco-inspired bronze details, and floor-to-ceiling display cases overlooking the square that swivel to allow people to move on and off.

Lobby restaurants will open this summer, but they’ve been placed away from windows, so as not to obstruct views of the rink or natural light, as the old ones did. There are also takeaways in the underground corridors.

Since the rink will be about half the size of the rink, there will be room in the plaza for tables and chairs so people can bring food outside and watch all the action . The lineup will range from early morning “meditative” skating sessions to disco nights, Ms Ross said. There will be gospel music on Sunday.

Ms. Ross sees the project as entertainment for spectators as well as a potential home for skaters at a time when there are few roller rinks left. “Most people skate for that feeling of freedom,” she said. “I feel like it’s going to be an injection of joy, community and unity, which is really needed right now.”

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