Lasker Rink is a seasonal ice skating rink and swimming pool located at North Meadow in the northern part of Central Park in Manhattan, New York City, between 106th and 108th Streets. It is located above The Loch, just south of the Farmers Gate entrance on 110th Street and Lenox Avenue, between Harlem Meer to the east and East Drive to the west.
Lasker Rink was announced in 1962 and completed in 1966. It has been operated by The Trump Organization since 1987. In 2018, the city announced that the rink would be closed and rebuilt between 2021 and 2024.
Plans for a swimming pool and ice rink at the northern part of Central Park in 1962, to cost $1.8 million. The rink would be built above the mouth of the Loch, on the southwestern corner of Harlem Meer. The facility was named for Loula Davis Lasker (1886-1961), a philanthropist and social worker, and the daughter of German immigrant Morris Davis Lasker and sister of Albert Lasker. She donated $600,000 to help build the rink/pool. The work shrunk the Meer from 10.6 acres (4.3 ha) to 8.1 acres (3.3 ha), and the Meer was temporarily drained as part of the project. The rink was supposed to be completed in mid-1966, but flood damage caused by poor drainage prevented the pool from opening as scheduled. Lasker Rink opened on December 22, 1966.
Lasker Rink was known by New Yorkers as less crowded and cheaper to use than Wollman Rink, Central Park's other ice skating rink at the southern end of the park. Over the years, Lasker and other facilities in northern Central Park, which was surrounded by poorer neighborhoods, were generally not as well maintained as the areas in southern Central Park, which had more tourists and were generally wealthier. Several events such as a 1969 ice-skating competition were intended to draw public attention to the facility.
In 1986, real estate developer Donald Trump offered New York City mayor Ed Koch to rebuild the deteriorating Wollman Rink at his expense within six months in return for the leases to operate the rink and an adjacent restaurant to recoup his costs. As part of the agreement to keep operating Wollman Rink, Trump agreed to also take a concession for Lasker Rink, and the Trump Organization won concessions for the rinks in 1987.
In November 2015, a few weeks after the start of the 2015-2016 skating season, faulty drainage forced an emergency closure of Lasker Rink; at the time, the rink was planned to remain closed for the rest of the season. After repairs to the rink progressed at a faster rate than originally expected, it reopened two weeks after the initial closure. In 2019, the Trump Organization removed its name from most signs and logos at both Wollman and Lasker Rinks.
Updated plans were published in 2019, in which the rink would be closed between late 2021 and 2024. Some $150 million was to be budgeted to the project, but the renovation itself would cost $110 million, while proposed new programming would cost $40 million, The city had budgeted $50 million and the Central Park Conservancy was raising the remainder. As part of the plan, the Loch running underneath Lasker Rink would be restored to a more natural state, necessitating the demolition of the existing rink's bulky structure. A boardwalk would be added along the newly restored Loch, and a new year-round facility would be built east of the site of the existing rink. The facility would be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards and would be set within a slope, containing a new pool that would be located at a lower elevation than the existing pool. During winters, ice skaters would be allowed to skate on the boardwalk and the Loch by means of synthetic ice placed on the boardwalk.
Lasker is used as a swimming pool in the summer and a skating/hockey rink during the winter. In the winter, Lasker Rink is open from late October through March for public skating, skating schools, and ice hockey. Over the years the ice surface has had different configurations, but currently it is outfitted with two rinks, which are 195-feet by 65-feet, which is slightly smaller than the standard 200-feet by 85-feet National Hockey League hockey rinks. It uses artificial refrigeration to maintain the ice.
As of 2019[update], 87% of Lasker Pool and Rink users were New York City residents. Nearly half or 45% were from the immediately surrounding neighborhoods such as Harlem, East Harlem, and Manhattan Valley, while 26% came from other Upper Manhattan neighborhoods and the Bronx, and 16% came from elsewhere in the city,
Lasker Rink is host to an annual charity adult hockey tournament, The Central Park Classic, taking place over Presidents Day weekend, run by the Canadian Association of New York, which draws teams from all over the northeast, including teams from Canada. Funds raised are donated to area youth hockey programs, including Ice Hockey in Harlem.
Some of the hockey programs that operate at Lasker Rink include:
- Central Park Ice Hockey uses two rinks where adult hockey leagues play 4 on 4 ice hockey. Teams can be coed and are separated based on skill level.
- Ice Hockey In Harlem (IHIH), a non-for-profit that combines classroom diligence with hockey. Volunteers act as coaches.
- The Central Park North Stars, a special needs hockey team. They play in the Special Hockey International League.
- Various private schools, such as St. Davids, St. Bernards, Buckley, and Browning.
- The NyIcecats, founded in 1999 by Sabbath observant Jewish families, which offers hockey to kids of every age, skill level, and religious background.
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