The NYC Parks Department has announced that a joint venture between Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Related Companies, and Equinox – collectively known as Wollman Rink Partners, LLC – will be taking over management of the Wollman Rink.
“Wollman Park Partners, LLC (WPP) has committed to reinvesting all net proceeds back into the Rink, upgrading the facility’s aging infrastructure, and offering inclusive and accessible programming,” a press release states, adding that community partners will include Great Performances + Melba’s Restaurant, YMCA, Ice Hockey in Harlem, Figure Skating in Harlem, The Boys’ Club of New York, and Green City Force.
Following the January 6 capitol riots, the City terminated all of its contracts with the Trump Organization, with Mayor de Blasio stating that his “legal team [had] done an assessment, and the contracts make very clear if a company and the leadership of that company is engaged in criminal activity, we have the right to sever the contract.”
The Parks Department put out requests for proposals from new applicants in January, seeking a new operator to take the reins for a period of 1 to 5 years.
One contender was the Central Park Conservancy, which had proposed to “raise and invest a minimum of $50 million dollars to rebuild the rink and operate it with a new focus on expanded public access and community programming.”
In an email from the Central Park Conservancy, President and CEO Betsy Smith argued that “[The Conservancy’s] proposal is a long-term solution and, we believe, a sounder financial and social alternative to the City’s approach to award a short-term contract to a commercial operator which will prioritize its own profitability over the public’s interest.”
While the non-profit park overseer’s proposal did gain quite a bit of support from public figures including current Manhattan Borough President and soon-to-be District 6 Council Member Gale Brewer, the City ended up going with a very commercial operator.
The Parks Department states that Wollman Rink Partners, LLC will focus on “Revitalizing [the rink] with best-in-class sustainable practices,” noting planned capital improvements to the existing kitchen, ice maintenance, seating area and landscaping, while also “offering community-oriented programming, introducing skating to children and families from underserved and marginalized communities, and promoting economic opportunity for diverse businesses and workers from across New York.”
The joint venture will be taking over the rink’s management and maintenance for a period of five years, with the option of a six-month extension, the City states.
Renderings of the future site have been shared on the new organization’s website (though current designs are still subject to NYC Parks approval).
“Food is one of the most effective ways for people of all backgrounds to connect with one another, and Wollman Park Partners has made a diverse food and beverage program a pillar of their proposal for Wollman Rink,” said Melba Wilson, Founder of Melba’s Restaurant. “We’re excited to assist Wollman Park Partners and its proposal for Wollman Rink which aims to provide a vibrant culinary experience through a range of food and beverage options.”
“Wollman Rink is a cherished New York City landmark and we are committed to partnering with local leaders and organizations that will create new economic opportunities for MWBE operators and inclusive programming for underserved communities across the City,” said Jeff T. Blau, Chief Executive Officer of Related Companies.
“Wollman Park Partners has the right approach with Wollman Rink, one that celebrates diversity, inclusion and accessibility. We look forward to partnering with Wollman Park Partners to hopefully deliver a diverse array of local vendors, cuisines and food options to Wollman Rink, one of the most iconic and beloved institutions our City has to offer,” said Liz Neumark, Founder of Great Performances.