Wollman Rink is a public ice rink in the southern part of Central Park, Manhattan, New York City. 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. Historically, the rink has been open for ice skating from October to April and in the summer seasons is transformed into a venue for other purposes.
The rink is on a site that was formerly part of the pond on the southeast corner of Central Park which was drained and filled in.
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 memorable 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 also 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 the summer of 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 the summer of 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 5000-seat Wollman during those years.
Wollman Rink no longer hosts concerts, but in the summer it contains the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park.
The rink was closed in 1980 for a proposed two years of renovations at $9.1 million. Six years after the problem-plagued work was still not completed by the city, Donald Trump persuaded Mayor Ed Koch to let him complete the work in four months at $3 million in order to have it open by the end of the year. Koch initially objected but later agreed. The city had originally planned to employ the resource-saving – but largely untested – chemical compound Freon to generate ice, but instead time-proven brine was used. The rink reopened to the public on November 13, 1986.
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