Lakeside center in 2011

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By the winter of 2011, Brooklyn ice skaters can look forward to a brand new rink that would also enable year-round recreational use. The new facility — dubbed “The Lakeside Center” — would replace the somewhat dilapidated Wollman Rink, which opened in 1961 and sits unused during the non-skating season.

At a recent Park Slope Civic Council meeting, Tupper Thomas, President of the Prospect Park Alliance, presented a preliminary plan for the project, which has been eight years in the making and is expected to cost approximately $60 million. The official design is expected to be unveiled in March.

As part of the design, the existing rink would be replaced by a four-season facility that would house two rinks in winter, one of which would be canopied to enable skating during bad weather. Because it is obsolete, the current rink only enables a four-month-long skating season; with the new rink, the season would be five months long.

During the non-skating season, the building could host roller-skating, water play activities, and community events like film and music festivals. The building will also have a café and an educational space.

It is being designed by internationally renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, best known for designing the American Folk Art Museum on 53rd Street in Manhattan.

“[The current] building has no other purposes [other than an ice rink]. It just sits there for eight months with nothing happening,” said Thomas.

“We want to make a facility that will be fabulous year-round — this is really a 21st century statement for the park.”

There are other benefits to the project besides the facility itself.

For instance, 26 acres of green space in the southwest quadrant of the park will be restored, adding 100 trees. The currently paved-over Music Island will be restored to its original natural grandeur as a wildlife sanctuary. One thousand linear feet of lake that was filled in when the rink was constructed will be restored as well.

The project calls for improved landscaping with a particular focus on scenic views, including striking panoramas from the Lakeside Center itself. The verdant picnic area to the south of the new building will be expanded, and roadway and path improvements will improve access and safety for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Currently, the Prospect Park Alliance has raised $45 million of the $60 million Thomas tentatively expects the project to cost. She said she hopes to start working on the landscaping portion in a year because the Alliance has all of the money needed to complete the job. But until a design is approved and the Alliance comes up with enough money to pay for it, work on the actual building cannot begin.

Still, Thomas was optimistic that the facility will be open by 2011. Under this projection, there would be no ice skating during the 2010-211 fall/winter while it is under construction.

The current preliminary design is a scaled-back version of an original $80 million design that included a landscaped roof that doubled as usable parkland. Explaining why it was scaled back, Thomas said, “Spending that much money on a project at this time would be inappropri­ate.”

Thomas praised the existing rink — which draws 180,000 visitors a season — as having “served an enormously good function all these years.” Still, she said it was now “really old an in really bad condition.”

“It’s costly to get up and running every year — they have to start in July,” she said. “The pipes are always breaking, which costs the city a fortune, and it costs a lot of money to run because the machine [used to freeze the water] is so old. It serves no other function other than an ice rink, and it’s really unattracti­ve.”

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