Soft opening held for Warinanco Sports Center

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Union County officials last week held a soft opening for the expanding and modernizing landmark ice skating venue in Roselle and Elizabeth that will now go by the name of the Warinanco Sports Center.

The $7 million project already two years in the making is transforming the 56-year-old facility into a year-round playground for athletes of all skills and abilities in the fields of skating, baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse.

“Our vision was to provide modernized amenities while creating a venue that can remain in use year-round for other purposes,” Freeholder Bruce H. Bergen said in a press release. “We are excited to be opening an exciting update that has restored the skating rink to full prominence.”

Freeholder Vice Chairman Sergio Granados, who is the county parks liaison, called the project, designed by Netta Architects of Mountainside, “an imaginative re-creation of the landmark.”

What’s new? A state-of-the-art, 11,000-square-foot field house with two rooms for parties, a large concession area, a video game room and skate rental room; a covered exterior seating area; a new ice rink floor installed over the old, along with new boards, glass and nets; and a stone-covered gas fireplace and big-screen TVs installed throughout.

The project is being financed through the county’s parks department. A date has not yet been set for an official grand opening.

“Once the turf is placed in late June, the management team will begin reaching out to all the local teams to come and demo the arena,” Bergen told LocalSource in an email on May 19. “We will then work with them to schedule for the remainder of the summer, but more importantly, schedule for spring and summer of 2018.”

New batting cages for baseball and softball will be added along with an infield, and turf will be laid on the rink floor to serve lacrosse and soccer activity.

The complex will be managed by Sports Facility Management of Clearwater, Fla.
Warinanco Park, which opened in the 1920s on 205 acres landscaped by the Olmsted Firm of New York City Central Park fame, comprises the Central Park area, the boathouse and playground area, the skating area and the track area.

Although plans for the ice skating rink, which is located in Roselle, had been drawn up in the 1920s, shovels didn’t hit the ground until some 40 years later. It opened as an outdoor facility in October 1961 at a cost of $225,000. A roof was added in 1969. A May 15 press release pegs the number of skaters hitting its ice at nearly 50,000 per year, and it serves as home ice for nine hockey teams from six Union County high schools.

Other recent renovations to the park include the opening of the new athletic turf field and track area in Roselle, and a new sprayground and playground sports area in Elizabeth.

“This (renovation) will give all of our recreational teams more opportunity to practice and enhance their team’s abilities,” Bergen said. “Better facilities for athletics leads to better athletes. Better athletes lead to more community involvement and pride.”