UNION COUNTY, NJ — Those who remember the old Warinanco Park Skating Facility are in for a surprise if they haven’t seen it for a while.
The finishing touches of a $7 million renovation have been completed at the 56-year-old facility, county spokesman Sebastian D’Elia said. The facility has been doubled in size and features a stone-covered gas fireplace running the height of a new field house and large-screen TVs throughout.
Ron Zuber, the Union County Department of Parks and Community Renewal director, said the renovation was needed because the original building was too small for the amount of foot traffic it was getting.
“We knocked down the building and built it up again,” Zuber said in an Oct. 27 phone interview. “The old building was an octagon and very awkward for any activities. This is a functioning building.”
A grand reopening for the Warinanco Sports Center will take place Nov. 4, kicking off at 7 a.m. A reptile exhibit will be displayed for the entire day and the Union County Battle of the Badges hockey game will run from 6 to 8 p.m. The rink will be open for free skating in the late morning and in the evening.
There was a soft reopening in May for the facility when it was about 80 percent complete, Zuber said. Now, the cafe inside has opened and the landscaping is finished.
“It’s an excellent facility,” Zuber said of the complex, which is located in a county park that encompasses parts of Elizabeth and Roselle. “Ice skating has always been popular in this side of the county.”
Turf will be laid on the rink during summer months. Batting cages and an infield were added for baseball and softball leagues in the area, and soccer clubs and lacrosse teams will also be able to use the field.
The field season starts around March 20; preparations will be made to convert the space back to an ice rink around September, Zuber said.
A new seating area and flooring were also part of the makeover. Locker rooms were remodeled, the rink’s refrigeration system was renovated and a new ice rink floor was installed.
The county hired Sports Facility Management, of Florida, to manage the center. The company has managed sports facilities in other states, such as Alabama, New York and Oklahoma.
“The reason why we did that was because, when we were only open for four or five months, we had county employees running it,” Zuber explained. The facility will now be opened year-round.”
The general contractor for the renovation was Mar-Bridge Enterprises, of Matawan, the same company that is rebuilding the clubhouse at the county-owned Ash Brook Golf Course in Scotch Plains. Netta Architects of Mountainside designed the new facility, according to a county press release.
The site originally opened as an outdoor skating venue in October 1961, the first public artificial ice rink in Union County at the time. A roof was added in 1969.
Nine hockey teams from six Union County high schools use the rink today and it is visited by about 50,000 skaters each year, according to a county press release.
The rink was part of the original plans created in the 1920s by the Olmsted brothers, whose father, Frederick Olmsted, designed Central Park in New York City.
“The new Warinanco Sports Center is a place where families will continue to make great memories,” Union County Freeholder Vice Chairman Sergio Granados said in a May statement. “We’ve completed an imaginative recreation of the landmark.”