Throwback to the Artificial Ice Rink of 1958

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By Historical Society

Forest Park held a special election to issue a bond for the park district to build an outdoor skating rink in 1958. Promised to the community as a "self-supporting" initiative that would "pay for itself," the innovative rink was to be positioned above the tennis courts creating recreation year-round. Next to the rink was constructed a warming center, which is still used today. In order to build the artificial ice rink, copper piping for refrigeration was placed below in asphalt (rather than concrete) and a water-and-brine solution was placed on top to freeze. 

The first ice skating season opened Dec. 28, 1958 and it cost grade-schoolers 50 cents to skate if they didn't have a pass. Unfortunately, the next summer it was discovered that as the asphalt heated under the sun, the tennis courts began to bow in the shape of the copper tubing below, and the courts were permanently damaged. The rink itself had other problems, mainly snow removal, which was done by a very costly zamboni that was often in need of repair. 

The rink was eventually scrapped after about a decade, an expense that took taxpayers years to recover from. Click through for more ads, photos and letters to the editor about the ice rink.

 

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Reader Comments

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Bonnie Holmberg Douglas  

Posted: December 22nd, 2019 9:51 PM

I loved the skating rink. I recall skating in a Parks and Recreation skating show with my neighbor Sandra North. When it closed would sometimes go to rink in Oak Park. I also used to play tennis on the courts. My love of figure skating continues to this day mostly as a spectator now.

Chuck Taddeo  

Posted: December 20th, 2019 6:58 AM

Can't wait to show this article to my mother, she's been telling us about that rink for years. We will both share a laugh about the warming house, the scene of a very traumatic experience for me. In the early 70's FP used to have preschool in the former warming house, so that's where I had my very first day of school. She had to drag my inside the building kicking, screaming and crying like a baby.

Jill Wagner from Forest Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2019 9:46 AM

Kathie, I think that Commissioner Sam Rizzo started the two pocket park ice rinks (Remembrance Park-at Randolph St and Reiger Park -16th St) around the time that this artificial ice rink was closing. My neighbor said that the wood frame which encases the present day swing sets and play places (which hold the wood chips) is where they flooded water for the pocket ice rinks. Apparently the boys would hog the ice rink for hockey matches.... ruining the girls hopes of being figure skaters.

Kathie Wojtkiewicz Regennitter  

Posted: December 19th, 2019 7:23 AM

I enjoyed skating for free when they flooded the playground at the Circle/Randolph park...

Dianne Howard from Vernon, VT (from Forest Park)  

Posted: December 18th, 2019 8:17 PM

I really enjoyed the ice rink and skated there as often as was possible...I was 10 and my Mom made me several skating outfits and I got new skates for Christmas 1958. Unfortunately I caught my toe pick in a hole in the ice, fell, and broke my kneecap several seasons later and abandoned my skating career. BTW: the "hot chocolate" was watery and awful....lol

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