BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A lot of time and millions of dollars have gone into restoring the splash pad at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park–one of the largest wading pools in the state.
When it freezes, the 5-acre splash pad turns into a 5-acre skating rink, also one of the largest in New York.
As Stephanie Crockatt, interim executive director of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, put it during a news conference at the park, “We splash here in the summer, and we skate in the winter.”
The City of Buffalo and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy have invested $4.5 million into improvements at the park, including the splash pad and Shelter House. The freezing of the rink now allows the park to be used year round.
“Everybody was asking when does skating start? I said when it really gets cold enough to freeze,” joked Masten Councilmember Demone Smith. As for the sub-freezing weather needed to ice the pool, Smith said, “Are you really sure you want ice skating to start? We’ve got it!”
The ice rink is not only one of the largest in the state, it might also be among the oldest. One of the first hockey games ever played in Buffalo featured the Buffalo Eagles semi-pro hockey team, when MLK Park was known as Humboldt Park, back in 1927.
But unlike three newer rinks that have recently opened downtown, the ice at MLK depends on the weather. Deputy Parks Commissioner Andy Rabb says the recent cold snap has worked just fine.
“We need a few days of cold to make sure the ice–and by that I mean a few days both during the day and at night–for the ice to set up properly for it to be safe enough for people to skate on.”
While the rink is a cold weather feature designed to help people stay fit year round, there are some who would rather just wait it out until the weather warms up.
Mayor Byron Brown admits he is no fan of the cold.
“So for all of you that want to skate, hope for cold weather. For those who don’t like to skate and want it to warm up, I don’t blame you there, either.”
With weather forecasters calling for frigid temperatures to continue, frostbite and hypothermia are concerns, so there are heaters at the park, and attendants are on duty.
Free loaner skates are available at the park, and the rink is open to skating 7 days a week until 5:30.
To check if the ice is safe for skating, can call the Olmsted Conservancy’s hotline at 838-1249, extension 17.