On Sunday, December 18 at 5:30 a.m. in New York City it is dark. I know this because that’s when my alarm went off and I began to get bundled in layers of clothes: Tights and an extra pair of socks under my jeans, a silk undershirt beneath my shirt and sweater, topped with a down coat, scarf, hat, gloves and boots. Although it felt like I was preparing to head to the Arctic, I was up before the crack of dawn in 27 degree weather to watch ice hockey on the outdoor rooftop rink at Riverbank State Park.
Kathryn Kester, my 10-year-old neighbor, “loves everything about ice hockey” except getting up when it’s dark out. Her dad, Joe, drags a gear bag nearly as big as Kathryn was last year (my, how she’s grown tall!) from the West Village to the rink in Harlem, and helps her gear up for the game against the Plainsman B team.
An hour and a quarter later, the sun had risen, maybe it was up to 36 degrees, and Kathryn, who plays defense, and the rest of her 9 and 10 year old co-ed Riverbank teammates had five goals against the Plainsman B’s nought. She says it was her best game yet, that there was “more passing and team work.” Gear off, a quick snack, and Kathryn heads down to Chelsea Piers with friends to watch more ice hockey. She’s hooked!
Riverbank State Park’s covered outdoor ice rink is just one part of a complex 28-acre rooftop park built above a water and sewage treatment plant. Being a State park, it affords “regular kids” the chance to play competitive ice hockey, which can be an expensive sport. Kathryn’s dad, Joe, told me a season at privately-owned Chelsea Piers runs about $5,000 per child.
Adult and mini-mites to midgets youth hockey leagues, pick-up hockey games, skating lessons and open skate times are all affordable and available when you LOOK UP at Riverbank State Park’s outdoor winter rooftop ice rink, open from mid-November through the end of March, weather permitting. Call 212/694-3642 for the ice condition report. If you want to perfect your triple Lutz, or just practice balancing enough to keep from falling down, public skating sessions are on Friday evenings from 6-9, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1-4 and evenings from 6-9. Cost is $5 for adults, $3 for children 11 and under and skate rentals are $6. Getting there is easy – it’s a short walk away from the #1 train at 145th Street and Broadway.
Finally, so you know, there is a snack bar selling hot cocoa – so your rooftop ice skating experience at Riverbank will indeed be complete.