All good stories at some point will turn into legends. And the story behind how ice skating at Rockefeller Center started how turned into one. Legend it is told, that the idea behind turning the space into a rink for skating came from, a skate salesman.
The year was 1936 and the center had opened in the middle of the Great Depression and people were not going. After so much money had been spent to build the center, it’s money man John D. Rockefeller Jr. really wanted an idea that would bring people to Midtown Manhattan. As it is told, the salesman demonstrated his skates on the center’s fountain one day when it had frozen, inspired by the demonstration Rockefeller decided to built one for his center.
Now I am not sure if that story is true, it sounds good, but it really doesn’t matter how we got it, just that we have one of the most iconic places in the world. Yes I said the world. When you think of Christmas, there are very few places that seem more Christmas then ice skating under the giant tree.
It cost just 99 cents, or about $18 in 2020 money, to skate on the ice. Adding the ice rink did the trick in driving people to Rockefeller Center, in pre-Covid days, on a good weekend you could see some 400,000 plus people visit the area.
On the night that I went, it was not too crowded but it was full of people, especially for these pandemic times that we are in. I wasn’t worried about catching anything as everyone was wearing masks and trying their best to keep a good distance apart from each other. Down on the rink, a pair of nicely dressed skaters did tricks and a routine that caught the eyes of everyone. People fell down and tried to learn how to skate as best as they could. People walked around with hot chocolate in hands and a buzz of normal times was in the air. Now the tree was not up yet, a return trip will be made just for that, but it was going up.
As a non-native New York resident now, this was more then just a place to check off a list. Even without the icon tree or some hot chocolate, I can tell you that it was a magical experience even when the fear of Covid was somewhere in the air. I can’t even begin to imagine the place packed with so many people that you can’t walk around, this year with all that has happened, I will take the slice of normal times even if it was just for a few hours.