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City Opens Central Park Rink after Developer Rescues Renovation

October 31, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Skating champions glided across Central Park’s Wollman Rink on Friday as city officials hailed builder Donald Trump for rescuing a bungled, five-year attempt to renovate the park’s winter oasis.

″It’s just like velvet,″ said two-time Olympic gold medalist Dick Button, pirouetting on the ice. ″It’s so beautiful it makes you want to cry.″

The spins of Button and two-time world champion Aja Zanova-Steindler climaxed Trump’s revamping of the largest rink in America - six weeks ahead of schedule and $750,000 below budget.

Trump took control of the renovation free of charge in June after the city spent more than five years and $12 million - only to produce a new rink with leaky pipes and cracked concrete.

City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern said the reopening highlights how private industry can complete public projects that stymie City Hall because of laws on contract bidding and other restrictions.

″You beat nature,″ said Stern to Trump as they looked over the 33,000 square feet of fresh ice.

″You completed the rink before the weather turned cold,″ he added.

The skyscraper developer spent far less than the budgeted $3.7 million, replacing the faulty cooling system and outfitting the skating house with lockers, bathrooms, a 200-seat restaurant, and a lighting and music system.

Tony Gliedman, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said ″we found the best rink builder and other good contractors and just kept pressuring them to stay within the budget and schedule.″

Stern said ″only private industry could have done this,″ noting that laws had forced City Hall to follow contract-bidding procedures that awarded the project to poor builders.

The Parks Department and other city commissions ″could apply the lessons learned at Wollman Rink to other city projects,″ he said.

Gliedman said Trump has considered helping the city with public transit projects and other Parks Department schemes.

″Since taking on the Wollman project many people have asked us to help more in the public sector,″ he said, declining to specify the requests.

City officials have said that under public oversight the cost of renovation jumped from the 1980 estimated cost of $4.9 million to $12 million because of changes in renovation plans for the skating house, a contract modification, poor workmanship, and orders for extra work.

A state-of-the-art refrigeration system that used Freon instead of brine did not work, and resulted in further delays.

Trump said the $750,000 remaining from the budget may go toward opening the 36-year-old site in the off-season as a reflecting pool. He said he will run the rink for the season ending April 30.

Gliedman said he expects 250,000 people each year will skate at the rink after it opens publicly on Nov. 13. Admission will be $4.50 for adults and $2.50 for children.

Zanova-Steindler, who defected to the United States from Czechslovakia after winning her second straight women’s championship in 1950, said, ″The ice is beautiful - it’s great for kids, it will keep them off the streets.″

Trump declined to try out antique skates given to him by Zanova-Steindler and Button, the Olympic gold medalist in 1948 and 1952.

″They’ve wanted me to fall for years,″ Trump said. ″I’m not going to give them a chance now.″

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