50th Anniversary History
As far back as the early 1920s, when the renowned Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm designed the Union County Park system, plans called for an artificial ice skating rink in Warinanco Park.
In the early years of the park, skaters would flock to the lake at Warinanco. However, that was only possible when the ice was thick enough to allow for skating. The artificial rink, on the western side of the park, was finally built in 1961 following approval by the Union County Board of Freeholders to appropriate $225,000 for the project .
Three years later, a circular building containing a fireplace, skate shop and concession stand, was added. And in 1969, a massive roof was built, making the rink available to the public, regardless of rain or snow, from October to April.
Today, the rink is home ice for hockey teams from five area schools, Arthur L. Johnson, Cranford, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Summit and Westfield. Every fall, those teams, along with a myriad of others, compete in the annual George T. Cron tournament. The rink is also the long-time home ice for Cranford Youth Hockey.
While some skating activities have fallen by the wayside, like figure skating competitions, the Warinanco rink still offers lessons to children and adults as part of its annual program. There are also skating clinics for hockey players. During the course an average season, more than 43,000 skaters will lace up to enjoy time on the ice before the last slapshot slams a puck into the boards in late March.
It requires an estimated 100,000 gallons of water to get the ice to the desired thickness. But the work that goes into creating that ice is appreciated by many.
When it comes to skating, Warinanco has one of the highest rankings in the state for the quality of its skating surface. NJPowerRanking.com, which covers high school ice hockey, consistently rank Warinanco among the top rinks in its annual survey of the ice at the state’s 50-or-so rinks.
While many of the rinks around the state are climate-controlled indoor rinks, Warinanco, which is part of Union County’s parks system, dates back to another era. It is New Jersey’s “best outdoor rink by far,” said the editors of NJPowerRanking after going through all the scores.
As an outdoor rink, the facility, which is marking its 50th skating season, faces challenges that most rinks do not. Humidity is one of the biggest challenges to maintaining the ice. To maintain the ice is not so much about the heat as it is the humidity, which is why it cannot remain open year-round.
The rink is located on the western end of Warinanco Park, on the park loop just off St. Georges Avenue in Roselle. It is open nearly 18 hours a day to accommodate all the groups and individuals looking for time on the ice.