ELIZABETH -- More than 55 years after Union County opened an ice skating rink in Warinanco Park, the facility has been transformed into a year-round sports center accommodating soccer, softball and other sports.
County freeholders and other elected officials ceremoniously cut the ribbon Tuesday for the unofficial opening of the Warinanco Sports Center, which resulted from a $7 million make-over of the original rink.
"Our vision was to provide modernized amenities while creating a venue that can remain in use year-round for other purposes," said Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen.
The new facility includes.
- An 11,000-square field house with two party rooms, video game rooms and skate rental center.
- A new spectator's seating that is under a roof.
- Renovated team locker rooms.
- A new ice rink floor and boards.
- An modern LEED lighting system and new refrigerated piping system.
- And a gas fireplace in the front of the field house and big screen TVs throughout.
Union County hired Sports Facility Management of Clearwater, Fla., to manage the complex.
The ice rink will be open for skating and ice hockey in the winter. In the spring, the ice will be removed and a turf field, made up of 836 interlocking panels, will be installed on the rink floor.
Baseball and softball battling and pitches cages will be installed, but they can be removed to accommodate soccer clubs and and lacrosse teams.
The rink has been home to nine hockey teams from the surrounding Union County high schools.
Warinanco Park Ice Skating Center first opened in 1961, and a roof was added in 1969.
Bergen and others recalled coming to the rink in his youth and later bringing his children to ice skate there.
There are nine hockey teams from the surrounding Union County high schools that currently use the rink as their home ice, and an estimated 50,000 skaters come to the center annually.