The historic rink at Rockefeller Center, which is set to close for the season this weekend, has long been one of the premiere ice skating facilities in the city, even if it occasionally produces tourist-induced claustrophobia in locals.
But just because it's getting warm outside doesn't mean you can't find a reason to whirl over to Rockefeller Center — because starting next month, a new roller rink will be opening there.
Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, the revival of a beloved West Hollywood-based roller rink from the late '70s and early '80s, will be installed in the plaza during the coming weeks. Opening on April 15th and running through October 31st, Flipper's will be the first roller rink at Rockefeller Center since 1940.
During the height of the pandemic, when cities across the U.S. endured various forms of lockdown, a roller-skating revival glided through the country, offering people a chance to get outdoor exercise and socialization in a relatively safe manner. Skating meet-ups, both outdoors and at the few indoor rinks left in NYC, attracted people of all ages and backgrounds. (Gothamist previously spoke to Arnav "Sonic" Shah, who runs Queens skate shop Kinetic Expression, about the pandemic inspiring a new generation of skaters, and his favorite spots to skate in the city.)
"Our goal is to build world-class spaces where everyone is welcome; spaces where connection and self expression roll free, without judgment or prejudice,” Liberty Ross, a fashion model and actress who is the founder and creative director of Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, said in a statement.
Her father, Ian "Flipper" Ross, founded the original Flipper's, despite the fact that he couldn't skate himself. It was located in a former L.A. bowling alley, and featured murals on the wall created by Grammy-winning art director John Kosh. Ross released a book last year documenting the colorful history of the venue, referred to as “Studio 54 on wheels” because of its celebrity clientele and presence in the L.A. scene at the time.
"Rollerskating makes you feel good. It’s simple, joyful and nostalgic," Ross told Gothamist. "You can be any age and come from any background. You can be great at it or a beginner and have an equally amazing time. You can skate alone or in a group of friends or family. Skating is the great equalizer."
And she says not to worry if you've never skated before: "If you fall — which you will, like in any sport it takes practice! — you will be picked up by your fellow skaters. That’s all part of it. It’s all about community. Flipper’s is all about joy, positivity, inclusivity and equality."
Ross worked with entrepreneur Kevin Wall, the other founder of Flipper’s, to resurrect the brand. The NYC rink will be designed by Bureau Betak, and there are plans for more to be opened in other major cities, including London and Los Angeles.
In addition to the rink, there will be food options forthcoming, a viewing deck and a Flipper's retail store at Rockefeller Center. Weekly and seasonal programming, DJ sets, live music and family events are planned, as well.
Tickets start at $20, not counting skate rentals, and are available seven days a week. (You can get more ticketing info here.)