McCANDLESS, Pa. — Allegheny County Parks had a big year in 1961, with new ice skating rinks opening up at North Park and South Park. The North Park Ice Rink opened first, on Feb. 18, 1961, after 2 1/2 years of construction.
Featuring nearly identical ornate Swiss chalet-style clubhouses, both parks’ large rinks had hoped to open in time for the fall 1960 season, but delays pushed the projects back into 1961.
The clubhouses are constructed of reinforced concrete pillars made with native stone, which support exposed wooden beams for a lodge-like setting. Each contains a lounge (originally with large circular open fireplaces), skate rental counters, snacks and concessions, and a second floor observation area for spectators.
The North Park Ice Rink has a single ice surface measuring 209 feet by 120 feet. It’s located in what then-County Parks Chief George B. McDonough called a picture postcard perfect location.
“None of the Olympic rinks anywhere in the world can boast a more attractive setting,” said McDonough, referring to Marshall Lake and the tree-covered hillsides that frame the rink’s location.
The clubhouse contains the refrigeration machines, which are connected to the rink by a tunnel.
Terrazzo imported from Italy was laid at the rinks and then ground smooth before each ice surface was built up on top.
The clubhouse and rink were surrounded by new parking lots and lighting.
When the North Park Ice Rink opened, the rental skates were still absent. They hadn’t been acquired in the last-minute rush to open before the season ended.
The North Park Ice Rink is open from early December until mid-March (weather permitting). Admission per session for county residents is $5 and includes skate rental.
North Park is the largest park in Allegheny County, consisting of 3,075 acres. It was completed in 1931, the same year as South Park, and encircles the county’s largest human-made lake, which is over 65 acres.
The South Park Ice Rink, which was already serving a larger population at the time it opened, was built with two ice surfaces and a more sprawling clubhouse that forms an L-shape along the two sides of the rink. The smaller ice surface serves as a practice area for beginner skaters.