History of the Ice Skating Rink
The City Park Ice Rink began to receive the first masses of skaters on 29 January 1870, when it was ceremonially inaugurated by Crown-Prince Rudolph. The ice rink was opened at the initiative of the Skating Association of Pest, which was formed on 12 November 1869 in the card room of Steingasser (Petőfi) Café located at the Danube Bank. It took a lengthy procedure for the Association to obtain the city council’s permission to build an ice rink on one part of the City Park Lake, on which the ladies and gentlemen of Pest could enjoy the pleasures of skating for free. The first “skating pavilion” was a small two-room wooden booth erected on the lakeshore, which was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1874. It was after this tragic event that the city’s leadership granted a final permit for the construction of a new building, which was implemented within a few years based on the plans of architect Ödön Lechner.
The inauguration of the Ice Rink gave a great impetus to skating life. In the decorative grand hall of the main building visitors could admire the gorgeous panorama. The visitors could put on their skates on the lowest level, while upstairs there was a warming room and a music hall. The residents of Pest demonstrated enthusiastic interest toward ice skating, so seven years after the rink had been opened the need for enlargement arose. This exceptional enthusiasm can be explained by the fact that in those days the City Park Ice Rink had the largest open-air ice surface in the world. In 1895 a new neo-baroque building was erected based on the designs of Imre Francsek and while the construction was going on, the regulation of the lake was also started.
The first skating competitions organised here were aimed at assessing the skills of the participants without any specific rules. After the International Skating Union was set up in 1892, the first formal speed skating championship was organised in the City Park, although the athletes did not wear today’s speed skates but short-blade ones. On 27 December 1908 the Hungarian National Skating Federation was formed. They organized numerous skating competitions on the Ice Rink, which thus had an undoubtedly great role in the rapid development of ice sports in Hungary.
World War II did not leave the ice rink intact, either. The City Park Ice Rink suffered damage to such an extent that it became totally unusable after the War. The Hungarian National Skating Federation and the Skating Association of Pest (later renamed to Skating Association of Budapest) commenced a huge project under the management of Sándor Szalay to restore the ice rink. The last event of key significance in the life of the ice rink was its expansion in 1968, when the size of the ice surface was enlarged with a view to increasing the space available to the fans of ice skating.