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Pop-up 'ice' skating rink open at Piazza


A deejay spinning '80s holiday music, carolers singing more traditional standards, a coterie of food trucks, and even a convincing Santa Claus showed up for Monday night's official unveiling of Skate at The Piazza, a three-month long pop-up skating rink that will be open daily into the late hours.

As the evening moved along, more and more people stopped by to take advantage of the opportunity — just for one night — to skate for free.

Operated by Artificial Ice Events — which set up shop, tellingly, in an empty storefront — the 5,000-square-foot rink is actually made up of a plastic polymer that best resembles the consistency of a giant white cutting board pieced together in 4' × 8' sheets.

The "ice" is then sprayed with a glycerine solution that reduces friction and adds shine, closely mimicking the traditional ice skating experience.

One curious neighbor made a face when she learned of this, but she said she would call some friends to come on down, anyway. Later, she and her two buddies were spotted gamely making their way around the rink.

And, of course, that's the idea: to inject some much-needed animation into Northern Liberties' The Piazza at Schmidts, especially as the weather chills.

After cutting a red ribbon, Patrick Crosetto, chief operating officer of Kushner Companies, which assumed a controlling interest in The Piazza earlier this year, exhorted everyone to come often to skate — and to shop and dine.

It's a worthy attempt, but the idea of getting much shopping done at The Piazza and its environs remains, unfortunately, not very likely.

What shops there are, close early, and previous efforts to create a buying buzz at The Piazza — namely, the now-departed Brooklyn Flea — haven't succeeded.

Still, the rink is a fun addition to The Piazza's lively bar scene — and cheap to boot. Time on the ice is $5 for adults and $3 for kids, with skate rentals just one more dollar.

Some skaters seemed to have difficulty navigating the new surface, but that might have been because they weren't especially good. Tamar Katz, a three-time national figure skating champion for Israel who currently attends Penn, on the other hand, glided along effortlessly in the event's photo-op ending.

Packed with adorable children, glittering under the lights, with the neighborhood's dogs barking in unison to Blondie's Merry Christmas, for a few magic moments, The Piazza came alive.  is dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia. The news website is a project of PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the William Penn Foundation.