Governor Hochul Announces Start of Winter at the Plaza Events Season
Beginning Friday, December 3, the Empire “Skate” Plaza ice rink will open at noon, weather permitting. The annual holiday tree lighting ceremony presented by Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York will be held from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 5.
“Winter at the Plaza is a great way to celebrate the holiday season,” Governor Hochul said. “With ‘Hannaford’s Free Skate Rental Saturdays’ and energy efficient lighting, these events are accessible to everyone and planet friendly – so get out into the community and have some winter fun.”
This year’s tree lighting will also feature the unveiling of a new energy-efficient lighting system that will illuminate the Empire State Plaza in seasonal colors.
Acting OGS Commissioner Jeanette Moy said, “As the new OGS Acting Commissioner, it’s an honor to continue the annual tradition of transforming the Empire ‘Skate’ Plaza into an exciting winter destination with activities that give visitors fun ways to stay active during the frosty weather. I encourage everyone to celebrate the holiday season by coming to the Plaza tree lighting and fireworks ceremony on December 5. I want to thank our generous sponsors for making Winter at the Plaza possible. I also want to congratulate my team at OGS and our partners at NYPA for all their hard work on updating the Plaza with energy-efficient and colorful lights.”
OGS, in partnership with the New York Power Authority (NYPA), is in the process of replacing existing lighting at multiple OGS facilities across New York State with LED lights. The LED improvement project at the Empire State Plaza includes replacing 95,000 interior fixtures. It also involves replacing more than 360 exterior lights with new color-changing LED technology that will transform the Plaza’s unique architecture into an eye-catching display while meeting the State’s energy goals. OGS partnered with NYPA in 2019 to start the LED lighting project, with NYPA responsible for providing project financing, design, and construction management.
New York State’s “I Love NY” logo will appear in the center of the rink as it has in previous years.
The Plaza rink will once again play a major role in a series of free events and activities planned for the season, which will kick off with the opening day at the Plaza ice rink on Friday, December 3 with music provided from 6 to 8 p.m. by DJ T.G.I.F. The New York State Holiday Tree Lighting, presented by Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, will take place on Sunday, December 5. The first Learn to Skate clinic of the season, also presented by Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, will be on Saturday, December 11.
The Empire State Plaza ice rink will feature free skate rentals each Saturday of the 2021-22 season, courtesy of Hannaford Supermarkets. The first Hannaford Free Skate Rental Saturday will be held on December 4.
NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “NYPA and OGS are implementing a comprehensive energy transformation at Empire State Plaza through the development of significant remote solar generation, energy efficiency and resiliency projects for the benefit of the complex, and we are very pleased to complete the new LED lighting system in time for the annual tree lighting and holiday season. The lights have the capability of dynamically illuminating the buildings within the Plaza to correspond with the variety of celebrations throughout the year.”
Empire State Development Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “The Empire State Plaza ice rink is one of the Capital Region’s great winter traditions, and the slate of family-friendly events at the Plaza are a great way to celebrate the season, encouraging residents and visitors alike to find what they love and come be a part of the fun.”
Vice President of Commercial Sales at Highmark Blue Shield Keith Dolan said, “As a community-based health plan, Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York seeks to provide opportunities for members and the community to stay healthy and active throughout the year. Not only does this event and tree lighting mark the start of another season of skating, but it also kicks off the holidays at a place where families, friends, and the entire community can gather safely for a fun, seasonal activity.”
Hannaford Supermarkets Director of Operations Andy Willette said, “We at Hannaford are thrilled to usher in another winter season at the Empire State Plaza in partnership with the New York State Office of General Services. For close to a decade, we have offered our free skate-rental program and seen its popularity continue to grow. This year we will again be offering free skates on Saturdays to accommodate families and individuals who want to take to the ice. Kick-off of our free-skate rentals is Saturday, December 4, and we invite all skaters to come out and enjoy this cherished tradition on a beautiful and historic ice rink overlooking the State Capitol.”
Schedule of Events:
Empire State Plaza Ice Rink Opening Day, Friday, December 3, noon – 8 p.m., with DJ T.G.I.F performing from 6 to 8 p.m.
First Hannaford Free Skate Rental Saturday of the season, December 4.
New York State Holiday Tree Lighting presented Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, Sunday, December 5, noon – 8 p.m. Celebrate the season with outdoor activities the family is sure to love, including a rock-and-skate with SkeeterCreek, skating demonstrations by the Hudson Mohawk Figure Skating Club, performances by Tuba Christmas, and photo opportunities with Santa at Cornerstone at the Plaza. Stewart’s Shop will offer samples of eggnog and holiday-flavored coffee while supplies last. Refreshments will also be available for purchase at B-Rad’sExpress and Cornerstone at the Plaza. The official tree lighting and fireworks ceremony, hosted by the News 10 ABC Morning Team, will start at 5:15 p.m.
The Great Train Extravaganza, Sunday, December 5, 10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Empire State Plaza Convention Center. New York’s largest model railroad and toy train hobby show featuring dozens of vendors offering new and used trains for sale, plus parts, clothing, memorabilia, photographs, and accessories. The ticketed event will also include railroad history and artifacts and a Roaming Railroad for rides on the Empire State Plaza Concourse. Tickets are $7 for adults and free for children under 12.
First Learn to Skate Clinic of the season presented by Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York and hosted by the Hudson Mohawk Figure Skating Club. Saturday, December 11, 10 a.m. – noon. Additional clinics will be offered on January 8, February 5, and March 5. Online pre-registration is required at empirestateplaza.ny.gov. Please remember to dress the young skaters up in warm clothes, hats, gloves, and socks.
Ice Rink Information:
Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, weather permitting. Closed 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and both 2 – 3 p.m. and 5 – 6 p.m. on weekends for maintenance. The rink will be open on three Mondays: December 27, January 17, and February 21.
Cost to skate: Free
Skate Rentals: $4 for adults, $3 for children 12 and under. A photo ID is required to rent skates. Every Saturday is Hannaford Free Skate Rental Saturday.
Amenities: Lockers, skate rentals, and refreshments are available in the glass pavilion adjacent to the rink. Children’s helmets and ice walkers/trainers for beginning skaters are also available free of charge.
For rink status updates and additional information on Winter at the Plaza events and activities, visit empirestateplaza.ny.gov, @EmpireStatePlaza on Facebook, and @PlazaEvents on Twitter, or call (518) 474-4759.
For event information, including parking, directions, and ground rules, visit empirestateplaza.ny.gov.
Sponsors of Winter at the Plaza events include Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern NY, Hannaford Supermarkets, MVP Health Care, I Love NY, Hudson Mohawk Figure Skating Club, CDTA, SEFCU, Stewart’s Shops, Times Union, PYX 106, 99.5 The River, 98.3 TRY, and News 10 ABC.