Robert Crown offers free ice skating for Northwestern students and faculty


Samantha Stevens/The Daily Northwestern

People enjoy skating at the new Robert Crown Community Center on a Sunday afternoon. Northwestern students and faculty can skate for free using their Wildcards.

Samantha Stevens, Reporter

Northwestern students can now hit the ice for free at the new Robert Crown Community Center.

Completed in 2020, the center is home to two new skating rinks, an art room, track, outdoor turf field, library, dance studio and state-licensed child care. The facility saw expansions from the old community center, which had one skating rink.

All NU students and faculty members can use the rink and rent skates for free by presenting their Wildcard upon entry during public skate times. Evanston residents without a Wildcard can rent skates for $3. Admission for residents without Wildcards is $5 for skaters 12 years and younger and $9 for skaters 13 years and older. Each Wildcard-holder is also allotted three guest passes per visit. The center is currently open to the public Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, in addition to select additional hours on certain days.

The partnership between the University and Robert Crown serves as a substitute for the seasonal skating rink NU once had at Norris University Center. 

From 2011 to 2017, the University’s Facilities Management department constructed the rink on the lawn outside Norris each Winter Quarter, a tradition that was popular in the NU community. However, budget cuts led to its elimination in 2018.

In an October interview with The Daily, University President Morton Schapiro said the environmental impact of the ice rink was also a consideration in discontinuing it. The University had to employ a generator to keep the ice frozen when temperatures rose, Schapiro said.

“I really miss the rink,” Schapiro said. “I loved it, even though I don’t skate. But I hated the climate impact, the carbon impact it had, keeping that generator going and going.”

Schapiro said NU is planning a renovation of Norris with an amphitheater and a renovated underground facility that can house the Dance Marathon. The reconstructed east side of Norris will include an energy efficient space for an on-campus ice rink, he said.

In the meantime, Robert Crown’s student skating is a “stopgap” option until the University can house an ice rink again, Schapiro added.

NU’s $1 million investment in Robert Crown, aimed to help aid the center’s long-term viability, covers use costs associated with both the men’s club hockey team and Synchronized Skating Team through 2026.

Weinberg senior David Stephens, president of the men’s club hockey team, said the team has appreciated the expanded access the new facilities provide. 

“Having two ice sheets allows for a lot more practices, a lot more game flexibility and just a lot more teams and parties can use the ice as needed,” Stephens said.

Dave Davis, executive director of NU’s Neighborhood and Community Relations, said he believes in the importance of a centralized location to bring together people from all corners of the community. 

Davis said his office arranged the University’s partnership with the community center. He said it’s important that the University engages with the broader Evanston community, given its large presence within the city. 

“It’s so incredibly important that we have these kinds of spaces that bring together the University community, as well as our neighbors,” Davis said.

The previous community center, which has since been torn down, lacked many of the offerings the new center provides, Davis said. Now, families can come to the center to do more than skate. 

Ron Lopez has worked at the front desk of Robert Crown’s ice rink for 23 years. While handing out skates to eager children on a Sunday afternoon this autumn, Lopez described the many changes he’s witnessed throughout his years working at the rink. 

“I have seen generations,” Lopez said. “In fact, it was so funny to see this young man out there who was in the speed skating program, and now he’s out of college with his girlfriend that he brought here.”

Correction: This article has been updated to include the price of admission for Evanston residents without Wildcards. Additionally, a previous version of this article misstated the price of skate rentals. Wildcard-holders can rent skates for free during public skate times, and Evanston residents without Wildcards can rent skates for $3.  The Daily regrets the error. 

Email: [email protected]

Related Stories:

Norris ice rink won’t open this winter, plans iced following budget concerns 

Northwestern club figure skating is trying to stay in sync, even without a rink 

Evanston native to debut in Disney on Ice skating show as Princess Tiana