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Memories of Ice Palace arise among mall shoppers

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 8:59 p.m.
The skating rink at the Monroeville Mall drew patrons from across the region, and helped make the mall famous.
Times Express
The skating rink at the Monroeville Mall drew patrons from across the region, and helped make the mall famous.

As the Monroeville Mall is prepped for a new movie theater, shoppers reflect on a different kind of entertainment from past years — the Ice Palace.

“It was really something kind of special,” said Shirley Brody, 78, of Monroeville. “Monroeville was one of the first rinks we went to. We probably taught our children to skate there.”

The Ice Palace featured a regulation-size ice rink, used by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Olympic hopefuls and figure skaters. Restaurants such as Schrafft's lined the outside of the rink, which allowed patrons to watch professionals practice and first-timers flailing on the ice.

George Lipchick of Plum managed the rink and was a member of the Ice Capades.

“There were all kind of entertainers,” Lipchick said. “All the other rinks were outdoors.”

He taught individual and group lessons, as many people were learning to skate for the first time, he said.

Shirley and Gil Brody grew up skating at Panther Hollow in Schenley Park, when the temperature had to be just right, and it took at least two layers of clothing to stay warm. The couple moved to Monroeville in 1958 as the business district was expanding. When the mall was being built in the late 1960s, Shirley tracked the progress with her daughter from inside the Pancake House on William Penn Highway.

“We watched bulldozers go over that land preparing it for the mall,” Brody said. “It was exciting.”

When the mall opened in 1969, two miles west of Miracle Mile, “Monroeville was kind of set in place,” said Monroeville historian Louis Chandler. The Ice Palace was the first enclosed ice rink open to the public in the region.

Ursela Gerhard, 73, said she visited the rink with her children. They tried to get her on skates but she refused, concerned that one of her students from Evergreen Elementary might see her fall, she said, with a laugh.

“They really enjoyed going there,” Gerhard said.

“They said a year ago that they wish the mall still had a skating rink.”

The Ice Palace was replaced by a food court in 1984, to the dismay of local residents, wrote Chandler in his most recent book, “A History of Patton Township.”

Also gone are the clock tower, which featured puppet shows and the colorful fountains.

Several new stores have opened over the last few years and the food court renovated. The Cinemark movie theater is slated to open in late 2013 and will feature 12 screens and stadium seating. It will be the only movie theater in Monroeville, after Showcase East closed in 2004.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.

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