Friday, September 11, 2009

Pasadena City Council to yammer even more about ice rink they don't want to build

It's back! The Pasadena City Council on Sept. 14 will once again discuss what, if anything, they want to do about building a new ice rink in the city.

I wouldn't get too excited. The Council has been talking about this for years but has thus far been unable to make any kind of decision beyond "let's keep studying it." It's their equivalent of a punt. I went to a Council Finance Committee hearing on the matter and it's fair to say watching the Zamboni circle the ice is both more fun and fruitful way to spend your time.

A little background: The line ice rink in Pasadena is a ballroom that was converted to a rink in the mid-1970s at the rear-end of the Pasadena Convention Center. While the place certainly has ambiance due to its tall windows, it's also a dump and the only sheet of ice is only 150 feet long -- 50 feet less than an official NHL rink. The rink's lease with the Convention Center expires in 2011 and there are no guarantees it will be renewed.

The rink is often crowded and demand outstrips supply of ice time -- particularly in an area where figure skating is so popular. The rink, to its credit, finally started a once-a-week stick-time session this summer, whereas other rinks (Toyota Sports Center, Valley Ice Center) have sessions almost every day. It sucks for someone like me who is learning to play hockey and needs as much time on the ice as possible to screw around with my stickhandling.

(I will say this about the public skating crowds: Teens are out in force and they do entertain. Just last week I was watching a young skater administer a tonsilectomy to his girlfriend on the ice after several laps of constantly pawing her. As a man, I find this admirable but I was irritated they kept getting in my way as I worked on my reverse crossovers).

To make a long story short, the city of Pasadena has been toying with the idea of building a new rink with two sheets of ice. They even found a suitable location and solicited construction bids. But the Council has balked at the cost of about $18 million, worried they won't recoup the money from the rink's vendor if not enough people show up to skate.

It's a legit concern, I suppose, unless you consider the fact that the Los Angeles area isn't exactly saturated with ice rinks. The Pasadena rink, as far as I know, is the ONLY rink in the entire San Gabriel Valley, which has a population of two million. Here's the text of a recent email I sent to Terry Tornek, my rep on the Pasadena City Council:

Subject:  ice rink
Name:  Steve Hymon
Comments:  Dear Councilman Tornek;

I was extremely disappointed to read in the Pasadena Star-News this morning that you oppose the proposed location for a new ice rink in Pasadena and that you believe it's best to renovate the current facility.

The proposed location, in my view, is compatible with a park and makes sense, given that the land is currently under-used. This is also an objection you should have raised much earlier in the process.

I also do not believe it is wise to renovate the current rink. The rink now in use is too small (it's about two-thirds the size of an NHL-sized rink) and there's not enough room or time each day to accommodate public skating, figure skating practice and hockey time. The new rink would have remedied that issue by having two sheets of ice.

A new rink would have been a place for the public to gather and would have been an attraction for skaters from all over the San Gabriel Valley....The current rink is often extremely crowded -- and would have been an excellent addition to the city's already diverse recreational opportunities.

Your shortsightedness in this matter is very disturbing and I hope you reconsider the matter and move to build the new rink. It is expensive, but it will also pay off for years to come.


Steve Hymon

Now, here's his less-than-thoughtful response:

Steve -

Thanks for your comments. Sorry we disagree on every aspect of this proposal.


The bottom line is that there are enough members of the City Council who don't believe that ice skating is a big deal -- or big enough deal -- to warrant spending some city money to give it a boost. Mayor Bill Bogaard says the Council is just trying to protect the city's pocketbook, but I believe it's more than that. They don't skate and they certainly don't play hockey. Which, perhaps, explains their sour dispositions. 

Tornek appears to be the staunchest opponent and wants to renovate the current rink, which doesn't eliminate the problem of the ice being too small -- there is no room to expand the rink. Tornek is up for reelection in 2013 and it's fair to say that at this point of his tenure on the Council he's done pretty much nothing to represent my interests. At the least, he needs to spend some time in the electoral penalty box.

--Steve Hymon

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