Ice Center closure has skaters fighting back

Nowadays it seems like property owners will do just about anything to close up older businesses to make way for “more lucrative” occupants. Even if it means shutting down an institution that still serves a sprawling community and was once the stomping grounds for an Olympian.

Such is the case in San Mateo, where property owner SPI Holdings is choosing to not renew the lease of Ice Center, the San Mateo County Times reports.

The popular ice rink, which is part of the Bridgepoint Shopping Center, serves an estimated 100,000 people a year, including the near 700 participants in the youth and adult hockey leagues that regularly practice there.

The Ice Center’s youth team, the California Cougars, has produced Division I and minor league hockey players, as well as prompt a visit from the 1972 Soviet Union team.

The location has attracted attention since the late ’80s when Bay Area native Kristi Yamaguchi trained there before her gold medal run at the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Though the volume of rink users also brings business to the strip mall’s stores and restaurants, SPI decided not to renew its lease last May. Currently, they’re trying to negotiate a deal with the city of San Mateo to add a synthetic turf soccer field and a restroom to a park in Foster City in exchange for the closure of the rink.

(And no, it’s not clear why SPI thinks a faux-turf field makes up for taking an ice rink away from hockey players.)

Perhaps the biggest argument against closing the rink is that it is already over-booked as it is. Youth teams are already practicing as early as 4:30 a.m., and adult teams often past midnight.

And not only is there not another rink nearby, many other facilities aren’t large enough to host competitive hockey, let alone take on the mass amount of people that currently visit the Ice Center.

The threat of closure drove several hundred skaters and their families to attend a neighborhood meeting to voice their opposition against SPI’s decision, the Times reported. Attendees have even gone so far as to draft up a petition to San Mateo Mayor Brandt Grotte and the city council, asking for help on the matter.

SPI Holdings wasn’t available for comment when contacted by the Times last Friday.