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Martinez cancels holiday ice rink, blames lack of downtown parking

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The Martinez Downtown Holiday on Ice, a seasonal skating rink that has become a local favorite, has itself been put on ice this year with its site in too much demand as a parking lot, city officials said.

This was to have been the fourth year for the skating rink, which has taken up most of a city parking lot — sometimes referred to as “Lot 4” by city officials — bordered by Marina Vista, Ferry Street and Escobar Street. The season was to have started this past weekend.

The official announcement came in a Nov. 7 statement from Main Street Martinez, a civic group that promotes the downtown area. The statement cited what it called daily complaints about a lack of downtown parking, a situation that would be exacerbated by the installation of the rink.

The ongoing revitalization of downtown, plus several public and private construction projects and several resulting street closures, have put further pressure on downtown parking spaces, according to the statement:

“The rink would eliminate over half of the parking in Lot 4, resulting in too great an impact on both businesses and residences during the Holiday season.”

Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder concurred that parking indeed was an issue this year. With spaces taken up by construction work for the new Contra Costa County administration building, and near the Amtrak station, parking downtown — for the first time in many years — has been at a premium.

Schroder said:

“Especially for the 10-hour spots, there’s been a definite shortage. … The city gets complaints every day about how hard it is to find a parking space.”

John Miranda, a spokesman for the rink’s biggest sponsor, Benicia-based DC Solar, said he hopes the Martinez ice rink tradition will resume, but had little else to add.

Main Street Martinez Director Kara Johnsen did not respond to several phone messages seeking comment.

Moving the rink isn’t an option, because of the high electrical draw the rink requires. The transformer needed for rink operation is at the “Lot 4” site, and can’t practically be moved.

In August 2015, the Martinez City Council agreed to a deal with PG&E in which the utility could cut down more than 70 trees adjacent to underground PG&E lines, in exchange for an electrical transformer envisioned as the power source for the ice rink and, eventually, a downtown parking structure on Lot 4.

The seasonal outdoor ice rink has featured skating lessons and family skate nights, and was available for private parties.

Courtney Masella O’Brien of Martinez doesn’t totally buy the lack-of-parking explanation for the skating rink’s cancellation. There has been speculation that there may be deeper financial issues involved.

Obrien said:

“I don’t know what’s true.”

What she does know is that she is sad the Martinez rink isn’t happening this year. O’Brien said:

“I buy my daughters a season pass, and lots of my friends already had (refundable) tickets. … It’s just too bad such short notice was given.”

Holiday ice rinks near Martinez include the second-year ice rink at Concord’s new The Veranda shopping center, and the long-running Walnut Creek downtown ice rink.

The rink was the second major Main Street Martinez event in three months that’s been canceled. The two-day Martinez Blues Festival in September was canceled due to “several unfortunate circumstances.”

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