|The city's Parks and Recreation Commission voted 5-0 Thursday night to recommend that the City Council approve a master plan for a new 17-acre community park on the yet-undeveloped Staples Ranch site that would include a 4-sheet recreational and club ice skating facility.
Staples Ranch is a 124 acre site at the southwest corner of I-580 and El Charro Road.
Without naming the operator of the ice rink, the commission's approval was clearly aimed at a proposal by the San Jose Arena Management company, a subsidiary of the San Jose Sharks hockey team.
The Sharks group has asked the city for approval of its plan to finance and operate a 116,000-square-foot facility on an a 7 acre site (including parking) in the new community park, public land that the Sharks would lease for $1 a year for 30 years.
The organization operates all of the facilities associated with the Sharks, including the HP Pavilion where the hockey team plays, and "Sharks Ice" rinks in San Jose and Fremont, which are similar to what the group plans for Pleasanton.
Although it endorsed the plan, the Parks and Recreation Commission added stipulations that could cost the Sharks much more than just the ice facility. The commission said the Sharks must also help pay for some or all of the costs of developing the new community park, which could add as much as $5 million to its construction bill, and also to contribute "significantly" to lighted sports fields in Phase 2 of development planned for the Bernal property, a 318-acre site where the first project, three baseball fields, is just now starting.
"Also, any approval of the plan we are recommending should stipulate that the Staples park and the ice rink are developed concurrently," insisted Parks and Recreation Commissioner Jerry Pentin.
Specific terms of the financial package will be worked out with City Manager Nelson Fialho and his staff in the coming weeks with the City Council expected to consider the plan at a meeting in late May or early June.
Don Gralnek, Vice President & General Counsel of Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment LLC, who represents San Jose Arena Management, said the Sharks ice rink would offer everything related to any type of ice sports. These include both competitive and amateur hockey, hockey and skating teams for boys, girls, men and women, special ice hockey programs for the local high schools, figure skating, recreational skating and also special programs for the handicapped.
"We'll have competitive meets that will draw crowds from throughout the region, adding to the economic benefits to this community," he said.
The community park master plan approved Thursday is part of a four-phase overall plan being developed for the unincorporated 124-acre Staples Ranch, which is owned by Alameda County.
Hendrick Automotive plans to develop a new auto mall on the site at the intersection of I-580 and El Charro Road. CLC Continuum, a Southern California based senior care organization, plans to build 600-units on the western side of the property that will include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care units. A retail complex is planned for a site along El Charro that also will be next to the community park.
An environmental impact report (EIR) on the proposals for Staples Ranch is scheduled to be completed and released April 24. Public comments on the EIR must be made within 60 days of its release.
The council is then expected to make final decisions on the auto mall, continuing care facility, the retail center and the community park and ice rink, in that order. The plans will be wrapped into an overall master plan for Staples Ranch, which will then be annexed into Pleasanton.
"Until everything is in place and we know what the plans and approvals are, then we can't start deciding on the specifics of our proposal," Gralnek told commissions Thursday.
Staples would be the last major undeveloped site to come into the city until, and unless, Pleasanton adds more land on its eastern border. El Charro, still mostly a privately-owned road, eventually will be a major thoroughfare connecting the 580 freeway to Stanley Boulevard, with the Livermore city limits on one side and Pleasanton's on the other.
Besides the new Pleasanton auto mall at the El Charro-580 intersection, Livermore has approved a 180-store Prime Outlet mall on the southeast corner, directly across from Staples Ranch. The El Charro interchange will be widened to four lanes, with work to get underway later this year.
Although Staples Ranch will be annexed into Pleasanton, the City Council, in a memorandum of understanding, has agreed to allow Alameda County to continue to control a stretch of land at the end of Stoneridge Drive that would allow its extension through Staples to El Charro if a future City Council would favor the project.
Until then, Pleasanton residents, even those who live near the barricade where Stoneridge Drive now ends, would have to drive on 580 to El Charro to shop, dine, buy cars or visit residents at the continuing care facility. The Parks and Recreation Commission's new master plan for the community park, however, calls for a small public parking lot accessible at the barricade as well as a drop-off for skaters heading to the ice rink.
Other parts of the proposed community park that will not be directly accessible by car until Stoneridge Drive is extended include lighted tennis courts, a dog park and other recreational facilities, including a large central area of landscaped open space. To drive to those sections, motorists would have to use I-580.
"We've had many requests for an open meadow where kids can fly kites, families can have picnics or just walk around, and that's the intent in this park master plan," said Jim Wolfe, director of Parks and Community Services.
At its final public hearing on the issue, the Parks and Recreation Commission considered comments from scores of speakers and email messages from at least 50 others, with about 70 percent of those in favor of the park plan and the ice facility.
In written comments to the commission that were made public Thursday, several organizations endorsed the Sharks ice rink proposal, including the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and the Tri-Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
Amy Blaschka, president and chief executive officer of the CVB, said the ice facility would have significant and favorable economic impacts.
"Partnering with the Sharks Ice team on the proposed 4-rink Pleasanton Sharks Ice facility would provide approximately 9,900 booked hotel room nights annually which equates to nearly $4 million in estimated economic impact," Blaschka stated. "This infusion of cash to the local economy would not only benefit hotels but restaurants, retail and other businesses as well."
Several of the 60 or more comments by Pleasanton residents in favor of the Sharks Ice facility included:
Pete Schalkoord - "The program the Sharks run at Logitech in San Jose is always filled to the limit. We can have the same situation here in Pleasanton. Let's keep our kids in sports and approve this fantastic opportunity that the Sharks are bringing to this community."
Priscilla Barton: "I have skated in places all over the world and have seen amazing skating communities. Please support this project."
Pierre-Paul Allard: "Please give our Tri-Valley Blue Devils a new modern arena to play in and have fun. And give Pleasanton the sports facility we deserve."
Karen and Les Magoon: "Our children play ice hockey and the only available rink for many miles is the Dublin Ice Rink. It is very old and has no decent changing area of locker rooms."
Tom Powers: "What a great community amenity the ice rink will be to this community."
Debbie Look: "Our children and teens could benefit by having ice skating added as one of the components of their school's physical education program through regular trips to the ice rink during their PE classes."
Not everyone was so supportive, however. Although only two spoke against the proposed park plan and ice rink Thursday night, others sent emails critical of the proposal. They included:
Jon Violette: "I would hate to see this (ice rink facility at Staples Ranch) happen. It will only bring more traffic and congestion to Pleasanton."
Jacki and Dan Stewart: "our family does not want a large sport facility in our Valley such as the four rink ice facility suggested for Staples Ranch. That type of facility fits with San Ramon's and Dublin's urban sprawl plans."
Bimal Sangari: "I view the construction of the 4-rink ice facility as the construction of a regional attraction in my neighborhood that will draw people from the entire East Bay and perhaps even the Central Valley. Undoubtedly with additional traffic will come increased noise and air pollution and I do not see this as a stretch to expect a subsequent increase in crime eventually in our neighborhoods as a result of this."
Jon Davis: "I've been involved with ice rinks for 30 years and I can tell you that there is not nearly the market out there that SJAM attempts to say there is. All aspects of the ice rink industry are on the decline."
All comments made by emails or at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting will be included in a full report on the discussion and actions by the commission that will be forwarded to the City Council for consideration at its May meeting on the Staples Park master plan.
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