Pleasanton Weekly

News - September 24, 2010

City Council axes ice rink for this year's holiday season

Both San Jose Sharks, city lost money as rink failed to attract sponsors, enough skaters

by Jeb Bing

As expected, the Pleasanton City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday night to suspend for at least a year the holiday ice rink operation that occupied part of the public library parking lot for six weeks over the past Thanksgiving-to-New Year's period.

Councilman Matt Sullivan was absent from the meeting.

The rink, installed and operated by San Jose Arena Management, a subsidiary of the San Jose Sharks hockey team, never met expectations, with ticket sales and sponsorships failing to cover its $292,000 in operating costs. Receipts instead totaled $217,000.

City Manager Nelson Fialho said the city government and the Sharks spent about $100,000 in capital expenditures to set up the facility in the library parking lot last November, including providing supplies, equipment and security services. Although the special utility needs remain in place, those costs would be incurred again if a site other than the library lot is used for a future ice rink.

"If there had been a profit in the operation, our agreement with SJAM spelled out clearly that the city would have been reimbursed for energy and security costs that we paid," Fialho said. "Also, if there had been a profit, 10% of the revenue would have been paid back to the city for the cost of personnel and other expenses. If there had been a profit after that, the remainder would have been distributed to nonprofit organizations. That didn't happen."

The portable rink, owned by SJAM, is being stored at the city's Operations Center in Pleasanton. The city's agreement with the Sharks is that the rink can be acquired by the city after five years if it's wanted.

Fialho said the library parking lot was chosen after owners of two downtown properties -- the former Domus store and Round Table Pizza -- declined the city's bid to use one of their parking lots for the ice rink.

As an alternative to place the ice rink closer to downtown, it was considered for Delucchi Park, but that proposal was withdrawn due to neighborhood complaints over potential noise and traffic at that site.

"In hindsight, that was a good decision," Fialho said. "We had never had experience having an ice rink here and we probably would have had to rebuild the park after the rink sat on the park grass for six weeks."

Although the rink was intended to serve as an economic stimulus to downtown stores and restaurants, it also failed to meet those goals with the library lot too far from the business centers on Main Street.

Fialho said Dublin's ice rink, which was located in a Toyota dealer's used car lot, proved to be a more attractive rink with Dublin viewing it as a community service, not a retail store stimulus.

He suggested Bernal Community Park as a possible future site for an ice rink, although SJAM rejected that location for this year as too remote. SJAM also declined offers to locate this year's rink at the Alameda County Fairgrounds or in a parking lot section of the Stoneridge Shopping Center because of high land use rents required by those organizations.

"I'm disappointed," said Mayor Jennifer Hosterman. "I thought the ice rink was a great opportunity for Pleasanton."

Councilwomen Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Cindy McGovern also said they were sorry to see the rink canceled for this season. Both talked about how excited their grandchildren were to be on the ice and try ice skating for the first time.

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