The City Council Tuesday night approved a five-year contract with a subsidiary of the San Jose Sharks to operate an outdoor ice skating rink near downtown during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holiday season, starting this November.
The agreement with San Jose Arena Management calls for the sports firm to design, build and operate the 14,000-square-foot rink, which for this year would be located in a section of the Pleasanton Library parking lot closest to Old Bernal Avenue.
Other sites are under consideration for subsequent years, including parking lots next to Round Table Pizza and the former, now-empty Domus store, both on Main Street. But so far, the owners of those properties have not agreed to allow the ice rink on those parcels.
Downtown merchants, led by Towne Center bookstore owner Judy Wheeler of the Pleasanton Downtown Association and Murphy's Paw on Main Street owner Melanie Sadek of the recently-organized Pleasanton downtown merchants' group, praised the council's action. They said the 20,000-30,000 skaters and their families who are projected to use the rink during the holiday season would help boost business at downtown restaurants, shops and services.
"We're committed to making this work," Sadek told the council. "As a business owner and mother, bringing the Sharks rink to downtown Pleasanton will be fantastic. The merchants will help make the downtown part of the rink, possibly even using horse drawn carriages to transport families back and forth."
The agreement with SJAM was approved in a 4-1 vote with Councilman Matt Sullivan dissenting. He said that the proposed name of the rink—Sharks Holiday Ice—could sway public opinion when the firm's proposed two-story, four-rink ice arena on staples Ranch comes before the council for approval.
"There's an inherent conflict of interest here," Sullivan said. "At the same time we're negotiating this ice rink downtown, which we want very much for our businesses, we are also negotiating an agreement for Staples Ranch. I can't keep them separate and this could, and probably will have a mitigating impact."
"While there are a lot of people who support it (the Staples Ranch ice rink), there are a lot of people who do not want the Shark rink built on Staples and are very concerned about it. If we (the city) want to put this facility downtown on our own, I'd be willing to talk about it."
But Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and the three other council members disagreed, calling the holiday outdoor ice skating rink good for Pleasanton residents and downtown businesses, especially at a time when restaurants and stores are feeling the effects of a slow economy.
City Manager Nelson Fialho said the nearest holiday season outdoor rinks are in Walnut Creek, which attracts as many as 40,000 skaters and their families each year, and in San Francisco and San Jose.
As proposed, the rink would open in mid-November and stay open through early January, with skating available from noon to 10 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
The city will pay an estimated $15,000 in up-front costs for electrical power, water and voice/data lines, including temporary signage, to be reimbursed by ticket sales and sponsorships arranged by SJAM.