The City Council tonight is expected to agree with a recommendation by City Manager Nelson Fialho and his staff to put the outdoor holiday skating rink on ice for this season.
It will be considered again only when a suitable downtown site for placing the rink becomes available.
The rink was built and operated by San Jose Arena Management, a subsidiary of the San Jose Sharks hockey team. It was located in a section of the public library parking lot from Thanksgiving week to early January during the last holiday season.
Once thought to be a profit maker for SJAM, the program ended up costing the city $50,000 in unreimbursed expenses for infrastructure work and SJAM at least that much when ticket sales and sponsorships failed to cover its $250,000 in expenses.
The rink also was viewed as an economic stimulus for the downtown, bringing an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 skaters and their families into the area where they would also spend time and money on shopping and restaurant meals. Horse-drawn carriages offered free rides from Main Street to the rink.
But even with sold-out ice skating classes offered by the city's Parks and Community Services Department, general attendance waned, reaching only 10,000 by the time the rink shut down last January. Warm weather and rain contributed to the slowdown in attendance, but the awkward location in the library parking lot and limited parking may have been the major factor in curbing enthusiasm for the activity.
The rink was controversial from the start. Once planned for Delucchi Community Park on First Street, neighbors and some members of the City Council objected, citing too much night-time noise, traffic and possible damage to the park. The library parking lot location also brought complaints from library patrons who often had to walk an extra block or two just to return a book.
Fialho earlier had tried to negotiate the use of downtown parking lots adjacent to the closed Domus variety store or Round Table Pizza, but the property owners rejected the bid.
In recent weeks, city staff has met with SJAM on other sites for a rink in the coming holiday season. But suggested sites near the city's aquatic center or the lighted baseball fields at Bernal Community Park were turned down by SJAM as too remote from downtown. Sites at the Alameda County Fairgrounds and Stoneridge Shopping Center also were considered, but the monthly rental of $7,500 a month at the fairgrounds and similar rental costs at Stoneridge would be too expensive, SJAM said.
"Staff is of the opinion that the program was well received and that there may be a place for it in the future," Andrade-Wax states in a memorandum to the City Council.
"However, assuring a successful program will require a location near the downtown and a complete review of financial commitments to assure the program is financially feasible with minimal impact on city operating costs.," she adds.
The council will consider the recommendation to cancel this year's outdoor holiday ice rink program at its meeting at 7 p.m. tonight in the City Council chambers, 200 Old Bernal Ave.