City approved the boardwalk attraction, but they couldn’t find anyone to build it

By Gary Walker

Skaters frolic on Santa Monica’s public ice rink, an idea L.A. tried to pinch for Venice Beach
Image courtesy of Downtown Santa Monica Inc.

Oxford Triangle resident Heather Kahler fondly recalls skating as a child and later as a teenager at the Ice Capades Chalet in Santa Monica and later at the Culver City Ice Rink, both of which are now closed.

“We don’t have enough family activities in Venice, and I think an ice rink is a great way to bring the family community together to celebrate winter in sunny California,” said Kahler, a third-generation Venetian. “I welcome any family-oriented activities there.”

But she and other supporters of building a seasonal ice rink along the Venice Boardwalk will have to wait, as plans to do so this year have been scrapped despite the backing of L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin and the California Coastal Commission.

Bonin had pushed hard for the rink earlier this year, suggesting it could freshen up the boardwalk scene and make the area more attractive to families.

“Despite being a major attraction in the city, Venice has become frayed around the edges. The city and community are fighting perceptions that Venice is unclean and not family friendly … [and] the reality of serious public safety issues, particularly at night and including the area around Windward Plaza,” Bonin wrote in a Jan. 5 letter to the commission.

Apparently, however, city officials were unable to find anyone willing and able to build the ice rink this year.

“We asked for bids for a contractor to build the rink (as well as sponsors to help fund the construction), but there are not a lot of people who do that sort of work, and the ones who do were already booked for this year,” Bonin’s office responded in an email after The Argonaut inquired about the rink.

But plans for an ice rink aren’t going away, they say.

“The approved permit is good for five years, so we plan to try again next year,” the email continues.

The Venice ice rink would operate on a beach platform south of the LAPD Venice Beach substation from Thanksgiving to Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 16), ostensibly giving skaters about eight weeks to show off their cuts and turns.

Venice Chamber of Commerce President George Francisco feels an ice skating rink would fit with the community’s decades-long tradition of being open to new things that both tourists and locals find interesting.

“Any amenity that brings positive energy and activity to Venice — and particularly the boardwalk and historic Windward commercial area — is welcome. We see over 10.5 million visitor trips to Venice each year, so while a skating rink may become a singular attraction that increases tourism, it certainly should make both residents and visitors experiences better,” Francisco said. “The very definition of eclectic would make the integration of an ice skating area a natural complement to the diverse range of influences and recreation opportunities in Venice and at the boardwalk.”

While Bonin and other ice rink supporters talk about it bringing positive evening activity to the boardwalk, others don’t want to draw more people to the area — especially after sunset.

Martha Hertzberg, a Venice resident who owns the consulting firm Walk Street Management, is one of several walk street homeowners who opposes the ice rink.

“Bringing people down here for evening or nighttime activity is a recipe for disaster. Noise and illegal activity will increase in front of our homes. It would dramatically change our quality of life for the worse,” Hertzberg told the commission in January.

Longtime Venice walk street resident Paul Kroskrity, a professor of American Indian studies at UCLA, said his 15-year-old daughter initially liked the idea of a local ice skating rink but changed her mind when she learned more about the city’s plans.

“She began asking, ‘Will the lights be too bright? Will I have to wear ear plugs to sleep at night?’ Kids, students and working people have had a quiet nighttime situation down here for years, and increased nighttime activity will create a far more problematic concern than we already have,” Kroskrity said.

Los Angeles city officials hoped the rink would complete with ICE at Santa Monica, the outdoor ice skating rink that operates in November, December and January at the corner of Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue. More than 58,000 people visited ICE at Santa Monica in 2015, according to Downtown Santa Monica Inc. Senor Marketing and Communications Manager Kevin Herrera.

The Venice Beach ice rink isn’t the first time an idea for a new boardwalk attraction has run into problems. L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Bonin’s predecessor and former boss, championed the installation of a zipline along the beach in 2013, but the attraction fizzled out after just one season under the weight of opposition from nearby walk street residents and the Venice Neighborhood Council.

The zipline brought in $50,000 in revenue to city coffers, part of which was used for maintenance operations and restroom cleaning along the boardwalk, according to city Recreation and Parks Supt. Charles Singer.