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ICE at Santa Monica Canceled Due to Electrical Meltdown

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By Jorge Casuso

September 30, 2021 -- For the second year in a row, Santa Monica's holiday season won't feature Downtown's popular outdoor ice-skating rink after its infrastructure suffered an electrical meltdown in January, Downtown officials told the City Council Tuesday.

While the coronavirus pandemic was surging out of control last winter causing ICE at Santa Monica to be canceled for the first time since 2007, a transformer blew causing substantial damage, officials said.

"I'm here to give you the bad news that we're not going to have an ice rink this year," Kathleen Rawson, who heads Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM), told the Council.

Asked by Mayor Sue Himmelrich what it would cost to get the rink up and running, Rawson replied that "it's not about cost."

"It's about the electrical improvements, the fix to the transformer blowing," Rawson said. "It's completely impossible for us to get the parts. We have tried in every way, shape and form."

Councilmember Phil Brock said he spoke with Southern California Edison officials in Sacramento last week and learned there was only one way to get the ice-rink running:

Hold ICE at Santa Monica only from Thanksgiving through January 5 -- instead of from early November to February -- and use diesel-powered generators.

"The only way to do it right now would be the City Council would have to decide that the use of diesel for those five weeks would be acceptable," Brock said.

To which Rawson quickly replied, "We made the assumption that diesel was not going to be an option."

An announcement posted on the ICE at Santa Monica page on DTSM's website said the agency is working to get the parts needed to install the rink again next holiday season.

"DTSM has been working with Southern California Edison and the City of Santa Monica to obtain funding and the proper permits to perform repairs and purchase replacement parts," the announcement reads.

"DTSM will repair the electrical infrastructure as soon as replacement parts arrive and look forward to welcoming skaters back in the fall of 2022."

Since DTSM first installed the rink on a vacant City-owned parking lot at 4th and 5th streets and Arizona Avenue 14 years ago, ICE has been a runaway hit.

The number of skaters, which include kids from the local Boys & Girls Clubs and PAL and the YMCA, has more than doubled since ICE was launched -- from 29,664 in 2007-08 to 62,552 skaters in 2018-19, according to DTSM.

Attendance in 2019-20 dropped to 53,712 after electrical problems shut down he rink for seven days, said Kevin Herrera, DTSM's Senior Marketing & Communication Manager.

Total net income, which included all skate rentals, concessions and sponsorship, was $122,059.81 in 2019-20, Herrera said.

"Without sponsorship dollars the rink barely breaks even, with net operating income of just under $10K for the 2019-20 season," he said.

Unlike other rinks that have cropped up in Culver City, Beverly Hills and the San Fernando Valley after ICE at Santa Monica was launched, DTSM has run the rink as a non-profit venture.

"It's an institution at this point," Rawson told The Lookout when the rink was last installed. "There are kids who learned to skate at the rink who are competing on a national level.

"We've exposed a whole generation of kids who would have never leaned to skate" ("Making Memories on Ice in Downtown Santa Monica," November 1, 2019).

Downtown Santa Monica and the Third Street Promenade will continue to host the official City of Santa Monica Holiday Tree and Promenade Menorah lightings this holiday season, DTSM officials said.

"DTSM is collaborating with the City of Santa Monica to host other community events at the Ice parking lot and will be announcing additional exciting holiday activities soon," officials said.

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