Dozens of dreamers gathered in Goleta on Friday to celebrate the donation of land from a mall developer to the organization tasked with building the long-awaited ice rink near Storke Road. The more than 60 dignitaries, parents, children, and members of the media converged in a parking lot that was actually laid more than a decade ago to support the ice rink, which was part of developer Mark Linehan’s original plans when the Camino Real Marketplace was built in 1997. Now, those 1.3 acres — valued at $1.3 million — are the property of the Greater Santa Barbara Ice Skating Association, the nonprofit organization that formed in 2003 to complete the rink after the initial for-profit venture fell through. The association, whose catchier nickname is “Ice in Paradise,” has already banked more than $2 million, but they used Friday’s press conference to ramp up efforts to raise the $4 million more needed to start the project. (A total of $5.8 million must be raised to complete the project.)
Recalling the recent Vancouver games, Goleta Mayor Eric Onnen started the conference by gesturing toward the empty lot behind him and pointing out, “So many of those Olympic dreams could start right here.” Watching intently were a handful of young children dressed in figure skating gear — leotards, sparkles, skates, and all — as well as tweens in hockey garb and older dudes recalling their skating days on Santa Barbara’s Ice Patch rink of yesteryear.
Calling the rink “the coolest recreation in our area,” association president Kathy Mintzer thanked Linehan and his business partner Kimberly Schizas and then introduced Hall of Fame hockey star Luc Robitaille, a member of the association’s advisory board. Joking that the rink will be a “great pickup joint on Friday nights,” Robitaille explored the possibilities for the rink, remarking that many Olympians train in Southern California, and that perhaps those people would come to this rink once built. “Training in Santa Barbara, there’d be nothing better in the world,” he said. Robitaille also espoused the camaraderie of his sport. “Hockey is one of the greatest team sports out there,” said Robitaille. “We teach great values, and that is what we intend to do here.”
Upon being presented with a certificate of appreciation for the donation, Linehan deflected the praise, and sent it back to the association. “They’re the real heroes here,” he said. Mintzer concluded the press conference by pointing out the children, explaining, “I think these kids would have come with their shovels today if they could have.”
As both the young and old angled for autographs and photographs with Robitaille, four-year-old Valentina Juricek frolicked in her figure skating gear and played with her coaches, two UCSB students who must commute to Oxnard’s rink to teach. “We go down twice a week if not more,” said Valentina’s mother Alison DeLorenzo Juricek, who grew up skating at the long-closed Santa Monica Ice Chalet. “It’s a wonderful rink down there, don’t get me wrong, but to have something here … will keep the revenues in town and do something for everyone.”
A few steps away, a trio of 10-year-olds — Holden Corrigan, Dario Bucy, and Will Hahn — were holding their autographed hockey pucks and talking about their roller hockey league. “We’ve just been waiting so long,” said Will’s mom Conie Hahn, whose husband coaches for Santa Barbara Youth Hockey, which plays on the roller rink at Earl Warren Showgrounds. “They can’t wait to get a league going here.”
Hahn, like Robitaille, praised the all-for-one aspect of hockey. “They really emphasize the team,” she said of SBYH, “and they don’t emphasize winning.” She said that SBYH accepts all skill levels and uses rules to ensure that everyone plays. Hahn has even seen kids who can’t skate at all join in. “Within one season, they’re out there playing their hearts out,” she said. Both children and parents even try to get the roller hockey going under the winter’s rainy skies. “For any chance to get out there, they’re willing and ready,” said Hahn.
With a hopeful rink opening scheduled for late 2011, these kids have less than two years to wait for an all-weather, cooler alternative.