A group photo with Luc Robitaille at the site of the proposed ice rink in Goleta Mar. 5, 2010

Paul Wellman

A group photo with Luc Robitaille at the site of the proposed ice rink in Goleta Mar. 5, 2010

Big Bucks for Goleta Ice Rink

$250,000 Donation Moves Project into Design Phase; Groundbreaking by December 2011?

The long awaited Goleta ice rink may begin building by December 2011 thanks to a $250,000 donation in support of the Ice in Paradise project from the Iowa-born billionaire who co-founded Gateway Computers and his fiance, a Santa Barbara-raised attorney who once worked in juvenile justice. The gift from Norm Waitt and Christine Djernaes — which came under the banner of the Kind World Foundation — pushes the fundraising campaign over the $3 million mark, and enables the Greater Santa Barbara Ice Skating Association (GSBISA) to begin accepting design and construction bids.

“With the economy still a little soft, this is the perfect time to lock in a price, which we are anticipating to be less than what it was a few years back,” said GSBISA president Kathy Mintzer. “That’s great news for us. Our goal is to start digging by December.” The rink will be located next to Girsh Park in a now empty lot along Storke Road.

Though the ticket price for a complete rink will likely be less than the $8 million target set years ago, Mintzer said that total remains the fundraising goal, in order to pay for endowments and scholarships along the way. Plus, final approval for the design will still need to come from the City of Goleta, and Mintzer knows that can be a long, sometimes expensive process. “It can take quite a few months to get through all the hoops,” said Mintzer, explaining that a new community fundraising campaign will kick off in the next couple months.

The $250,000 donation grants Waitt and Djernaes the right to name the junior rink scoreboard as well as five VIP spectator seats. Waitt, who co-founded Gateway Computers with his brother Ted in the early 1990s and built more a billion-dollar fortune by the end of that decade, decided to support the rink due to his fond memories of the ice from his Iowa upbringing. “It’s a good thing for Californians on the coast to have because there are no outdoor skating rinks like in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa,” said Waitt in a press release. “It’s a wonderful outlet for kids.”

Djernaes — who grew up in Santa Barbara, remembers skating at the Ice Patch on the Mesa, is the mother of an 11- and 7-year-old, and now works as an employment attorney — once served as the deputy District Attorney in San Luis Obispo County’s child protective services division. “I saw the difference for children between having opportunities and lacking access to any,” she said in the release. “It is stark and, for me, was a wakeup call to help reduce that gap.” Her kids now have to drive to Oxnard to learn to skate. “I love the idea of an ice rink returning to my hometown,” she explained. “Local kids from all walks of life would greatly benefit from after- school and weekend programs at the skate rink, where they can develop personal skills, mastery and overall confidence they can take with them anywhere in life. It’s really a fantastic idea.”

Mintzer knows the ice rink is still very much needed in the Santa Barbara area, evidenced by her recent weekend trip to the rare snowfall on East Camino Cielo, where cars were stacked bumper to bumper just to get a chance to play in the cold stuff. “People ask me constantly, ‘When are we going to have that rink?’ They’re going to birthday parties at the rink in Oxnard instead,” she explained. “I say, ‘It’s coming. It’s coming.’ And now, it’s actually in sight.”

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