Skaters Try and Stop Closure of 52-Year Old Culver Ice Arena

CC Ice Rink sign from belowIf buildings could weep, the Culver Ice Arena would do so. The popular facility faces closure February 2nd, because the costly-to-maintain rink cannot meet an almost doubled rent of $63,000 per month.

It is expected to be replaced by Planet Granite, a Bay Area based rock-climbing, yoga and fitness company.

Thousands of past and present skaters and Culver City residents are fighting to keep the Arena open; this past Monday they presented a petition to the City Council and supporters, including champion skater Tai Babilonia, made passionate speeches, begging council members to find a way to save a beloved facility. 

Even though city officials say they cannot intervene in a private deal, supporters are holding out hope.

52 years ago, the rink, complete with its “Googie” era sign (left), opened its doors on Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City. Since then it has served as a training or practice ground for winners — Babilonia, Michelle Kwan, Wayne Gretzky and L.A. Kings players — and thousands of skating enthusiasts, young and old, amateur and professional.

Unlike other facilities that retained affection but lost customers to competing entertainments, like Hollywood Park, the rink, the only one on the West Side, still draws 5000 people a week, according to Shannon Takahashi, right, director of the skating school and youth hockey program.Shannon

Its pending closure coincides with the Sochi Winter Olympics, which, says Takahashi, would have brought forth another generation of young girls. “They are going to see these figure skaters and they are going to create their dream that they want to be an Olympic figure skater,” she said, “and they are not to have a rink to come to because we are going to be rock-climbing. That’s terrible.”

On a visit there Sunday, the rink was filled with families, teenagers and older individuals, some stumbling beginners, others gliding confidently like self-proclaimed “Wild Bill,” a highly “interpretative” skater who describes the rink as “a little piece of heaven,” providing an escape from a “hellish” life as builder of high end artistic environments.

Skaters there are expressing bewilderment at the pending closure. Aren’t there already enough yoga and rock-climbing facilities in LA, many asked. What about the fact that the rink has served families in the neighborhood and beyond for decades, forging unforgettable memories for several generations of Angelenos? What about the local businesses that got spin-off business from the rink?

Among those unclear where they will go next were the members of the Theater on Ice Adult Amateur Group, coached by Gina Testa, who has been involved with the rink since she was a child. Near to tears, a young woman called Wendy Mata talked about how she moved to Culver City two years ago and “made all her friends” at the rink. Fellow troupe member Barbara Arajo (right of picture, below, with Digna del Rosario) declared herself “devastated” at the pending closure; the rink she said, provided a sanctuary from a highly stressful job, and is a “huge part of her sanity.”

Digna and BarbaraAs to where Theater on Ice will go next, it is not clear what their options are. Bernard Sissel, a member, and father of little girl who also skates at the rink, said, “No clue, maybe sand. . . I dunno, can you skate on sand. . . you can go rock climbing anywhere, you can even put it over the ice arena, but you can’t take the ice and put it on the roof.”

Paige Prodonovich, a nine year-old whose father trains at the rink Tuesday nights with his ice-hockey team, said the rink is a “monument” and more than just a “real estate issue.” It is, she said a “whole community issue.” She plans to speak in front of legislators at the council meeting tonight.

As for what can be accomplished at the meeting, Shannon Takahashi realizes that the Mayor and Councilmembers are relatively powerless to do anything specific. City Manager John Nachbar told the LA Times that the city is upset about losing the rink but there is little they can do beyond buying the rink outright, which is “not a realistic option.”

The rink is a casualty of rising West Side land prices, and its value to the community has been trumped by the land’s monetary value.

Takahashi is still holding out hope however, that the L.A. Kings and AEG, who also bid on the site, but could not match Planet Granite, might still come through. And there is chance, she says, that Planet Granite will be forced to pull out of the lease agreement — when they find the solid layer of permafrost underneath the rink that might make it impossible to build their center.

If you have memories of Culver Ice Arena, write us below. Find out more about the rink and their petition, here.

Lots of people on ice

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  • Aimless

    This breaks my heart! I grew up in CC. I watched my friends practice their pairs ice skating here. I watched the Kings here. It is a part of our cultural heritage and should be kept in high esteem. And what of future generations?

  • Anonymous

    I get the argument about rock climbing and yoga being available plenty of other places in LA already, but it’s not like there aren’t other ice rinks around here. Panorama City, Simi Valley, Pasadena, Burbank, Toyota Center, that awful meat locker in Van Nuys, Harbor City, The Rinks in Orange County. Even an outdoor rink from November to February in Woodland Hills. It’s a little sad if the Culver City rink closes, but it’s not like the customers won’t have a place to go.

    • Lauren

      It’s still the only rink on the west side. Culver ice arena trains many top competitive skaters, which means that they have to be at the rink every day. It would ve challenging, at best, for a competitive skater to travel across LA every day. Plus, Culver Ice Arena is more than just another rink in LA. It has a deep routed community and history that shouldn’t be demolished.

    • Charlie Huang

      Yes and guess what many of us train in multiple rinks because the ice surfaces are already saturated with skaters hence not enough ice… I’ve been to Toyota and the rinks are beauitful but the skate times are very limited. Also I agree with Lauren it’s also about the communities it serves.

    • Ali’s mom

      Anonymous – you are obviously not a skater & don’t know what you’re talking about! Not all people have the ability to get to other rinks. WE ARE A COMMUNITY – our friends, coaches & classes are all at Culver. This should be an historic landmark & maintained for future generations of skaters.

    • Wolfie


      They are hell and gone while this is 20 minutes from our home or a brisk walk from our work?

  • Pablito

    Planet Granite is already crowing about it…

  • richard

    This makes me incredibly sad. It is by far the closest rink to where I live and work. I was hoping to start going more and now I find this. 🙁

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  • wow, very broad here, I really like coming here every week

  • nameless21

    Beat them at their own game, first of all, all the names on the petition, we each can donate 5 dollars that covers rent for a few months, then everyone gets together and decides how to rebuild and remodel the rink, they need to add a few activities to compensate the rent increase, but i think the community should decide what they would like to do and have along with ice skating, the ice rink is going nowhere we will skate that rink very soon, but now that new rent increases come everyone needs to work together and come up with the ideas to add new activities to go along with the arena not only are you creating new jobs you are keeping existing ones and you are generating more income with more activities available lets do this maybe a yoga studio on the back side, or something that doesn’t compete with the ymca be respectful of other business, but lets face it its time to show the place how much we love it save it remodel it and make it more attractive with new offers and activities, i mean i am nobody but doesnt yoga go with skating?

  • nameless21

    and to show my part when the time comes if you need any extra grunt workers to remodel and make the place new again a brand new complex, then i will do the grunt work for free. hold me to my word, not only will my knees continue to get banged up by the ice at culver city, my back will break too making sure its reborn.