Fight to preserve ice rink not over for some San Mateo residents 

click to enlarge The Ice Chalet, part of the long-defunct Fashion Island shopping mall, shuttered last year. Famed skaters such as Kristi Yamaguchi and Peggy Fleming trained at the site. - COURTESY DINA ARTZT
  • Courtesy Dina Artzt
  • The Ice Chalet, part of the long-defunct Fashion Island shopping mall, shuttered last year. Famed skaters such as Kristi Yamaguchi and Peggy Fleming trained at the site.

Some San Mateo residents are continuing their fight to preserve the site of a venerable former ice rink where Olympic figure skaters and youths hoping to become professional hockey players have trained.

Formerly known as the Ice Chalet, the skating rink is all that remains of the old Fashion Island mall, which closed in 1996 and was demolished to make way for the Bridgepointe Shopping Center. The property owner has also proposed to tear down the ice rink structure and replace it with a more profitable retail space, despite concerns from community members.

During a public meeting last week, Peter Meier, an executive for SPI Holdings, the investment firm that owns the mall, faced heated comments and questions from hundreds of parents and community members frustrated over the loss of the community ice rink. Among them were Dina Artzt and her husband, Len Rosenduft, who have been spearheading the effort to save the ice rink since it closed almost a year ago. Their son, currently in high school, had used the rink as a training ground to pursue his goal of playing professional hockey.

However, Rosenduft said, it's not their son's dream they're fighting for, but the opportunities for youths to stay active and pursue their aspirations for years to come.

"There's not much hope of the rink reopening before he goes off to college," he said, "so it's for the next generation of kids that we're doing this."

Rosenduft noted that Olympic skaters Peggy Fleming, Kristi Yamaguchi, Debi Thomas, Brian Boitano and Rudy Galindo all trained at the Ice Chalet, but said that its greatest value was as a community gathering spot where parents, kids, church and school groups could recreate.

Artzt said parents are now forced to drive their kids to ice rinks as far away as San Jose or Dublin. The San Mateo rink's closure was also a blow to residents with disabilities, she said, because it was the only skating facility in the area that allowed wheelchairs on the ice and served local adapted physical education programs.

Rosenduft said one hurdle the developer faces is that the city's master plan for the shopping center includes language requiring it to maintain the space for an ice rink or similar use. SPI Holdings has previously floated proposals for circumventing the requirement, he claimed, by offering to build amenities such as a soccer field and public bathroom in a San Mateo park.

San Mateo Mayor Robert Ross said he's not eager to let the developer bargain its obligation away.

"I feel that the citizens of San Mateo negotiated a perpetual benefit," Ross said. "So if you give us temporary compensation, you're depriving us of that perpetual benefit."

SPI Holdings did not respond to an interview request.

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