Faced with depleted admissions revenue and millions of dollars worth of renovations, officials with the Redwood City-based ice skating rink, Nazareth Ice Oasis, say they’re in “the weeds” and holding talks around selling amid rumors the rink has closed for good.
Michael Ohayon, director of asset management for Nazareth Enterprises, the owners of Ice Oasis, said talks around selling the property where the rink exists have begun. Though he confirmed the rink has not officially sold, he declined to comment on where negotiations are currently.
“Renovating has been much more difficult than anticipated with the scope of the work and the costs, the pandemic and low income. … We’re trying to determine what our best foot forward is,” said Ohayon.
A series of renovations had been planned over the summer including code-required updates to the roof, plumbing and floorboards and millions in updates to the ice refrigeration system. The structure also has to be brought up to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance after Marva Samuel, a walker-bound plaintiff represented by Oakland-based Rein and Clefton, alleged in a lawsuit staff refused to accommodate her disability.
Mounir Kardosh, the owner of both Redwood City and San Mateo Ice Oasis locations, originally estimated the upgrades to cost roughly $1 million in February 2019. He noted then that installing a lift or elevator would mean they wouldn’t keep the ice rink. Now, Ohayon said the renovations could cost upwards of $3 million.
“We’re well into the weeds and just don’t know. We’re evaluating costs and it’s a lot more than anticipated, considerably higher than we anticipated,” said Ohayon, who noted Redwood City officials have been “no help” in preserving the rink.
Mayor Diane Howard said “the city is not in the position to use public funds to sustain a private business,” adding that city staff had assisted the property owner with finding a new home for the rink. Staff had reached out to the development community expressing interest in having an ice skating rink incorporated into future projects, she said in an email.
“We are just as disappointed at the loss of the skate rink. … We know how important it is to the community to have an ice rink and understand that the owner is still interested in having a facility in Redwood City. We will continue to help in whatever capacity we can,” said Howard.
Since temporarily closing for renovations, concerns amongst dedicated patrons began to swirl that the rink was closing for good.
Sarah Feldman, the CEO and founder of the Silicon Valley Ice Skating Association, established during the 2016 closure of a Belmont rink, said losing the establishment would be a major detriment to the mental and physical well-being of county residents. She said she’s received substantial concerns from ice skating residents over the lack of county rinks and now over the lack of skating sessions, an issue caused by pandemic-related health restrictions.
“With the Redwood City rink closed, this is an extra 100,000 people who do not have access to the physical and mental health benefits of exercising in a way that works best for them,” said Feldman. “With the lockdown putting pressure on mental health of our residents, having access to exercise and athletic facilities that serve people of all ages is paramount to the health and well-being of the county.”
Roy Maydan, whose two young daughters skate competitively and have practiced at the rink for years, said a permanent closure would be devastating for families like his all over the southern region of the county. No other options for skating exist between San Mateo and San Jose, he said.
“[Redwood City’s Ice Oasis] is where both of my daughters learned how to skate and it is their primary rink. My daughters would be devastated to lose the rink,” Maydan said in an email. “I would also guess that there are families that will no longer skate because of the inconvenience as that happened when Belmont closed (before San Mateo reopened).”
As residents of northern Palo Alto, the Redwood City rink is the closest practice space for the 10- and 13-year-old. Now with the rink closed, families have flocked to the San Mateo location when sessions are made available.
Since health precautions have forced Nazareth to greatly limit access to the rink, practice slots are difficult to reserve as often and conveniently as families would like and professional skaters need. Maydan fears the closure of the Redwood City rink would allow the problem to continue even once virus restrictions are lifted.
“There is always a flurry of texts when a session becomes available in San Mateo and everyone signs up immediately because they go quickly. I could see this happening if Redwood City closes permanently even after the pandemic,” said Maydan. “The same thing happened in San Jose after Belmont closed and before San Mateo reopened.”
Like Feldman, Maydan noted the closed rink and lack of access at open rinks have had a major effect on the mental and physical well-being of his daughters who have missed their skating peers. Their moods have “improved dramatically” since practices have picked up, he said.
While the future of Redwood City’s Ice Oasis is unclear, Ohayon said residents should continue patronage at the San Mateo location.
“For the time being we have an open and operating ice rink in San Mateo and the best way to support the rink is to book events, skate and do whatever needs to be done to continue supporting us,” said Ohayon.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106