While a heat wave rolled in last weekend, the coolest spot in San Mateo is getting closer to reopening thanks to the community’s yearslong dogged battle to save the beloved Bridgepointe ice rink.
Passionate pleas from skating enthusiasts and a grassroots community effort to prevent the shopping center’s owner from demolishing the facility are finally coming to a welcomed finale.
After nearly four years since the former rink was shuttered, ice has officially frozen over at the site now being operated by Nazareth Enterprise.
While finishing touches and a few outstanding permits are still needed before they plan a grand unveiling in early October, a handful of hockey teams were able to tie up their laces and take to the Peninsula’s newest sheet of ice for a Labor Day weekend tournament.
“I am so excited! I can’t believe it, I cannot believe it!” exclaimed Dina Artzt a co-founder of the Save the Bridgepointe Ice Rink Committee, whose group has been credited with pushing city officials to maintain the rink. “That’s the whole lesson for this, for the community — to never give up if you believe in it.”
Supporters were ecstatic and shocked when in March the shopping center owner suddenly abandoned its efforts to demolish the rink and agreed to reopen it. But as it’s been nearly four years since the rink was last open, a fair amount of work is needed to bring the facility up to codes.
Improvements have included a new chilling system and scoreboard, as well as repairs to the facility’s wiring, plumbing, restrooms and locker rooms, said Nazareth CEO Mounir Kardosh.
“We’re really excited,” Kardosh said. “The city has been working with us because the place has been closed so long there were a lot of things that had to be updated and brought back into shape.”
City inspectors toured the facility Friday and determined additional approval was needed for some cooling equipment temporarily being located next to the building. City officials agreed to allow the previously-organized hockey tournament last weekend but the rink will be closed to the public for a few more weeks.
However, Kardosh was thrilled to announce they anticipate receiving approval from the city shortly and start soft opening activities potentially as soon as late next week.
Councilman Joe Goethals, who has advocated for expanding skating on the Peninsula, said seeing skaters at Bridgepointe this weekend was a thrill and he’s confident the public will soon return to the popular recreational amenity.
“It was a huge success. I watched some good hockey this weekend and I think they’ll finish everything and have their permits,” Goethals said. “The ice is frozen. I have not driven the Zamboni yet, but I plan to!”
Goethals and Artzt said they’re thrilled an experienced rink operator came forward and has spent the last few months readying the property. Nazareth also operates the Redwood City rink and its newest endeavor will be called Nazareth Ice Oasis San Mateo.
Kardosh emphasized the plan is to maintain skating options on the Peninsula.
“It is every bit our intention to keep both spaces open for years to come,” Kardosh said. “We’re super happy to help and to serve the public in this way.”
On Friday, crews were busy hosing down the rink to form ice and lacing up new hockey nets in preparation for the tournament. With a heat wave washing over the Bay Area, it was by far one of the coolest places to be. But for those who’ve spent years waiting for this moment, Goethals said they may have to experience it to believe it.
“All the skaters that I’ve talked to are in disbelief still and they’re going to have to put their skates on and skate on it to convince themselves that it’s real,” Goethals said.
The community’s enthusiasm for the rink never wavered even as dust collected in the building while it sat closed and a bitter battle ensued. The rink was shuttered in 2013 when the owner opted not to extend the prior operator’s lease and instead asked the city for permission to replace it with more retail space.
Rink fever along the Peninsula spread further when a Belmont facility in Belmont also closed after the operator cited maintenance costs. The Silicon Valley Ice Skating Association formed to try to push for expanding rink access in the region.
But the rink has been credited with allowing the shopping center to be redeveloped decades ago and is called out for in the site’s master plan — which gave advocates and the city leverage. Faced with extreme community pushback, Bridgepointe owner SPI Holdings upped its offer last year to an $8 million payment to the city in exchange for removing the recreational requirement at the shopping center.
But shortly before the City Council was slated to consider the offer, SPI Holdings announced it changed its mind and would instead seek interested operators.
Artzt and leaders of the community group were ecstatic. As they now work with Nazareth for the celebration tentatively scheduled Oct. 1, Artzt recalled the history of the Bridgepointe rink noting couples who originally met on the ice are now married.
“This is just a big, big huge win for the community. And I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces as they fall on the ice, as they touch the ice and as they begin to fall in love with skating whatever shape that takes,” Artzt said. “I just know [there’s] going to be so many great stories that are going to come out of this.”
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