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Orange County Register (California)

Residents concerned about the future of the Culver City Ice Arena gained a small victory this week, when the city's cultural affairs commission designated the property a significant cultural resource.

The rink, once home to 5,000 skaters and 55 classes each week, closed in February because of problems with lease negotiations between the property owner and the rink operator.

Since then, employees and people who regularly skate there have been trying to ensure that it will remain as the ice rink they say has been a cultural institution since its opening in 1962. It's one of only five rinks left in Los Angeles County.

"We just want to make sure they can't tear it down to make it into something else later," said Shannon Takahashi, who ran the skating school during her 20 years at the rink.

The cultural affairs commission decided Tuesday to recognize the rink because of its iconic 1960s architecture and sign as well as its contribution to the rising popularity of ice sports in Southern California.

About 20 people rallied Tuesday in front of City Hall, holding posters that read "Save Culver Ice Rink." Some cars honked in support as they passed.

Bonno Levine, a 16-year-old who has skated at the Culver City Ice Arena for 10 years, said it's a popular place to hang out after classes at Culver City High School.

"It's the only rink I like to go to, and there's no rink like it," he said. "I know everyone there."

Culver City residents who spoke at the meeting said that as other ice rinks in Los Angeles have closed, their arena has remained close to their hearts.

"It's unthinkable to us to drive down Sepulveda and not see the Culver Ice Arena sign and skater, and we just feel that the importance of maintaining little bits of history ... seems really important," said Ann Oliver, whose son has played hockey at the rink since age 3.

Still, there's no guarantee the site won't be turned into something else with a new lease.

A small fitness chain, Planet Granite, was set to move into the space but recently backed out of the deal.

The city then discovered that without going through a rezoning process, the property has to remain an ice rink.

"It is not limited to an ice rink, it's just that you'd have to pursue a rezoning. It's a complicated process," said John Nachbar, Culver City's city manager.

Nachbar also said that after the previous tenant stopped operating the space, the city discovered the rink's refrigeration system was antiquated to the point of posing a public safety risk because of its use of ammonia.

He said the property owners fixed that hazard and are searching for a new tenant, and he has heard of discussions between the owner and the Kings hockey team.

"Everything is up in the air right now," said Mike Karagozian, one of the co-owners of the property. "We have no comment."


April 25, 2014


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