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Skaters, Coaches Protest Plan to Close Ice Arena

TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 150 figure skaters, hockey players and coaches picketed Burbank’s Pickwick Ice Arena to protest the planned closure of the landmark facility that has served as the training center for a handful of Olympic athletes.

The protesters, many of them children, chanted “Save our rink” Thursday and carried homemade signs tacked to the ends of hockey sticks as they marched outside the rink near the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

“We’ll have to fight,” said 9-year-old Brad Haber of Chatsworth, goalie for a youth hockey team.

The 29-year-old rink, home of one of the most prestigious figure-skating clubs in the country and a popular practice arena for many local hockey clubs, will close Sept. 30, Manager Cary Adams announced at a noisy meeting of skating enthusiasts Monday night.

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Rumors that the arena would close had been circulating since April, but the news came as a shock to its users, especially because it is one of the few Olympic-sized rinks in Los Angeles.

“We don’t want a battle,” said Nancy Forbes, whose son Kirk practices figure skating at the arena. “We just want a place for our kids to skate.”

Pickwick owner Walter Stavert said the protest would not change the decision to close the arena. “We’ve pretty well made up our minds,” he said.

But protest organizer and skating instructor Russell Sessions said many skaters understand the decision to close the arena and will settle for more time to find an alternate facility.

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Stavert did not rule out a postponement of the closing date. “We’ll have to work with that when it comes to us,” he said.

Adams said the owners, Stavert and his brother Edward, decided in January to close the aging rink because it needs about $500,000 in repairs.

“The revenue on it just doesn’t warrant that kind of work,” Walter Stavert said.

Pickwick is home base for the highly competitive Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, which has nurtured such Olympic skaters as Linda Fratianne of Northridge, Tiffany Chin of Toluca Lake and Christopher Bowman of Van Nuys. The rink is used by speed skating clubs, hockey teams, pleasure skaters and students.

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