A former city official has proposed a plan to build a center for competitive ice skating on undeveloped city land near the Glendale Freeway, drawing the ire of some residents who live near the site.
The facility, which would occupy up to five acres in one of the city’s four “freeway parks” in the San Rafael Hills off Fern Lane, was proposed to the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission last week by Marilyne Wiechmann, a former parking commissioner.
Wiechmann, an amateur competitive skater, told commissioners that the proposed center would include a stadium with as many as 5,000 seats, a child-care center and a cafeteria.
The commission’s recommendation ordinarily is sought, but not required, before such a proposal goes before the City Council. Commissioners are expected to consider Wiechmann’s idea in January, said Nello Iacono, director of the city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.
Under Wiechmann’s plan, the city would lease the undeveloped land for free to a nonprofit group that would oversee operations at the rink.
Representatives of several regional skating and hockey groups interested in developing the facility and experienced in organizing competitive events attended last week’s meeting to support Wiechmann’s proposal.
The groups, including the California Amateur Hockey Assn. and the Los Angeles Figure-Skating Club, have not formally organized into a nonprofit organization that would run the center. But they have consulted with a New York-based company that builds and designs rinks, Wiechmann said.
Organizers said they hoped that the city would then obtain a low-interest loan to develop the facility and allow the group to repay it with revenues and private donations.
Construction could cost between $2 million for a single rink and $15 million for two rinks and a multiuse stadium, Wiechmann said. She and other organizers said they believe the facility eventually would be self-sufficient and that its revenues would exceed its costs.
Wiechmann said the center could host international skating competitions, provide recreation for children whose Glendale schools begin year-round classes in 1991 and help curtail the rapid depletion of local ice skating rinks. Of the dozen rinks in Southern California, only three are large enough for competitive or team skating, she said.
“If it means just a simple ice rink with one sheet of ice, we’re willing to do that,” Wiechmann said. “The city, I think, could greatly benefit.”
About 10 residents of Fern Lane, the only street leading in or out of the proposed site, urged the commission to reject Wiechmann’s idea, saying they feared traffic and noise in their neighborhood would increase substantially. They also said they doubted that the center would be successful.
Commissioners did not discuss the proposal, but Iacono said he is skeptical about Wiechmann’s financing plan. If the city allowed free, long-term use of its land, he said, it should not also assume a multimillion-dollar loan debt to help organizers.
The city already has plans to build two parks, three soccer and two baseball fields, and picnic and barbecue facilities at its “freeway parks” sites, which consist of 77 acres of 392 acquired by the city from Caltrans after the freeway was completed in the late 1970s.
The commission can make recommendations to the City Council on whether a recreational facility such as Wiechmann’s should be built on the parkland. But final approval rests with the council.