The Ice Chalet at Laurel Plaza--an icon to San Fernando Valley ice skaters, hockey enthusiasts and just about every child in the neighborhood for the past 27 years--closed Sunday night, even as residents held a weekend petition drive in hopes of keeping the rink open.
Disappointed over the closing of one of the oldest ice-skating rinks in the Valley and one of only a few rinks remaining in the city, residents collected 1,000 signatures from parents and grandparents from as far away as Woodland Hills and Hollywood who visited the North Hollywood rink with children and ice-skates in tow.
“They were all very upset,” said Gayle McKenna, a Studio City mother of a 9-year-old aspiring Olympic figure skater. “It’s sad because it was the kind of place where mothers could drop off their kids and not worry. What are the kids going to do now?”
Christopher Martinez, 11, of North Hollywood, who learned to ice-skate and play hockey at the rink, said he doesn’t know where he will go for winter-like fun in the Valley anymore.
“I have been coming here since I was 7, and I have a lot of friends here,” he said, as the sweat glistened on his ruddy face after a few laps around the rink. “It is a horrible thing to lose this place.”
On its last day of business, the rink was full.
About 200 hockey players smashed their last pucks inside the popular facility Sunday morning, hundreds of weekend skaters covered the ice during the afternoon and a party for a couple of Girl Scout troops closed the place that night with an ice-skating bash.
The Ice Chalet was temporarily closed after the Northridge earthquake, giving patrons a taste of what it would be like to go without. The rink reopened with a few other stores in the mall in October.
Since 1986, property owner Forest City Enterprises has sought city permission to demolish the mall and build a new shopping center twice as large that would include more department stores and parking spaces. Despite conditional approval from the Planning Commission, the city has delayed final approval of the plans.
Rumors of the rink’s demise have swirled for weeks, employees said, but official word came last week. The Ice Chalet’s operators said they could not comment about the rink’s closure.
“I think it’s kind of dumb for them to revamp the place after the earthquake and then tear it down right after,” said longtime skater Jaimee Young, 19, of Panorama City, who came with her younger brother and sister. “We will miss this place.”