There’s a noticeable pep in Ron Stavert’s step lately. While the summer days have been long and hot, the atmosphere has been energetic and cool at Pickwick Gardens.
Since Aug. 5, the ice rink at the 9-acre site at 1001 W. Riverside Drive — which includes banquet halls, conference rooms and a bowling alley — has been up and running again after roughly two months of renovations.
A grand opening of the rink will be held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
Stavert, president and chief executive of Pickwick, said on Thursday he’s excited to see the rink filled with children playing hockey and not worried about the overall condition of the facility.
That’s because in late December, the Los Angeles Kings and American Sports Entertainment Co., or ASEC, entered into a 10-year lease with Stavert to become the new operators of the ice rink, which is now named the L.A. Kings Ice at Pickwick Gardens.
“We’ve been able to save this ice rink for my family, the employees, the community and the city,” he said. “This is a desired asset that everyone should be proud of.”
The ice rink was originally built in 1961 and was updated and repaired in the 1970s and 1990s.
However, the facility had been on its last legs for the past decade, and Stavert said he wasn’t able to afford the needed upgrades, which he estimated to be about $1.5 million.
That’s where ASEC and the Kings came in.
The recent renovations were more than just a new coat of paint. Stavert estimates that ASEC has spent over $1 million replacing the rink’s cold-floor pipes, rebuilding and upgrading the chiller, installing low-energy ceiling insulation and upgrading the boards around the rink, among other improvements.
There are also a new office space, pro shop and lots of Kings branding in the facility’s entryway, as well as new signage going up on top of the building.
Stavert said recent work is the first phase of renovations and added that the second phase might include building a second rink on the property.
The Pickwick ice rink has been home to the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, the Golden Bears youth hockey league and UCLA’s hockey team.
Darin Mathewson, general manager of the facility, said he can’t wait for those organizations and the public to enjoy all the upgrades.
“The overall structure of the building is perfect for a rink, but it was just dated,” Mathewson said. “Now, we’ve brought it up to the 21st century. Working with the Kings, so far, we’ve taken everything to the next level.”
Mathewson has overseen the operations of the rink for 25 years and was retained by ASEC when the company took over this year.
ASEC, which operates the practice facilities for the Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Galaxy, kept all the staff members at Pickwick and trained them on how to properly maintain the facility for years to come.
“We literally started from the ground up, and everything in this facility has been touched and upgraded,” Mathewson said.
Stavert said there’s been a lot of buzz from the public about the rink reopening, which he thinks will be a catalyst to draw more people to Pickwick.
He’s already thinking about making improvements to the banquet halls and updating the bowling alley as more hype builds around the rink and Pickwick overall.
“Now that I’ve got the ice rink issue put to bed, it allows me to focus on everything else,” Stavert said.