About 8,000 skaters glided — or, in some cases, stumbled — across Glendale’s first local ice-skating rink that closed on Monday, bringing in just under $150,000, according to a document prepared by city staff.
That figure is what city officials had expected to recoup, offsetting the nearly $500,000 in taxpayer funds that were set aside to run the seasonal rink that opened in late November.
“We’re trying to be good stewards of public funds, but we do want to make sure we can throw some fun in, and happiness and recreation, to some residents — younger residents — in the city,” Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said this week. “That’s what it’s all about.”
When the rink opened to the public on Nov. 22, dozens of children arrived in the SoCal equivalent of winter apparel to sip hot cocoa and hit the ice. Young regional competitive skaters showed off their skills, and local police officers passed hockey pucks on the ice.
“It’s like I’m flying,” Glendale resident Nicole Hayrapetian, 9, said of skating at the grand opening.
Funds for the ice rink were allocated from a local sales tax increase, known as Measure S, which Glendale voters approved in November 2018 and is expected to generate $30 million annually for the city.
Glendale officials have pitched the tax as a way to improve the quality of life in the city.
Not all Glendale residents or officials supported using the funds for the ice rink.
Glendale City Councilwoman Paula Devine voted against the project, citing a need to be fiscally responsible.
Longtime resident James Kussman said he felt there were better ways the city could have spent the money, including fixing pot holes, hiring police officers or tackling local traffic problems.
“There are things that need to be done in Glendale to keep the city up to date,” said Kussman, who recently penned a letter to the editor on the subject that was published Jan. 2.
Offset notwithstanding, taxpayers still footed the approximately $350,000 bill for the ice rink, Kussman said.
“My opinion is the ice rink was a colossal waste of money,” he said in a phone interview.
The ice rink was a one-time expenditure, Najarian said. Some expenditures, such as hiring police officers, are a longer-term financial commitment that he said could not be done for an equivalent amount of money.
When Kussman wrote his letter, he had obtained financial documents for the ice rink from its opening until Dec. 16. Revenue totaled roughly $57,000 for that time frame.
Based on the figures at that point, it was not clear if the city would earn back the $150,000 officials said they expected when discussing the ice rink in June. On Dec. 4, only 13 skaters showed up and revenue for the day topped out at just over $227. Although that was the worst financial day for the ice rink, five other days during that period resulted in daily revenues of less than $800.
A spreadsheet compiled by city staff after the rink closed, which includes all of the rink’s days of operations, shows that revenues picked up after Dec. 16. After that date, daily revenue always exceeded $1,000, according to the document. On Jan. 4, the ice rink’s highest grossing day, 422 skaters brought in total revenue of just over $7,890.
The ice rink’s average daily revenue was roughly $3,250 for its 46 days of operation, based on the figures in the cumulative document.
Burbank’s annual seasonal ice-skating rink, which closed on Jan. 5 after running 3½ weeks, drew 11,657 skaters, according to Marissa Minor, an economic development analyst with the city of Burbank.
That ice rink is produced through a partnership between a downtown Burbank business improvement district, or BID, and Ice America, a private company, not through city funds, Minor said.
The BID pays Ice America about $30,000 to offset the company’s operational costs and does not collect money from sales, Minor said.
A report on the private company’s earnings has not yet been received by the city, Minor said.
She added that, rather than make a profit, the goal of the ice rink is to entice people into downtown Burbank to eat, drink and shop, as well as provide a seasonal treat for residents and visitors.
“Improving the area for property owners and merchants is our main goal,” Minor said. “Secondarily, we do want to provide a community asset.”
The Glendale City Council and local business groups echoed similar goals when planning Glendale’s inaugural ice rink.
Rick Lemmo, president of the Downtown Glendale Assn., said members have given him positive feedback about the recent shopping season in casual conversations.
“There is no doubt in my mind that these types of creative ideas add to the joy and certainly the commerce of the fourth-quarter revenue,” Lemmo said in a statement.
When the city begins working on next year’s budget, in the spring, the City Council can determine whether it wants to bring the ice rink back or tweak the project in some way, Najarian said.
He added that he plans to source feedback from the public before making a decision.