With Glendale’s chances of getting a white Christmas slim, city officials are taking the holiday season’s weather into their own hands.
Beginning in November, the parking lot behind City Hall will be transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with an ice-skating rink, colored lights and holiday music.
“It’s something new, something different,” said Onnig Bulanikian, the city’s director of community services and parks, about the first-time project that is expected to open Nov. 22.
Slated to operate until Jan. 6, which is Armenian Christmas, residents and visitors will be able to rent skates and hit the ice for $17 a session, according to a city report.
Burbank and downtown Los Angeles have their own seasonal ice rinks, and Glendale residents were traveling out of the city to enjoy them, Bulanikian said.
By bringing a rink closer to home, residents won’t have to go to adjacent cities and, when they’re done skating, they can head over to downtown Glendale for a meal and shopping, he added.
“We wanted to keep it in Glendale, that’s what our goal was,” Bulanikian said.
Glendale City Council members voted 3-1 last week to go forward with the project, contracting with Ice-America to install and manage the seasonal ice rink for about $376,500.
City officials hope to recoup about $150,000 in ticket sales, Bulanikian said.
Burbank’s rink draws between 13,000 and 18,000 visitors a year, he added.
Councilwoman Paula Devine cast the lone vote to not approve the contract.
“Half a million dollars for an ice-skating rink, it just kind of boggles the mind,” Devine said during the council meeting.
In an email following the meeting, Devine said that although she believes in the holiday spirit, she felt it was her “duty to be fiscally responsible.”
She added that the money could have been used for infrastructure improvements and safety efforts targeting pedestrians and cyclists.
Pointing out that revenue from project will offset the cost, Councilman Vartan Gharpetian said the project will cost less than $500,000.
“[And it’s] to have this amazing ice-skating rink for our community, for our kids, for our children, to enjoy [during] Christmas time and holiday time,” he said.
Funds for the project will come from a local sales tax increase, known as Measure S, which Glendale voters approved this past November.
The tax is expected to generate $30 million annually for the city.
Earlier this month, council members allocated $458,000 of Measure S funds for the rink.
About $25 million of the sales-tax revenue was allocated for affordable housing development and a senior rental subsidy program set to roll out later this year.
Bringing an ice skating rink has been discussed for years, but was formalized last holiday season following the passage of the sales-tax hike, Bulanikian said.
Until 2011, the city hosted an annual Winter Wonderland event at Brand Park, bringing in 40 tons of snow for the one-day celebration.
That event was discontinued because of citywide budget cuts, Bulanikian said.
He said he hopes the ice-skating rink, which will be open for six weeks, will serve as a replacement, of sorts, for the Brand Park event.