Skate or Die

Iceland landmarked, Oakland Ice Sharked, Roller Girls homeless.

Skate or Die

If you’re in the habit of attaching boots to your feet with some form of attached gliding mechanism and then sliding about on things, then read up. In Berkeley, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission decided two weeks ago to landmark the Berkeley Iceland building — all of it — in a small victory for preservationists and skaters who want to see the recently closed facility reopen sometime as an ice rink.

Although Iceland’s owners argued against landmarking the building, and even hired a consultant to dismiss its architectural significance, the agent offering the property claims the new designation will make little difference in his sales efforts. “We’ve anticipated from the beginning that there would be some level of landmark status [granted] to the building,” says Ito Ripsteen of Gordon Commercial Realty. “That came as no surprise or mystery. Landmark or no, this is still a heck of a development opportunity.”

Ripsteen notes that landmark status doesn’t preclude the building from being used for another purpose, such as housing or a rec center, so long as the developer can hew to the restrictions. “It is a site with tremendous potential, and that’s what people still need to see,” the agent says. “Whether it’s going to be a user group that comes in, or some kind of recreational facility, or a developer who can come in and work within the envelope, there are still stories to be told here.”

Yet it is perhaps indicative of Ripsteen’s sales challenge that he mentions Save Berkeley Iceland, a group of earnest citizens who hope to raise enough money to buy the building and preserve it as an ice rink — at last count, they had raised somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000, less than 1 percent of the asking price. A month ago, Ripsteen’s sales partner John Gordon wouldn’t comment on the fledgling nonprofit. Now, Ripsteen mentions it by name as a potential buyer. “We’re still receiving more inquiries,” he adds. “There are others that are very interested.”

Any buyer would have to work closely with the city regardless, the agent notes. “Someone buying the building is going to look at this as, okay, there’s a lot of process we have to go through with the city,” he says. “Whether that’s landmarks, zoning, building, or talking with neighbors, that’s all part of it. This doesn’t change things dramatically.”

Skating over to Oakland, the city council voted last week to open negotiations with the San Jose Sharks to manage the city-owned Oakland Ice Center. (After weeks with the council divided 4-4 between the Sharks and Virginia-based Rink Management Services Corporation, Councilwoman Pat Kernighan switched her vote.)

Once the contract is finalized, most likely this summer, the Sharks are expected to commence with upgrades and improvements. It was rumored among hockey players that the rink would shut down for the summer, but both the Ice Center’s general manager and city officials said they don’t expect skaters to be inconvenienced by any renovations. “There will be some time at some point where there will be some minor stuff,” says Patrick Lane, the city’s downtown regional development manager. But there are no plans for long-term rink closures, he says.

Finally, news from Oakland’s only dry skating surface: The girls of the Bay Area Roller Derby were recently booted off the floor of Dry Ice, a roller hockey rink out by the airport. Their bouts, it seems, were getting a little too popular, leading the city to put the brakes on the latest match. The crowded events raised “fire and life safety issues,” says Gary Collins, assistant fire marshal, which need to be resolved before the ladies can even resume their weekly practices. If anyone has a 10,000-square-foot space (preferably one without posts) suitable for sexy, bruising, fast-paced action, do tell.


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