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Supporters Prepare Rally to Save Berkeley Iceland

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 13, 2007

Supporters of Save Berkeley Iceland plan to show up in their skating and hockey gear at the Berkeley City Council tonight (Tuesday) to request the city’s help in saving the historic ice rink scheduled to close March 31. 

Nearly 2,000 supporters have signed petitions to support preservation of the 67-year-old skating rink at 2727 Milvia St. 

“We will be presenting these signatures to the councilmembers as a proof of how much the rink means to the old and the young alike,” said Caroline Winnett, a Berkeley resident who grew up learning to skate at the Iceland. 

Volunteers of Save Berkeley Iceland have been meeting weekly since parent company East Bay Iceland announced its decision to close the rink on Jan. 18, blaming low profits and bad publicity. 

Fifty members from Save Berkeley Iceland met at the rink on a gray Saturday morning to establish a fundraising committee which would help collect funds to turn the facility into a sustainable athletic facility. 

“Right now we are concentrating on organizing funds to upgrade the structure and putting a business plan together,” said Tom Killilea, president of the Bay Area Blades. “We are looking at establishing a non-profit which would turn it into a general athletic facility, broadening its appeal to the community.” 

He said that his plans for the facility include installing solar panels on the roof, building an effective refrigeration system and use the heat generated from the refrigerator to generate hot water for a therapeutic pool. 

The Berkeley Fire Department had considered Iceland’s permanent ammonia-based cooling system a hazard in 2005 and had forced the rink to install a temporary system. 

Berkeley-based Assembly Architects is helping redesign the rink for its proposed community center expansion, and a local solar energy supplier has offered aid toward installing a green energy system. 

Individuals representing area organizations such as the Berkeley YMCA have also expressed interest in setting up fitness programs. 

Berkeley Iceland, which has been on the market for the last year with a price tag of $6.45 million, has yet to receive any active bids. 

Winnett said that Save Berkeley Iceland would be stepping up efforts to collect funds in the next few weeks so that operations at the rink could go on uninterrupted. 

“Since the Berkeley Unified School District is looking to build a baseball field right across from the rink, it could become a nice little area for people to congregate and have fun,” she said.