ice skating downtown
ICE will return this year.

Is an outdoor ice rink in Southern California a charming tradition or a testament to the horrors of man’s hubris?

Either way, Downtown Santa Monica Inc.’s cherished ice skating rink will once more return to the corner of 5th Street and Arizona Avenue this year, in the annual tradition expected to bring in about $100,000 in net revenue for the public-private partnership known as DTSM.

The ice skating rink costs about $1.2 million to produce and operate and is expected to generate $1.3 million in gross revenue. When it opens later this fall, it will be for the first time since the attraction closed in winter 2020 before the onset of COVID-19. Before the pandemic, the ice rink attracted an average of 200,000 spectators and 50,000 skaters each season.

Plans for this year’s rink were discussed at the Tuesday, Oct. 11, Santa Monica city council meeting, where Councilmember Phil Brock suggested the rink be converted to a more eco-friendly roller skating rink, citing concerns over water and energy waste.

“I’ve suggested several times that an ice skating rink in the middle of this extreme drought is not the best use of our energy in Santa Monica and I had made an alternative suggestion that we do a Christmas roller skating rink instead,” Brock told fellow council members on Tuesday. “That would use much less energy and wouldn’t use water, whether it was recycled or not. And it would use much less electric power.”

Brock was told in no uncertain terms that current plans for the ice rink were locked in, at least for the 2022-23 season.

“I can say that the City and DTSM have been working for a long time on the ice skating rink. It’s so well loved and we’re really excited to welcome it back,” Economic Development Manager Jennifer Taylor said, later adding, “I think for this year, it’s too late to transition to doing something different than ICE just because they’ve been spending so much time and effort to bring it back. But we can certainly take consideration for that location or if there’s potentially some other locations for your idea for the roller skating rink.”

The ice rink did not open in late 2020 due to the pandemic and later faced an additional challenge when electrical issues nearby necessitated work on a Southern California Edison circuit in the area.

“It’s been a challenging two years because of the pandemic and electrical infrastructure issues at the rink site, but we are happy to say that we are on track to open this November and welcome all of you back to this beloved community gathering space!” said a message on the DTSM website.

Councilmember Gleam Davis acknowledged the electrical issues while responding to Brock’s comments on Tuesday. 

“Actually, the city invested some money to make sure that that ice rink could happen because we had to fix the Edison circuit that was there in that parking lot near there,” Davis said, “and so, it’d be kind of a shame to have invested all that money to have an ice rink and then not have an ice rink.”

Davis said that, as the parent of a former ice hockey player, she believed strongly that the ice rink was a resource for kids and adults in Santa Monica and across the region.

“To have that ice rink open for a few months during the winter is a real opportunity for our local kids and adults to enjoy ice skating to learn to ice skate,” Davis said. 

Brock reiterated that he believed a skating rink would be a better fit for DTSM, but in the end voted to support the item, which passed in a unanimous, 6-0 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan not in attendance.