Thank You Spice of Life Festival - Iceland News Follow-up
Even in the rain, good food and interesting conversations made yesterday's Spice of Life Festival another great event [loved La Liason's lamb sandwich and Tru Dim Sum's scallop dumpling]. Getting out to talk with the community about what is going on with Save Berkeley Iceland project is always great and reminds us again why we started this project. It would be even better if there was a space in the community where we could go any time of the year to not just talk about the future of Berkeley Iceland in the community, but actually have it back as part of the community.
Naturally most of the talk at the booth was about the latest news - the possibility that Berkeley Iceland would become the next store in the Sports Basement chain. Naturally it was not a completely unbiased crowd, but after the eye rolling and various plays on the theme of "...are you kidding me...", the question was always "what can we do?"
This is a very difficult question to answer and one that we are trying to address ourselves. Berkeley Iceland is, after all, private property so that a willing buyer with a willing seller can do what they please. Our immediate reaction is to make sure the community knows what is happening. While this is not great news for supporters of a public community ice rink, it is not the end of our efforts to attain our goal.
One possible outcome is that, after serious consideration of the cost involved and the community reaction, Sports Basement may determine that Berkeley Iceland doesn't work for their model. One thing almost everyone agrees on is that having a large, empty, unkept building is bad for the neighborhood. Another is that anyone who wants to reopen/restore the building has a large financial hurdle - just to open the doors is likely to cost multiple millions of dollars.
The architectural and engineering studies SBI had done during our time in contract gives us a pretty good idea of what is needed; our estimates for restoring just the rink and entry spaces is $5-8 Million, of which only about $1 Million is for the actual ice surface and chiller functions. Berkeley Iceland is an old, historic building with decades of deferred maintenance which needs to be addressed. This cost was a major reason SBI decided on a nonprofit model when we started since, even with a decent operations model, it is hard to fund theses costs and maintain a profitable business.
If Sports Basement finds Berkeley Iceland doesn't really fit their model, there has been at least one other offer which includes a restored public, community ice center in its plans. With full community and city support, these plans could result in Berkeley Iceland restored and reopened in a relatively short period. We continue to believe that the best use for Berkeley Iceland is as a community recreation facility for which it was designed as an ice rink and was a hub of community activity for 67 years. While we are not blind optimists, this belief sustains our efforts to see Berkeley Iceland once again contributing to the health, fun, and well being of the Berkeley Community.