Tale of Two Icelands

Two IcelandsSeventy One years ago this month two ice rinks with the moniker Iceland opened in Northern California - one in Berkeley and, three days later, one in Sacramento. Both were built to bring to the community ice sports and healthy fun.  Over the years, in spite of the wear and tear, both were special places in their communities.  In recent years, one suffered a devastating fire and the other was closed by its owners. Only one was open to celebrate its 71st anniversary - Sacramento Iceland - thanks to owners committed to community skating.

On March 28, 2010, the Sacramento Iceland building was destroyed by a five alarm fire caused by a burning car in the rear of the building. The Kerth family, the founders and long time owners of Sacramento Iceland, committed to reopening the rink. They worked with community volunteers, of which there were many, to clean the debris, raise money, and repair the site for skating.  Ten months later and without a roof, the community was skating at Sacramento Iceland once again. The committed owners worked with the community to restore their treasure.

Berkeley Iceland remains closed by an owner unconnected to the community. Worse.  After four years of fighting a loosing effort to keep Berkeley Iceland from getting the historic designation it deserves, they choose to sell the building for a project which will ensure that skating is not restored. East Bay Iceland, Richard Zamboni, president, prefers the building become a big-box sporting goods store rather than find a way to leave the community our ice rink which was so much a part of Berkeley culture. Disconnected from what should have been their community, even the skating community so identified with the Zamboni name, the owners choose to disregard over 70 years of history and community support of Berkeley Iceland for a much less rich future for us all.

The opportunity for restoring Berkeley Iceland as the community ice center it should be is not lost, though it is difficult. The community will make its voice heard as the permitting process moves forward and more people become aware of the scope of the Sports Basement plan in its current form. Just on its face, a store larger than the combined Berkeley Bowl and Walgreens on Adeline has no place in a quiet neighborhood served by small streets with inadequate parking. Compound this with the permanent loss of Berkeley Iceland as the community ice center it was for over 67 years, the project falls even further from acceptability.

Rather than continuing the fight for an inappropriate use of a special building, it is time to start again and come up with a project the preserves the historic rink and community asset which fits in with the neighborhood. A project that answers the question "Where are the kids supposed to go?" Rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees, spend them on planning and resources that will benefit the Berkeley community beyond cheap shopping, no matter how enlightened the marketing may be. It may take longer, but the owners will get their fair return.

It is time to get serious about saving Berkeley Iceland - how about it?