- 1938 August - First Reports of Plans for an Ice Rink in Berkeley
- 1939 East Bay Iceland Prospectus
- 1939 Funding settled and Planning Commission approval
- 1940 November - Berkeley Iceland "Debuts"
- 1944 Maribel Vinson-Owen begins coaching at Berkeley Iceland
- 1947 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships
- 1956 Frank Zamboni begins purchase of East Bay Iceland, Inc.
- 1957 U.S. Nation Figure Skating Championships
- 1960 - Practice ice for Squaw Valley Olympics
- 1966 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships
- 1970s - Official Practice Ice for the California Golden Seals
- 1994 Berkeley Iceland used for US Men's Olympic Hockey Team practice ice
- 2003-2007 - The Closing of Berkeley Iceland
1938 August - First Reports of Plans for an Ice Rink in Berkeley According to the Oakland Tribune of 23 August, 1938, a Berkeley Civic Committee proposed raising $150,000 to construct an ice rink in Berkeley; $100,000 would be raised by selling shares and $50,000 through a bank loan. It would be the home ice for the Ice Hockey team of the University of California. A year later, Dr. Paul Cadman, head of the sponsoring committee, proposed the construction of Eastbay Iceland in Berkeley for "...a community venture for general benefit of persons interested in skating..."
Berkeley Iceland was built as a community venture, as a project of a Berkeley Civic Committee for the â€œgeneral benefit of persons interested in skating.â€ The construction was funded by selling shares, sometimes door-to-door to the community, and through funding pledged by â€œ33 prominent businessmen, professionals, and University of California professorsâ€ as shown in the prospectus from 1939. Among those of note on the supporting committee include:
* C.C. Young (Governor of California, 1927-1931)
* Robert Gordon Sproul (President, University of California, Berkeley, 1930-1958)
* Aurelia Henry Reinhardt (President, Mills College, 1916-1943)
* E. O. Lawrence (University of California Professor of Physics)
* K.K. Bechtel (Brother of Steven Bechtel, rink contractor)
* Duncan McDuffie (Major Berkeley Land Owner during the 20th Century and Real Estate Developer)
* Joel H. Hildebrand (University of California Professor of Chemistry and Coach of the 1936 U.S. Olympic Cross Country Ski Team)
* Mortimer Smith (University of California Professor of Arts & Sciences)
* Frank Kleeberger (University of California Director of Physical Education)
* Stephen C. Pepper (University of California Professor of Philosophy)
* Luther A. Nichols (Arts Reviewer/ Book Editor)
* Maurice G. Read (President, Berkeley Real Estate Board)
1939 Funding settled and Planning Commission approval
Stories in local newspapers follow the fundraising and political actions involved to start the project. The total cost of the rink had gone up to $300,000, which was pledged by "...33 prominent businessmen, professionals, and University of California professors..." [Oakland Tribune, 29 Nov. 1939]. Of course this being Berkeley there were the usual Planning Commission storm sessions. In a headline that could easily be from current Planning Committee reports, the headline of an article in the 14 Dec. 1939 Oakland Tribune stated:
HOME OWNERS FIGHTING RINK
Stormy Session of Planning Body Likely Tonight in Berkeley
The rezoning was apparently approved.
The St. Moritz Ice Skating Club played a key role in financing the rink. Members reportedly sold shares in the rink door-to-door to make it a real community effort.
1940 November - Berkeley Iceland "Debuts" Berkeley Iceland opens with a "high society" party sponsored by the Junior League of Oakland. Men in tuxedos and women in formal gowns [which were described in much detail in the Oakland Tribune article of the time] all gathered at Iceland to see the biggest ice show of the year.
1944 Maribel Vinson-Owen begins coaching at Berkeley Iceland Maribel VInson-Owen, nine-time U.S. Womens Figure Skating Champion, two-time inductee in the Figure Skating Hall of Fame (both singles and doubles), coach for the U.S. teams at the World Figure Skating Championships, and the first woman sports writer for the New York Times, began her coaching carrer at Berkeley Iceland in 1944. As quoted in Wikipedia (and supported by the memory of skaters who were there) "... Following her retirement from amateur ice skating she married Canadian skater Guy Owen with whom she toured as professionals in an ice skating review. Initially based in Berkeley, California, following the birth of their two daughters: Maribel Yerxa Owen (born 1940) and Laurence Richon Owen (born 1944), she returned to the rink as an ice-skating coach..." She left Berkeley Iceland to persue her sports writing carrier at the New York Times.
The first National Skating Championships held West of the Mississippi River. And the winners were:
|Gold||Gretchen Merrill||Richard Button||Yvonne Sherman
|Silver||Janette Ahrens||John Lettengarver||Karol Kennedy
|Bronze||Eileen Seigh||James Grega||Carol Welch
Yes, this Men's Champion is that Richard (Dick) Button - the obiquitous TV commentator for all [or so it seems] figure skating events. He went on to his first World Championships where he finished 2nd.
1956 Frank Zamboni begins purchase of East Bay Iceland, Inc. In 1956, Frank Zamboni began purchasing shares in a troubled East Bay Iceland and became the manager of Berkeley Iceland. Mr. Zamboni was the inventor of the ice surfacing machines which bear his name and founder of the Frank J. Zamboni Co., Inc., the largest supplier of the machines. Under the leadership of Mr. Zamboni and his hand-picked replacement, Bob Skrak. Their actions lead to a second renaissance of ice skating in Berkeley and a relationship between the Zamboni's and Berkeley Iceland which lasted over 50 years.
|Berkeley Iceland's second round at hosting the National Skating Championships. And the results were:|
|Gold||Carol Heill||David Jenkins||Nancy Rouillard
|Silver||Joan Shenke||Tim Brown||Mary J. Watson
|Bronze||Charalynn Lewis||Tom Moore||Anita Tefkin
1960 - Practice ice for Squaw Valley Olymics Berkeley Iceland was a practice site for many of the participants and teams participating in the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley. This lead to a significant increase in interest in skating in general and at the Berkeley Iceland in particular.
|Berkeley Iceland's third, and last, time hosting the National Skating Championships. And the results were:|
|Gold||Peggy Fleming||Scott Allen||Cynthia Kauffman
|Silver||Albertina Noyes||Thomas Litz||Susan Berens
|Bronze||Patricia Scheider||Billy Chapel||
1970s - Official Practice Ice for the California Golden Seals During the 1970's, Berkeley Iceland was the official practice ice for the ill fated California Golden Seals team of the NHL. While the team never had a winning season, they were interesting to watch and included a number of excellent players, they did not establish a big enough fan base to be financially successful. After nine years in the Bay Area, the Seals moved to Cleveland where they played as the Cleveland Barons for two seasons.
1994 Berkeley Iceland used for US Mens Olympic Hockey Team practice ice Berkeley Iceland was used as the practice ice for the US Mens Olympic Hockey Team bound for the 1994 Winter Olympic games at Lillehammer, Norway. The team was eliminated by the team from Finland (who won the Bronze Medal) in the second round.
In June of 2003, Berkeley Iceland was installing new manifolds in it's refrigeration equipment as part of it's effort to comply with a Berkeley inspection report. To accomplish this, the cooler had to be emptied of ammonia, the refrigerant for the rink's icemaker. To accomplish this, the facility has two capture vessels built into the system, one to hold 600 lb. and one 2066 lb. The equipment is over 60 years old but well maintained and safe to use as long as it's integrity was maintained.
Because of it's age, details of the equipment and the process flow has been lost so details of the system can only be assessed from outside. The cooler itself was oversized for the duty it was doing; one theory is that it was a cooler that W. A. Bechtel - the builder of Berkeley Iceland - had used at Hoover Dam to cure concrete in the building of the dam, which was also a Bechtel project underway during the same period.
Prior to the installation of the new manifold, the rink had been reporting 600-750 lb of ammonia in the system. This is what the managers for decades had believed and reported to the city. When a release seal on one of the containment vessels vented ammonia, indicating that it was over capacity, the management was surprised and stopped the transfer. The total capacity of the two capture vessels was 2,666 lb so 750 lb of ammonia should have had no problem fitting in them. The ammonia that was vented was immediately detected at the fire station across the street from Iceland and firefighters were sent to investigate.
Iceland's management made a full report of what happened and cooperated with the city in determining why it happened. The rink management hired an outside engineering company to assess the capacity and estimate the actual volume of ammonia in the system. The rink also had the refrigerator accessed for it's integrity. During this period, rink management was in continuous contact with city personnel and raised the concern that they legally needed to make reports which include the amount of ammonia in the system, which they knew was over the previously reported 750 lb., but could not accurately state the volume until their engineer's work was completed. They were told to leave the reported volume as is until a better number was available. When the engineers completed their assessment, the estimate was that as much as 4,000 lbs could be in the system.
When combined with the rink management's inability to provide a plan that would satisfy the City's concerns about safety, monitoring and training for the aging ammonia system, city staff publicly accused the Berkeley Iceland management of hiding this fact and ordered them to remove the ammonia within one month - something that would have shut the rink and set a tone for all the subsequent actions. Because the City wanted the rink to continue to operate, they allowed the rink owners time to find a temporary refrigeration system so that a plan to replace the old cooling system could be drawn up.
The time limit to evacuate the ammonia was extended so that the portable refrigeration unit - also an ammonia-based refrigerator that was granted a permit by the fire department and other city agencies - could be driven to Berkeley and installed so that the rink wasn't closed for an extended period in the middle of the hockey and synchronized skating seasons. The owners had committed to the skaters to not interrupt a season already underway - and they kept that commitment. But it had a cost.
The portable unit turned out to be much more expensive than anticipated - on the order of $10,000 per month in higher costs. The combination of this added cost, the now growing cost of replacing the older refrigerator, and an apparent unfriendliness of the Berkeley city government, the majority owners decided that they didn't see how they could continue operating the rink in those conditions. The decision was difficult for them - most have more than 40 years of their lives involved in Iceland and skating in general - but they felt that they had no choice but to put the rink up for sale. It was a decision that surprised many, including the city, which seemed to be oblivious to the signals that Berkeley Iceland's management was giving them.
The owners put the rink up for sale as a rink hoping that someone would be able to put together support for continuing skating in Berkeley. The prospectus for the property - available at the website for the listing agent, GordonCommercial.com - did a very good job of showing the rink's history and value to the community, it's uniqueness as a building and rink, and the unique opportunity it represents. However, rink businesses in the greater Bay Area are not very profitable. The bigger rinks - from LogiTech in San Jose to Yerba Buena in San Francisco to Oakland Ice Center to Redwood Empire in Santa Rosa to VacaValley in Vacaville - all have problems but are supported by either the local governments or, in the case of Santa Rosa, a major trust fund.
In their April meeting, the Berkeley Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) initiated landmark action for Berkeley Iceland, a building that had been on their action list since 1998. A group of supporters put together the application for the registration, which was submitted to the LPC in late May for the June 1st meeting. At that meeting, the owner's representative requested a continuance in the hearing, which was agreed to by all - both the LPC and the landmark applicants.
Recent meetings of supporters of the rink and Iceland's management have been started to see what can be done to preserve skating in Berkeley at Berkeley Iceland. An optimistic summary of these meetings is that IF a proposal that helps the owners return the rink to some profitability without a lot of debt burden on the Eastbay Iceland Corporation would be something that is of interest to them. At the same time, their feeling right now is that if someone offered them their asking price, they would sell the rink. They did not plan to sell the rink but feel the actions to date have left them with no other financially responsible decision.
Recently the managers of Iceland have heard rumblings through "friends of friends" that the city might be hearing some of the concerns the supporters have been pushing. Adding to this and attempting to organize the support will help put the pressure on the city to help Iceland. The one hope for keeping the rink open in the near future is for the city and current owners to work out an accommodation that will help the owners upgrade the facility. If not, the rink may be closed sooner than everyone expects because the owners cannot afford to continue operating an unprofitable business. Once closed, it would be much more costly for anyone who would want to open it as a rink again.