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Last Thursday, the first of three public meetings was held in San Mateo to determine the fate of Bridgepointe Ice Rink.
Shopping center owner SPI Holdings has declined to renew the rink's lease in 2013, and plans to demolish the rink in favor of more retail stores. They have applied to the city for a change to the Bridgepointe master plan that would allow them to meet their recreational amenity obligation in another San Mateo location.
The meeting room was overflowing with several hundred San Mateo and Bay Area residents who oppose demolition of the ice rink. Many more were turned away and did not get to hear the presentation or ask questions due to the limited size of the venue, which was chosen by SPI.
Two things were very clear; the ice skating patrons of all ages are passionate about their San Mateo ice rink, and the heart of the issue will be the wording in the master plan regarding "ice rink or similar use recreational amenity."
When asked how the proposed alternatives met the similar use requirements, SPI's Peter Meier said he did not want to go into those details nor answer that question.
The ice rink offers a wide variety of multi-age, multi-gender programs, including public open skate, recreational skating lessons, in-house hockey leagues and figure skating programs. Adult hockey leagues, along with competitive figure skating and youth hockey teams call Bridgepointe their home as well.
According to rink officials, more than 100,000 people use the rink each year. Over the past 25 years, the rink has been home to Olympic medalists and many college and professional hockey players. Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi got her start and spent five years skating at Bridgepointe.
It would be very difficult to find another recreational amenity that would serve so many people with such a wide variety of programs, and the San Mateo ice rink should continue on at Bridgepointe with the strong skating culture that has become an integral part of San Mateo's tradition and recreational presence in the Bay Area.