The rink, which had been set up in past years in Parking Lot 4, at the corner of Ferry Street and Marina Vista Avenue, has been giving individuals and families the chance to skate daily on ice, rather than an artificial surface. (photo by Robert Perry/Martinez News-Gazette)
MARTINEZ, Calif. – Main Street Martinez Director Kara Johnsen has announced the DC Solar Downtown Holiday Ice rink won’t be returning this year.
The rink, which had been set up in past years in Parking Lot 4, at the corner of Ferry Street and Marina Vista Avenue, has been giving individuals and families the chance to skate daily on ice, rather than an artificial surface.
Johnsen released the information Wednesday on the Main Street Facebook page, in a statement that said indicated that parking was a factor in canceling the event.
Earlier in the week, a Facebook posting in a closed group indicated that someone who had been expecting to work at the rink was told the rink wouldn’t be set up this year.
Johnsen’s statement said Main Street Martinez had contacted the city of Martinez about using Parking Lot 4 again this year for the Holiday Ice rink.
“The ongoing revitalization of downtown has resulted in numerous public and private construction projects and several street closures, as well as reduction of available parking in existing lots,” Johnsen’s statement said.
“The city has been receiving complaints about downtown parking on a daily basis. With the upcoming holiday shopping season, the situation will only intensify,” the statement said.
“The rink would eliminate over half of the parking in Lot 4, resulting in too great an impact on both businesses and residences during the holiday season.”
The statement said the city has tried to accommodate the ice rink in the past, “but unfortunately cannot do so this year.”
Beginning in 2016 MSM (Main Street Martinez) contracted with Ice-America for operation of the ice rink.
A rainy 2016 holiday season caused closures of the rink for a total of nearly 30 days. As a result MSM suffered a large financial loss. Despite attendance improving in 2017 MSM still lost money on the operation of Downtown Holiday Ice.
This is the second major downtown event that has been canceled this year. The Martinez Blues Festival, formerly known as the Bay Area Blues Festival, was scheduled for Sept. 22 and 23, but was canceled, organizers announced in a brief statement on the festival’s website. No reason for the cancellation was given.
While that website, martinezbluesfestival.com, said the blues festival is expected to return next year, the future of the ice rink is still up in the air, according to Johnsen’s statement.
“MSM will be working to evaluate the sustainability of the rink moving forward and would like to thank DC Solar, Shell and all our sponsors for their continued support towards the Main Street Program,” the statement said.
In comments on its Facebook page, the organization said refunds would be issued to those who had purchased tickets to the ice rink.
Some members of the public responded to the announcement by writing comments on the Facebook page to express their frustration at the direction downtown events have been.
Besides the loss of the blues festival, they cited the end of a weekly car show that was replaced several years ago with a live band and movie summer series. They also said there’s been an increase in alcohol-related strolls rather than family-inclusive activities.
A few pointed out that the ice rink attracted people from out of town and was entertainment for families. Some of these said they would be going elsewhere for skating and shopping.
Others reacting online to the announcement offered suggestions for alternate sites for the rink, from vacant lots near the downtown area to Field 3 where the Martinez Clippers play during summer to the Waterfront Park’s John Muir Amphitheater.
In response, Mayor Rob Schroder provided a comment of his own under the statement, saying there are other considerations in accommodating the ice rink besides space.
Specifically, the ice rink needs a strong electricity supply, he said.
“The chillers take an enormous amount of power that is not available at other sites,” he wrote. “Main Street and the city worked with PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) to install the transformer and supply the needed power a few years ago. It was very expensive.”
The founder and CEO of DC Solar, Jeff Carpoff commented on the Gazette’s Facebook page. (DC Solar has been the title sponsor of the downtown ice rink since it began in 2015.)
“Maybe we should put it down at the baseball fields on field three where our Clippers play,” Carpoff wrote. “Just know that DC Solar had already pre-paid to have the ice rink this year. Really disappointed in this situation.”
Among the construction projects impacting downtown Martinez is the erection of a new Contra Costa County administration building on Escobar Street that will replace the towering building on Pine Street. Although additional parking is included in the project, that lot isn’t finished.
Because of the condition of the soil under the lot, Contra Costa County decided a two-story garage would be too expensive, and downsized the lot to a single level.
To open more spaces in Lot 4, Martinez has bought its last standing building and plans to demolish it. But the last tenant of the building, Sal’s Family Kitchen, won’t be moved out until later this year.
Martinez City Manager Brad Kilger concurred with Johnsen’s statement, and said that in accordance with the city’s contract with her organization, she had sent the city a request late last week about using the parking area for the ice rink.
“City staff evaluated the request as we would normally do.,” he said. “Staff determined that due to the significant amount of construction currently occurring in the downtown, several streets are closed, and parking in public and private parking lots has been significantly reduced.”
He also echoed Johnsen’s statement that both business owners and shoppers have complained daily about the lack of downtown parking.
“Unfortunately, there was not sufficient time to find an alternative location or make other arrangements to replace the needed parking,” he said.
“The city remains a staunch supporter of Main Street and looks forward to collaborating with them next year on making the ice rink a success,” Kilger said.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s statement said residents and visitors would continue to see an active Main Street program.
“Moving forward, MSM reassures the community that we are committed to providing engaging events year round benefiting downtown businesses and the community,” Johnsen’s statement said.
She added that that other expected holiday events still in place are Shop Small Saturday – Holiday Sparkle Sip and Shop, Santa House, the Downtown Holiday Light Parade, the Holiday Frolic and Santa Crawl.
Additional reporting by Rick Jones