After 52 years on Sepulveda Boulevard, the Culver Ice Arena was forced to close on Sunday, February 2 due to rent increases from its landlord. Following weeks of protesting, petitioning and rallying, the fight over Culver Ice Arena has been one of the most publicized recent examples of staggering rent hikes
that are driving longtime businesses and residents out of Culver City's formerly working class enclave.
The Westside ice rink with an iconic, retro skater statute on its roof had been on a 49-year lease, followed by a two-year lease with an extension, until the lease went up for public bidding about six months ago, says skating instructor Shannon Takahashi. Despite bids from the L.A. Kings and the team's owner, AEG, the building's lease had been signed over Christmas by the highest bidder: Planet Granite, a Northern California-based rock climbing facility with three outposts in the Bay Area and another in Portland, Oregon.
Last week, the fight to preserve the rink took a new turn when Culver City officials dug up a circa-1960 document that prohibits the property to be used for anything except an ice rink. While it's yet to be determined whether the document still holds legal standing more than half a century later, the Culver Ice Arena is seizing the opportunity to organize yet another gathering of support, dubbed "home stretch rally," at Culver City's city hall on Monday evening.
Before this new development, we asked five multi-generational friends and staffers of the Culver Ice Arena to share their memories of the 52-year-old institution throughout the decades. The interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Shannon Takahashi, skating school and youth hockey director at Culver Ice Arena
I started skating here when I was eight and I just turned 36 at the end of January. I came for a birthday party and totally got hooked. I worked here at the coffee shop when I was 13 to pay for more lessons. I started at the cash box, and I've been on payroll for 20 years. My dad [freestyle coordinator Richie Takahashi] started running the figure skating sessions when I was coming every morning, and my mom [office manager Barbara Takahashi] started doing the book keeping. You pretty much don't leave. Everybody that works here has been here forever.
We're old and we're not fancy but we still draw thousands of skaters - about 5,000 a week. Every four years, little girls watch ice skating on TV and now they want to be an Olympic ice skater. It's amazing how many people start here after the Winter Olympics.
Our sign, the ice rink sign, is I guess pretty epic for the era. It was grandfathered in because of height restrictions. You can't have that high of a sign anymore in Culver City. And the figure skater on our roof, she's supposedly Donna Atwood
. She was the Queen of the Ice Capades.