If Granted A Reprieve, What Should Happen At Culver City Ice Arena?

CULVER CITY ICE ARENA CLOSING: In the final installment of this four-part series on the impending closure of the Culver City Ice Arena, and the fact that it holds a significant place in the history of the Los Angeles Kings, a former Kings forward, one who is very familiar with youth hockey in the Los Angeles area, shared his thoughts on what could be done at the site, should there be a reprieve for the ice rink.

Photos of the professional staff hang on the wall near the entrance to the Culver City Ice Arena.
The skate rental counter is in the background.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net

LOS ANGELES — Over the last week, former Los Angeles Kings players and staff have shared their memories from when the team made the Culver City Ice Arena their practice home for nearly twenty years, until they moved to Iceoplex in the San Fernando Valley in 1994.

The Culver City Ice Arena is due to close permanently in less than two weeks on February 2, but there are very slim hopes that Planet Granite, the new lessee, will back out of their lease agreement when they discover how challenging it will likely be to renovate the property due to environmental issues, and turn it into a yoga, rock climbing and fitness facility.

Should they back out, it is possible that the Kings and their owner, the Anschutz Entertainment Group, would make another attempt to lease the property so that it can remain an ice rink.

Although it would take something akin to a miracle for all that to happen, if it does, Kings radio color commentator Daryl Evans, who played right wing for the Kings from 1981-85, and knows more than a thing or two about youth hockey in Southern California, shared his thoughts on the issues facing the Culver City Ice Arena, and what could be done if it gets a reprieve.

“There’s no doubt it’s an aging building,” he said. “It has it’s character, in its own way. When you’re looking at an area where there wasn’t a lot of hockey around, you have to give them their marks for keeping the building going, and allowing the game to grow at a period of time when hockey was non-existent around here.”

“There’s no doubt that some improvements have needed to be made, or that they haven’t progressed, like in the new rinks that have come up,” he added. “With [former Kings superstar Wayne] Gretzky coming here, we had that growth, which has continued. Then with the Kings’ new ownership, Staples Center opening up in 1999, and then the new training center in El Segundo (the Toyota Sports Center), instead of getting pushed aside, the Culver City rink should’ve been embraced, and brought into the big picture because there aren’t nearly enough ice rinks in the area.”

As with every ice rink, Evans noted that it is about more than hockey in Culver City.

“They’ve always done an outstanding job with their figure skating,” said Evans. “They’ve put some world class skaters through there, and I know, being in California, how many movie shoots were done there. You’d like to see some way for it to survive.”

With his intimate knowledge of Southern California youth hockey, and his experience operating an ice rink, having played a significant role in the operation of the Toyota Sports Center over the years, Evans has some ideas on what could be done, should the Culver City Ice Arena be saved.

“In reality, if you look at the way things are today, it’s probably past the point of where you’d look to repair it,” he noted. “You’ve got to start from scratch, and I think, with the size of the property they have, they could probably accommodate a multi-sheet facility.”

“If you could put two sheets in, that would allow them to grow their programs, because now you can accommodate the hockey and the figure skating,” he added. “That gives you the opportunity to run competitions for figure skating, and tournaments for hockey. There’s a big picture that people might be overlooking.”

“Anytime you take away a rink, it’s devastating, and I say that from the standpoint of hockey and figure skating, because they go hand-in-hand. They both use the same surface. Right now, Culver City doesn’t have a strong travel program, but with a revamped facility, and the addition of another sheet of ice, they could attract that, which would be great for the game of hockey.”

Evans also lamented a lost opportunity this year.

“Being that it’s a Winter Olympic year, we all know the impact the games have on communities, both figure skating and ice hockey,” said Evans. “It would be a great time for that to happen. If that rink closes, the existing programs—all the figure skaters would have to go to another rink, and that would take away from hockey at other rinks.”

“The hockey players will get pulled into other programs, or they’re going to [quit playing hockey], and that’s the last thing we want to happen to kids at the house level,” added Evans. “That’s the grass roots of the game. You don’t want to see those kids not have the opportunity to be able to play.”

Evans indicated that the bare bones nature of the Culver City Ice Arena meant that it could not keep up with the times.

“Culver City had its character,” he said. “Everybody knew about it. At different times, they did different things to try to upgrade it, like put in a new locker room. But let’s face it. Since the Kings were there, the NHL game has changed quite a bit.”

The Kings/AEG have told Frozen Royalty that they would be willing to invest the money needed to make the Culver City Ice Arena a state-of-the-art facility, should they get the opportunity to do so.

“If they poured the money into that facility, as they have for El Segundo, or when we went up to Iceoplex in the [San Fernando] Valley, they could make that place—the location is great,” said Evans. “You hate to see a rink fall off. I think there’s a lot of potential still there.”

“When you have an existing property already, and people who are enthusiastic about it, you try to do all you can to accommodate them and help out.”

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