There is still hope for Berkeley Iceland. And it comes in the form of Tom Killilea and his non-profit Save Berkeley Iceland.
The group signed an exclusive contract with East Bay Iceland, which owns Berkeley Iceland, Friday to purchase the 67-year-old ice skating rink, which closed down almost a year ago due to flagging business and high maintenance costs, for $6.25 million.
The contract, which comes with a one-year deadline for Save Berkeley Iceland to purchase the historic property, also launched the organization’s capital fundraising campaign.
“This marks a third and the latest, greatest milestone for us,” Killilea told the Planet Monday. “The first was developing the organization and acquiring non-profit status. The second was the declaration of Iceland as a historic landmark by the City of Berkeley last May, recognizing its importance both architecturally and as an important community resource. This contract will definitely make funding easier, as now people will know for sure that the money will go towards purchasing the rink. It puts us in a whole different position.”
Killilea, president of Save Berkeley Iceland, worked with other community members to raise money for the down payment over the last year.
“We received over 300 contributions even before we launched the capital fundraising campaign,” said Peggy Burks, development director for Save Berkeley Iceland.
Burks is the only staff member for the non-profit, working to meet the campaign goal of $12 million.
In the past, ice skating fans have rallied in skating gear at the City Hall to show their support.
“The next step is called the quiet phase, in which we will raise $500,000 in funding,” Burks said. “This will help us to fast track our architectural design plans for the construction at the same time.”
Killilea said that the targeted reopening date for the rink was 2010.
“This is a one-time chance to save Iceland, and a potential win-win for everyone,” he said. “The long-time owners will receive a fair price and the satisfaction of seeing Iceland survive, the skating world will regain its historic rink, and, most importantly, we'll get our beloved Berkeley Iceland back where all ages can hang out in a safe, healthy environment.There’s a lot of hard work ahead but the community wants this, and, together we can make it happen.”
Home of the largest skating rink in Northern California, Berkeley Iceland hosted the first National Championship west of the Rockies, two major championships and renowned skaters such as Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano. The rink was also used by the UC Berkeley Ice Hockey Club and the Berkeley Bulldogs.
Burks said a multipurpose sports facility and a cafe were on top of the wish list.
“You know, a place where there can be gymnastics,” she said.
“An exercise studio alongside a dance studio to complement the rink,” Killilea said. “A lot of parents like coffee when they come to drop their kids early in the morning, so we definitely want to have a cafe.”
He added that upgrades included restoring the rink’s lobby and ice surfacing using the latest energy efficient technology.
If Save Berkeley Iceland ends up buying the rink, then the Bay Area Blades Inc.—the parent organization for the group—will become the new owners.
“Our first step is to select an architect,” said Burks. “Then we want to hold some public meetings. We really want to be good neighbors because it’s one of the few places in Berkeley where everyone from the age of 2 to 80 can come.”
Killilea said that the group was also working with the Berkeley Unified School District to create a plan that would allow students to use the skating rink. The district is currently constructing the King Child Development Center across the street from the rink
“We are really grateful for all the community support,” he said. “We are getting a lot of encouragement from the City of Berkeley although we haven’t discussed anything in the form of monetary support. Our hope is to fund everything privately so that we can be independent.”
For more information on the campaign go to: www.saveberkeleyiceland.org.