Historical: Ice Rinks Project

History / Event Specifics
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History (recent to old). (updated September 27, 2009)

Last updated: September 27, 2009


Who’s Project?

The City of Pasadena is proposing to develop an ice rink facility or jointly develop it with a private partner.

Where is it?

The official project site is on city owned land between Eaton Wash on the west and the Southern California Edison land (power lines) on the east, south of the new Viña Vieja Park and north of city water and power land north of the power substation.  (If you extend a line west from the end of Alameda, it would be north of that.)  The project site is said to be 3.13 acres.  It is on “dedicated parkland” in an area zoned as “open space“.
Here is part of an illustration of the ice rink project location (303 kb) prepared by the city.

In order to access the project site, some of the Southern California Edison land to the east and south of the city parcel and the Pasadena City College driveway from Foothill Blvd are also required.

Why do it?

The impetus to do this project initially came from a desire to displace the “out of date” ice rink in the Convention Center in downtown Pasadena prior to the end of the agreement with the Pasadena Ice Center (it’s operator).  The goal was to free up the current location so it can be returned to its original use as a ballroom as part of the much larger Convention Center expansion project.  The city needed to make the Pasadena Ice Center want to agree to termination/replacement of the existing contract which runs until fall of 2011.  The City Council decided that the city should continue to have an ice rink facility.

Under the original proposal, the city would build this commercial “state of the art” facility using tax-favored municipal revenue bonds and it would be operated under contract by the current ice rink operator, which would give up its lease on the current facility.

Current State

At its September 14, 2009 meeting the City Council was unable to reach a decision to direct staff to continue work on the project.  The project is effectively dead for now.  It could be rejuvenated if someone puts forward a proposal that requires fewer financial resources from the city.  Or at a future time when the fiscal situation is less severe.  This will remain a possibility until the land is used for some other purpose and/or a full ice rink facility is built somewhere else.

The ice rink facility design was considered to be complete.  It was presented to the city’s Design Commission for comment three times, and was expected go before the City Council for approval when the the final approval for the entire project was made.  However, at the time the Council was being asked to make the decision, neither the design nor the Design Commission’s comments were presented to it.

As of October 2008 the City had signed an easement with PCC for access and agreement had reportedly been reached (but nothing signed) on terms for using the easement for both operational and construction access.  This tentative agreement needs needed to be confirmed prior to the Council approving the project to go forward, but that was not done when the Council was asked to approve construction.

There was reportedly agreement in principle with Edison for the site plan of using its property and the financial terms.

From 2007 to 2009, the main holdup was construction financing because the expected revenues did not cover the cost.  In July 2009, City Staff was recommending using taxpayer general fund dollars to cover the difference between revenues and financing costs for an expected 10 years.  They projected having extra revenue after that (presumably to pay the general fund back, although it isn’t actually stated that extra revenue would be used to pay back the general fund).

In pursuit of additional revenues, the City began talking with the Los Angeles Kings in 2008.  This resulted in the current ice rink operator being replaced in plans for the new facility by a corporation named Polar Ice Ventures, LLC.  It promised to bring in considerably more revenue and utilize tie-ins with the LA Kings for promotion.

At its August 3, 2009 meeting the City Council was presented an alternative plan under which the city would “ground lease” the site to Polar Ice Ventures and in return for any profit they would take on the risks of construction and revenue shortage or over expenditures.  However, in challenging financial times the City Council was reluctant to spend general fund money on the project and so far no proposal has been able to project that a subsidy would not be needed over the first 10 years.  So a decision was put off in hopes of additional information changing the calculations.  At the September 14 meeting, a somewhat revised proposal for ground lease negotiations with Polar Ice Ventures was presented.  With one member absent (Gordo) the Council came one vote short of agreeing to go forward, effectively ending work on the project.  Voting against were Council members Tornek, McAustin, and Holden.  Voting to go forward with negotiations were Council members Madison, Haderlein, Robinson and Mayor Bogaard.

If the City Council had approved construction in August 2009, city staff projected the project would be completed about September 2011, just in time for the end of the lease on the current Convention Center facility.  (Considering that every other time estimate has been short, this one probably would have been too.)

Project Description


The stated purpose of the facility is for recreational use.  Public skating, amateur hockey games, and ice skater practices.  The environmental report states that only two to four major events will be held each year.  Only such major events would be expected to draw substantial numbers of spectators and traffic.  Potential major events that have been mentioned are hockey tournaments and ice skating shows.

The building will house two NHL sized ice rinks.  The notion is that organized events such as hockey games can be played on one surface while the other remains available for public skating. City Staff says that two rinks brings in more then twice the revenue of one and costs less then twice as much.  Amenities include locker rooms, restrooms, pro shop, skate rental, snack bar.

There was also a “party room” in the plans, which could be rented for such things as birthday or company parties.  It is not clear whether that is still in the plans after the January 2009 interior redesign (no details of the resulting design have been made public).  The room was also expected to be available for community group meetings, but with the change in operator this may no longer be true.

The building was designed to be a “green” building, including meeting environmental certification for a high level of energy efficiency.  It is designed to let enough sunlight in and redirect it to light the facility during the day, but not enough to heat it up.  When the building was redesigned in 2008, some of the efficiency of the original design was lost – a trade of lower construction cost for higher operational cost.

Building Size

The building is to be about 500 feet long (north to south) and 116 feet wide (east to west).  On the east side, the roof ranges from 34 feet above grade on the north end to 40 feet above grade on the south end.  (This is because north to south the roof is continuous at one elevation while the land slopes down north to south.)  The roof slopes slightly down to the west for rain runoff.   The building entrance is in the middle of the east side.  Above it is a “parapet” which extends to 54 feet high.  Viewed from the east side, the parapet is an empty rectangular shape. Viewed from the south or north it is a solid rectangular shape above the east side of the roof.


Vehicle access to the ice rink facility is to be from Foothill Blvd via the PCC-CEC driveway, through the PCC parking lot, then along the eastern side of the ice rinks building to the ice rinks parking lot located north of the building.  The first portion of the route is PCC owned land, then  Edison land leased by PCC for its parking lot, then Edison land under a lease agreement with the city.

The city reportedly has reached agreement with PCC for access.  The actual contract will not be finalized until after the City goes forward with construction.   Details of the agreement have not been made public.  However:

  • The Conditional Use Permit for the ice rinks facility requires a new traffic signal to be located on Foothill at the entrance to the PCC parking lot.  This will make it possible to left turn out of the lot and make the other turns safer, a benefit to PCC visitors as well as ice rink patrons.  As of July 2006, the city was anticipating making the driveway and the intersection of Foothill with Titley into an intersection controlled by one set of lights.  (There is a separate capital improvement project to cut Titley through to Walnut and Kinneloa using the existing fenced off freeway underpass.)
  • The layout of the parking lot is to be reworked to improve the route through it and the interaction with PCC students.
  • On a site location drawing provided at the Design Commission concept review, there is a box just south of the water well (on Pasadena Water & Power land west of the north end of the PCC lot) labeled as a City/PCC warehouse, approximately 22,000 square feet.  There was a rumor in spring of 2005 that one of the things PCC wanted in return for allowing access via the parking lot was for the city to build a warehouse for PCC.
  • It was mentioned in a Finance Committee meeting on July 13, 2009 that in consideration of allowing construction access the City has provided PCC with some kind of help in upgrading a ball field.

The August 3. 2009 City Council Staff Report identifies the cost of Edison lease as being $15,000 per year.  No detailed information has been publicly released about the proposed “site plan”, but Edison was reportedly very close to approving it.

The parking lot for the ice rinks facility is between the ice rinks building and the off-lease dog area of Viña Vieja Park.  The lot will contain the city ordinance required 143 spaces.

The environmental Initial Study states that the intention is to arrange for overflow parking for major events using existing parking facilities such as the PCC lot or elsewhere with a shuttle service, but states that if that is not feasible, additional parking could be developed under the power lines.  To develop additional parking under the lines the Conditional Use Permit would have to be modified.  The August 3, 2009 City Council Staff Report indicates that the Edison lease may provide for additional parking under their lines; there has been no acknowledgment that doing so would require changing the CUP.

Parking will be free for the ice rinks.  PCC charges for parking in their lot.  City comments indicate a belief students won’t be willing to park so far away just to get it free, and that it’ll be up to ice rink security to keep students from parking in the lot.

There was going to be pedestrian only access between the park and the ice rink parking lot, but that has reportedly been removed from the plans.  (We had hoped it would offer a relief valve for dog park parking.)
The current pedestrian path from our neighborhood to the park is supposed re-located soon with an entrance where Las Lunas intersects Alameda.

Plans and the environmental study indicated there will be two emergency access gates, one to the park, and one to Avocado at Alameda.  These are to be controlled by the police and fire departments.  However, one of Edison’s issues with a site plan they were presented by the city was reportedly emergency access, so it is possible that basic plan has changed.

According to the environmental Initial Study, the city completed a “traffic analysis” in July 2004.  According to it, the expected increase in traffic due to the ice rinks facility is:
Weekday PM commuter hour:  27 cars in, 33 out
Weekday 24 hour period:  315 cars in and out
Weekend mid-day peak hour:  147 cars in, 45 out
Weekend 24 hour period:  434 in, 434 out  (this is supposed to be the maximum – for a sold out hockey tournament at most twice a year)

Layout Inside of Building

Inside the building, the rinks are laid out lengthwise north to south on each end, with spectator seating, locker rooms, offices, and janitorial rooms to their east.  From the entrance between the rinks is a ticket booth, lobby, restrooms, party room, skate rental, pro shop, snack bar, and office.  On the west side of the middle of the building are mechanical, electrical, and maintenance equipment areas and a loading dock which is entered on the west side of the building from the south.   The north rink’s elevation is 3 feet higher then the middle area which is 3 feet higher then the south rink.

Spectator Seats

The exact number of spectator seats is unknown.  As the building was repeatedly redesigned it went from a total estimate of 500, to 300, to maybe 400 something.  Part of the reason for this is that  there will potentially be additional temporary seating above the locker rooms/offices and it will be up to the operator to furnish that.  There was also some interior redesign in early 2009.  The revised plans have not been seen publicly.

East Side of Building

The eastern face of the building is the primary face because that is where the entrance is.

Artist conception of east building face

The building structure is concrete block, most of it described as “smooth face masonry block… black…with exposed color aggregate.”

The entrance is in the middle of the east face of the building.  The entrance is described as a “storefront glazing system”, in other words, glass windows and doors.   On each side of the entrance is another set of big glass windows in front of some stairways on the inside.

Adjacent to the rink areas of the building are six large “projecting boxes” which are described as “enclosed in Polygal, a solar-grade polycarbonate multi-wall system”.  Their function is described as being to “break up the horizontality of the building”, but apparently they let light through too

Beneath the projecting boxes are black smooth masonry blocks with a few translucent glass blocks randomly interspersed.  The glass blocks allow light into the locker rooms and offices on the inside during the day, and will emit a faint glow to the outside when lights are on at night.

Skylights are to allow daylight into the interior where it is to bounce from the metallic coated ceiling.

On either side of the projecting boxes, a “green screen” extends up the wall from a planter box at the base of the wall.  A “green screen” is essentially a metal lattice designed for use as a trellis.  The width of the green screen varies in blocks between 4 and 8 feet, supposedly creating a semaphore that spells out “Pasadena”.  Violet trumpet vines are supposed to grow onto the green screens, eventually completely covering them.

The entrance/lobby/etc area is framed by some dark red fiber cement panels, and the dark red parapet.  A large shadow box sign with 9 foot tall letters that say “Pasadena Ice” is attached to the outside just above the entrance.  It was not to be internally lighted, but it was said that light filtering out through the windows from the inside would somewhat back light it at night, and there might be a light at the base of the building directed up onto it.

A sidewalk runs the length of base of the building on the east side.

West Side of Building

The west side of the building faces the wash, and is intended to be partially screened by the existing oak trees and additional ground level landscaping.  No drawing for the west face of the building was provided to reflect the redesign as of August 2008.
It is described as being “a largely blank wall with slight modulation, with the exception of a metal mechanical equipment screen”.

In the previous design there were a few emergency exit doors.  The middle of the building is the back of the mechanical area and the loading dock.  That was to be screened by green painted metal louvers to allow for airflow, with sound absorbing coating on the inside of the louvers.

South Side of Building

The south side of the building is what visitors to the ice rinks will see first.
Artist conception of south and north building faces

The base of the wall is black masonry block, except for two (probably emergency only) exit doors from the south rink.  A stairway starts at the sidewalk in the middle and rises to the east.  It appears the stairway goes to the area above the locker rooms which may be used for spectator seating.

Most of the wall is taken up by a “Polygal” window which will let diffuse light in.  Surrounding most of the window are “projecting elements” clad in brick color stucco and white polygal.

The artist conception shows an electronic/LED sign adjacent to the top of the stairs.   This concept first appeared with the redesign presented to the Design Commission in August 2008.  It was described as just a possibility, if there was enough money, and subject to the yet to be done Master Sign Plan.

Above the roof on the right side, the red box of the parapet in the middle of the building is visible.  To the left of the south wall, some of the loading ramp and/or louver screening for the mechanical equipment may be visible.

Along the base of the south side of the building is a fire lane access road to the rear of the building and the loading dock.

North Side of Building

The north side of the building will primarily be viewed from the parking lot and from Viña Vieja Park beyond.
Artist conception of north and south building faces

The north face mirrors the design of the south face except that the window on the north side is clear glass.


The existing oak trees along the wash are to be left in place.

Additional trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the parking lot are supposed to prevent car headlights from shining into the adjacent neighborhoods.  A wall or fence could be used instead of shrubs on the eastern side, but the footings for a wall on the western side would damage the oak tree roots.

Drawings provided to the Design Commission (LP1.1 and 1.2) on 8/11/2008 show:

  • the existing oak trees to the west of the building and parking lot
  • dwarf coyote brush for ground cover west of the lot and the building
  • In the parking lot
    • Australian willow trees
    • The drawing legend identifies California Bay trees and Chitalpa trees, but the staff report says Chinese Flame trees.
    • LP1.1 shows ground morning glory for ground cover, but LP1.2 shows several varieties of “native plant” grasses
  • four trees are shown south of the building, none are shown east of the building.

None of the drawings presented to the Design Commission show anything beyond the city property boundary. So we have no indication as to what might be to the east of the access road, except that the city planner has said Edison would not allow any trees (although they allowed them in the park).  Some kind of plant screening will be important since cars exiting the parking lot will be facing directly east.

In May of 2005, a request was made by Councilman Haderlein for a buffer between the ice rink project and Avocado Avenue.  City staff stated in their staff report for the August 8, 2005 council meeting (where the council approved numerous items) that a landscape buffer could be included for around $65 thousand.  But the council did not discuss it and indicate it should be included in what was approved.   But after the meeting the councilman said it is included.  There has been no written evidence of it in anything from city planners, but the planner stated at the August 11, 2008 Design Commission hearing that “the city has committed in writing that there will be some landscape screening along Avocado.” And “have budgeted that”.


For last details, see September 14 City Council,  August 3, 2009 City Council and July 13, 2009 – City Council Finance Committee.

A preliminary rough estimate of cost was 12 million.  But the city needed to get schematic plans before making a better estimate.  They said some amenities could be cut from the proposal to reduce costs to fit within the estimate since that is the amount the revenues were expected to support.

As of December 2006,  the City Council was presented new estimates that the revenues would support 13.2 million and an additional 3 million in costs will come from the Civic Center expansion budget.

All along it was expected the city would issue municipal revenue bonds (called Certificates of Participation) to pay for it.  These are bonds which are supposed to be paid back by revenue from the project.  We were told in 2005 that taxpayer funds would not be used.  If it couldn’t pay for itself, it wouldn’t be built.

When put out for construction bid at the end of 2007, the lowest bid was over 21 million.  So the building was redesigned for a lower cost of construction.  Between the redesign and the soured economy, the lowest construction bid in March 2009 was just under 18 million.  With a 10% reserve, it comes to 19.6 million.

In July 2009 the cost is projected to be 26 million, including the already spent 3 million from the Civic Center.

After a couple years of ramp up, city staff is projecting annual revenue of nearly 2 million.  That of course has to pay for the bonds, maintenance, operation expenses, and operator profit.

In mid-July 2009 city staff was recommending issuing $21 million in revenue bonds.  During the first 10 years the projected revenue would be less then the expense of paying on the bonds, so the city would need to subsidize the project from the general fund.  In other words, spend taxpayer funds.  However, staff projects that after that time revenues will exceed costs and by the 17th year the city would be coming out ahead.

Due to the poor financial climate and the risks to the city’s finances with it as a city controlled project, at the August 3, 2009 city staff instead recommended pursuing a different financial scheme.  The city land would be leased to Polar Ice Ventures (PIV) and it would construct and manage the rink. The city would issue tax exempt revenue bonds, but responsibility for paying them would reside with PIV.  In return for taking the risk, it would also get any profit.  The city would take care of the access route, agreements and leases with PCC and Edison, and getting utilities to the site, and probably also need to put some up front cash in.  This proposal did not fare very well once the Council realized how much they would probably need to put into the project up front.

On September 14, 2009, city staff presented to the Council a somewhat revised version of the proposal.  The city would lease the land to PIV and PIV would be responsible for both building and running the project.  The proposed lease would be for 30 years with two 10 year extensions. PIV would select their own building contractor (one they have worked with on another rink), would assume the construction costs risks, “reduce construction costs through value engineering”,  provide construction management and oversight (thereby reducing those costs).  As a result it is believed that “capital costs” might be reduced to $18 million (more study required).  But he staff report indicated that PIV was only willing to take on responsibility for $10 million of debt.  The city would have to be responsible for the other $8 million.  Additionally, projections showed the cash flow coming up a million dollars short of what was needed to pay off the bonds during the first 3 years so the city would have to pay that difference also.   The Council was unable to agree to go forward with negotiations on the terms outlined, so the project essentially died, at least for the time being.

Environmental Impact Process

As of February 22, 2005, the city posted a Notice Of Intent To Adopt a Negative Declaration
With Mitigation Measures”
 for the project.  This contains the most detail publicly printed by the city.  Various aspects have been presented previously at various meetings.

As of March 14, 2005, the association submitted comments in response to the noticed document.

As of April 5, 2005, the city posted a revised Notice Of Intent To Adopt a Negative Declaration
With Mitigation Measures”
 for the project for a revised Initial Study.  The revisions address many of the comments submitted for the previous version.

There is some question by local area residents whether a large building and parking lot are legal uses on dedicated parkland zoned as “open space“.   City staff’s justification and potential counter-arguments.