When one thinks sports in Southern California, winter sports like hockey and figure skating aren’t the first to come to mind. Mainly for the obvious reason — we really don’t have winter. When it comes to such ice-centric activities, in west Ventura County there’s only one place to lace up the skates and get busy and that’s Channel Islands Ice Center. The little rink in Oxnard located right off the 101 Freeway is one of the county’s best-kept secrets and it could use a little help from the community it’s been serving for many years now.
Channel Islands Ice Center is set to be demolished as part of the redevelopment of the Wagon Wheel area in Oxnard, the site where stood the once-classic travel lodge on the southbound side of the freeway, now a massive dirt mountain straight out of a low-budget horror movie. That’s the project that will, in the near future, be moving toward the ice rink’s location. With that said, Channel Islands Ice Center is not skating quietly into the night.
Once privately owned, in 2007, with the rink set to go out of business, two organizations that used the facility, Channel Islands Figure Skating Club and Channel Islands Riptide Ice Hockey Club, came together to purchase the facility and run it jointly as a nonprofit organization. Raising an unbelievable $150,000 in only a few weeks, the rink was saved. Since then Channel Islands Ice Center has turned into a thriving community and sports facility that houses hockey teams, figure skating, classes, tournaments, birthday parties, retreats and even curling.
Even when they turned the rink into nonprofit, however, they were always aware that at a certain point the rink’s the location would be no more. Now that time is close to coming. While no specific date is set, there are rumored to be 12 to 18 months left. Representatives for the Channel Islands Ice Center stress that the landlords have been incredibly helpful and will provide as much time as possible. The developers also promised not to close during the season of the rink’s many hockey leagues that service young kids to adults.
According to the president of the Channel Islands Figure Skating Club and member of the rink’s board of directors Janene Wasserman, rink officials are in talks with both Oxnard and Camarillo about a new location. Ideally, the land would be donated or provided a reasonable long-term lease; and money would be raised to build a new facility, a price tag that could add up to $10 million to $14 million. The board is open to all options and is also looking at finding a standing structure that could be retrofitted as an ice rink. Due to the size and stability requirements of an ice rink, however, that latter is more difficult, although not impossible. If no land is available, the retrofitting could be a cheaper option.
Ventura’s Frank Aversa, who competes in a men’s hockey league and whose son plays on a youth hockey team as well, is concerned about what will happen if a new venue isn’t found.
“This is the only ice rink in Ventura County with the exception of the one in Simi Valley. People travel all over from Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties to play here. If parents aren’t able to make the drive to Simi Valley, there’s hundreds of kids that literally will have to completely stop ice hockey and figure skating. Losing the only rink in the county would be a real shame.”
“Our vision and mission statement has always been to make the community a richer place,” said Wasserman. “Not every kid wants to play soccer. We offer a wonderful alternative to kids with hockey and figure skating. And it’s not just kids that benefit from the rink. The public sessions drive the rink. We offer a skating school where people can learn a lifelong physical skill. We have 60-[years] and 70-years skaters who come two mornings a week and get great physical activity. It really is a community center that serves everyone.”
Big time fundraising has officially begun. Task forces are being formed, board meetings are open to the public and all help, suggestions and, of course, donations and sponsorships are being welcomed.
Do Wasserman and company feel they can pull off the funds to find and build a new location before the bulldozers come calling?
“Yes, I do. I really do. We’ve been here for seven year,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the community and we’ve supported the community as well. I think we can come together and achieve our goal of keeping an ice rink right here in Ventura County.”
Channel Islands Ice Center is located at 830 Wagon Wheel Road in Oxnard. For more information on the rink and the many programs, classes and leagues it offers, visit www.channelislandsice.com. For information on getting involved in fundraising, please contact Janene Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org.