Mayor Cooper on Ice Rink: We Won't Gamble on People's Safety
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part 2 of a series)
By Marcus G. Tiggs
Special to the Observer
After over two weeks the closing of Culver Ice Arena has not ended the Culver Ice dilemma (or better called "cliff hanger"). At this point it seems the optimistic tide may be overcoming the pragmatist commentaries.
Planet Granite fell off the cliff when it announced in a press release last week, "we decided to cancel our lease for the Culver City location".
Planet Granite's departure from Culver City came as no surprise to Mayor Jeffrey Cooper or Councilmember Mehaul O'Leary. Mayor Cooper stated, "I'm not surprised at all, they clearly felt and saw the strong sentiment within the community". Councilmember O'Leary echoed the same and added, the discovery of the Use Variance was in his mind the "tipping point for Planet Granite backing out".
However, O'Leary cautioned that he hopes any prospective long-term rink operator "does not overplay its hands in negotiations and calmer minds come to the table".
The position of the City is until public safety concerns are remedied the rink may not reopen. The City is relying on a detailed 49-page report from Alliance Industrial Refrigeration Services, made public with the City's February 13, 2014 detailed press release.
In addition, according to Mayor Cooper, on February 14, 2014 the Los Angeles County Health Hazardous Materials Division conducted an independent inspection of the rink which validated the Alliance report. While Karagozian (the property owner) has taken a public position that he believes the rink is safe, the Takahashi family (multi-generational long term rink employees and the presumptive short term new operator) are now in a situation where they will not be able to re-open the rink unless the safety issues are first abated.
According to Mayor Cooper, "I am not willing to gamble on people's safety by reopening the rink before the safety related deficiencies are abated". When asked about a timeline, Mayor Cooper did not have a definite answer, but stated "the city is actively monitoring the facility".
Cooper added, as of now (February 15, 2014), "the compressors at the rink are still operating" and that, "Karagozian has been notified on multiple occasions of what needs to be done for the rink to re-open".
The Takahashi family has stated in public that they were never made aware of the deficiencies during past annual inspections. A one page report from Complete Thermal Services (refrigeration servicer for the rink for decades), dated February 12, 2014 and posted on the Save Culver Ice Facebook page acknowledges the age of certain equipment but states, "there is no imminent danger to public health from an ammonia leak".
According to Mayor Cooper, it appears Complete Thermal has now backed off of its opinion that "all is fine."
It becomes clearer as the days pass, the repairs will need to be more than a "Band-Aid" and may be costly. Time will tell whether the Takahashi family (a favorite of the landowner and skating fans) will be able to pull this off. According to Mayor Cooper, AEG/Kings are still interested in operating the rink and is prepared to make the necessary improvements to the facility.
Some say AEG/Kings would be the best fit, however, for this to become a reality the landowner and the Kings would have to reach a deal.