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Locals who needed to see it to believe it gathered Saturday afternoon for the opening of Goleta’s Ice in Paradise — an ice rink that’s been a decade in the making.
Ice skaters young and old turned out for a ribbon cutting and public skate marking the soft opening of the new facility at 6985 Santa Felicia Drive off Storke Road near Camino Real Marketplace.
The nonprofit Greater Santa Barbara Ice Skating Association, which has been fundraising for the project for years, emphasized a grand opening was planned for sometime in November.
It was well over 80 degrees outside, which made the hundred or so attendees out front even more anxious to see the inside of the NHL-sized hockey rink and two-story facilities.
“It’s going to be great for the whole community,” especially for the kids, said Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team and a longtime Ice in Paradise financial backer.
Los Angeles Kings great Luc Robitaille, currently the team’s president of business operations, was also on hand to unveil an ice rink he hoped would draw kids out of the house and away from video games.
Once the doors opened, a new rubber smell greeted the crowd rushing into the air-conditioned space, where ice skaters paid $10 to skate plus $2.50 to rent skates if they didn’t come with their own.
Kids and some adults of various skill levels — now all bundled in jackets, gloves or NHL hockey jerseys — took to the smaller studio rink to get their bearings, tumbling on occasion but always getting up with a smile.
Other visitors climbed the stairs to a second-story terrace overlooking the skating and NHL rinks of the $15 million facility, which broke ground last November.
A young figure skater performed an ice dance routine, and the UC Santa Barbara hockey team team was scheduled to play an exhibition game later in the day.
The inside of the building was mostly complete, with facilities such as lockers and bathrooms for hockey players and skaters.
A restaurant to be run by Zizzo’s, which operates a drive-through coffee shop across Storke Road, wasn’t quite finished, but should be in the next week or so, said Dan Sweeney, an Ice in Paradise board member.
Outdoor landscaping was also still under construction.
Sweeney said interest in the ice rink’s planned eight-week skating school, pick-up hockey, adult hockey, freestyle figure skating and adaptive skating programs was even greater than expected.
The ice rink building also plans to house a drop-in homework center with Internet access and a room for birthday parties and private events.
Sweeney said Ice in Paradise would continue fundraising to help pay down a $4 million bank loan to get the project done sooner than later and for operations in general.
— Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
(Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk video)