NORTH HILLS — The Iceoplex--once so busy that local hockey leagues had to practice past midnight to secure ice time--is closing its main rink in North Hills in preparation for an eventual move elsewhere in the San Fernando Valley, a company official said Friday.
The North Hills complex, which opened in 1992 and once served as the practice ice for the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team, will shut its main rink April 15, said Ken Pressberg, chief executive officer of Santa Monica-based Ice Specialty Entertainment Inc.
"We had a choice: Pour in a bunch of money into an old facility that will always be inefficient or look to acquire a new one," Pressberg said. "We think creating a similar operation within one building is the best thing from an economic and customer standpoint."
The closure comes amid a national decline in skating and increasing competition from newly opened rinks from El Segundo to Valencia.
The lease on the rink's North Hills property at 8345 Hayvenhurst Place near Van Nuys Airport runs through 2008.
Pressberg said his company will continue to operate two smaller rinks at the Iceoplex "for the foreseeable future." One is a smaller ice rink known as "the deuce" and the second is a dry-surfaced rink for in-line skating.
At "the deuce" Friday, skaters said they were disappointed the rink would be closing.
"I heard the rumor about a shutdown a few weeks ago," said Robin Seward, 28, of Chatsworth, who has been coming to Iceoplex since 1993. "We love this place. It's comfortable and friendly. Adults can come and skate and not be intimidated.'
"I look forward to skating all the time and it's the best thing in my life." added Stella Margaritis, 49, also of Chatsworth. "Where will all these people go now?"
Pressberg declined to comment on a site for a replacement facility, or when it might open. But he said the company is in talks for a dual-rink facility in the area that would house travel hockey team programs until Iceoplex can find a more permanent home in the Valley.
He also said skaters can go to the Ice Chalet in Panorama City when the Iceoplex is filled.
Iceoplex opened in 1992 and became the training rink for the Kings a year later. The team was a big draw until it left the facility two years ago.
Nationally, skating has fallen off 10% to 30% in the past four years, said Peter Martell, executive director of the Ice Skating Institute in Dallas.
Part of the reason, he said, is because skating is cyclical, with interest peaking during the Winter Olympics. The decline, plus competition from new rinks, has made it tough for older facilities, he added.
When it opened, the Iceoplex was one of the few all-purpose facilities of its kind--attracting skaters and hockey players from as far away as Bakersfield, Ridgecrest and Orange County, some driving for hours to train with coaches or take part in league play.
Today, however, the facility has to deal with increased competition from other area skating venues, including the nearby Ice Chalet, the Ice Station in Valencia and Ice Specialty Entertainment Inc.'s own ice complex in El Segundo.
"What makes Iceoplex so special is our leagues, our programs and our personnel," Pressberg said. "In order to continue we need to relocate in a more efficient facility to maintain our competitive edge."