Whether parent or child, hockey player, figure skater or coach, residents from across the Santa Clarita Valley gathered at Ice Station Valencia Sunday from a safe distance amid efforts to save the rink.
Ice Station, which was the SCV’s only ice rink, announced its permanent closure March 25 after 20 years in business.
As dozens of cars decorated in team colors, with banners, streamers and “Save the Rink” car decals, lined up down Smyth Drive for more than a mile, the Ice Station Valencia Car Parade allowed the community to come together to show their love and support for the rink.
“It allowed us to voice our opinions about the rink in a safe and community-oriented way,” said Dave Chase, executive director of SNAP (Special Needs Athletes & Peers) Sports, which has called the rink home since SNAP’s inception in 2012.
For Chase, saving the rink is the best way to save the SNAP Sports program.
“We’re at a loss to be honest,” Chase added. “A program that serves the special needs community lost its home, and we wanted to be part of the movement because (Ice Station) is more than just a place to have fun. It helps special needs athletes for years not just physically, but their mental well-being as well.”
For SNAP Sports, moving to another rink is impractical, as other rinks are out of Santa Clarita and require athletes to travel, Chase said.
“Ice Station was a place in Santa Clarita where people could congregate safely and enjoy themselves in a family-oriented environment,” Chase added. “When something like the Ice Station disappears, it removes the community support for the special needs community.”
Participants remained in their cars throughout the event, stopping in front of the Ice Station and a large “#WeWillSaveTheRink” banner as event organizers wrote families’ names on it, creating a visual petition in support of the rink.
As Tom Jeffrey, a SNAP Flyers coach, and his wife Mary Jeffrey, sat in their car awaiting their turn to enter the parking lot, they explained what the Ice Station means to them.
“With SNAP, (we serve) all kinds of disabilities … We help them all, and they just come alive when they hit the ice,” Tom said. “They are shutting the rink down and we really, really don’t want that to happen.”
“The community is just full of athletes, be it from 2 years old all the way up to 80, that rely on this (rink) for comfort and a place to go,” Mary added. “There’s such a need.”
The Jeffreys have been coming to the rink for nearly the entirety of its 20 years in business and consider it their second home.
“The pleasure and the happiness that this place has brought to our special needs (community) has been amazing,” Mary said. “This just breaks our heart to see it close like this due to financial reasons, so we’re really hoping that somebody will step up and purchase this so we can continue to come to our second home.”
Similarly, Matyas Fischer, 11, has been going to the Ice Station since he was 4, which he considers “basically my whole life,” he said.
“I love this place,” Fischer said. “It’s probably the best place I’ve ever been. It’s really sad that it’s closing down, and I really don’t want that to happen.”
The 11-year-old is a top-ranked hockey player who plays right wing and spent at least three hours every day practicing at the Ice Station. “I just wanted to be in the NHL and work really hard.”
For Fischer, the rink closing is something he never thought he would see happen.
“It’s really sad,” he said, adding that the turnout to the event brightened his spirits. “It (makes) me happier that hopefully we can save the rink.”
Santa Clarita Councilman Bill Miranda is an ice skater, and he, too, is a big proponent of saving the rink.
“It is akin to a park in that so many of our citizens go and use it on a regular basis … (so) I absolutely think that we need to keep the Ice Station in our city and keep it active,” Miranda said. “I would hope that the staff looks into that and presents a plan for keeping the ice rink to (the) council.”
Signal Multimedia Journalist Bobby Block contributed to this report.