Monday, March 29, 2010

Iceland Ice Arena Burns Down

This is as bad as the Hindenberg disaster!:
The iconic art deco skate rink in North Sacramento outlasted the events of World War II, Sputnik, the 1963 presidential assassination and the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001.

But early Sunday, Iceland Ice-Skating Rink could not endure fire. As flames jumped high into the sky at 3:30 a.m., the roof collapsed, obliterating the ice rink that opened on Del Paso Boulevard in 1940.

...Officials estimated the blaze caused $1 million in damage; the actual ice rink and cooling system apparently survived. Founding family members said the building was too old to insure against fire loss.

...Sherri Kerth, another member of the founding family, reminisced: "We were here skating before school and after school. There were ice shows and ice competitions and weddings."

Over the years, thousands of people skated at the rink. It also was a center for youth hockey and other programs.

The ice skating rink became a great place for couples to meet, the Kerths said.

Sherri said her father, William Kerth Jr. – son of the founder – met his bride-to-be at the rink in 1945. Besides Rob and Sherri, the couple had four other children.

Rob Kerth said his parents weren't the only people to find romance at the rink.

"My aunt kept a list for many years of couples who met at Iceland and later married," he said. "There were several hundred names on it."

His grandfather, William J. Kerth Sr., started the American Ice Co. on Del Paso Boulevard in 1923.

When electric home refrigerators began to freeze out the old iceboxes in the 1930s, he used the ice plant's equipment to create an ice skating rink next door. Water from the ice plant also supplied the nearby neighborhood pool.

Iceland achieved some prominence in 1961 when it held a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs for the U.S. figure skating team. On Feb. 15, 1961, the plane from New York carrying the team, along with parents, coaches and judges, crashed on a failed landing in Brussels, killing all of them. They were on their way to the world championships in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Iceland was packed for the nationally televised event, Kerth said. With bleachers placed on the ice, the building could seat up to 900 spectators, he said.

Over the years, Kerth said, the rink ceased being a money-making proposition. "The ice rink has been for a long time a labor of love," he said. "There hasn't been any rent paid or money expected for at least 20 years.

"We think of it as our contribution to the community."

...Roland Allred, a lifetime Woodlake resident, said the rink remained a "place for kids to do something Friday and Saturday nights."

He said he was saddened by the loss. "For this neighborhood, it provided a wholesome activity for kids."

..."I think you ought to keep November 4 open on your calendar and come to the rink with ice skates," Kerth hinted broadly. "That will be our 70th anniversary.

"We won't be able to put the roof back on. But outdoor ice skating is pretty popular. I'm sure we'll have the same arrangement we do now, where everybody helps out."

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