Cool opening on hot day for Ice in Paradise


Ice in Paradise Opening Ceremony

Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider cracks a joke at the podium, causing Luc Robitaille, right, and Kathy Mintzer, far right, to laugh. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

The coolest place in Santa Barbara and Goleta on Saturday had to be Ice in Paradise. Literally and figuratively.

On a day with searing 95-degree temperatures outside, the not-yet-completely finished ice rink facility had its soft opening where hundreds enjoyed a lineup of activities that included public skating, a UCSB ice hockey game, and a figure skating exhibition. They also enjoyed a temperature inside cold enough that sweaters and winter hats were actually appropriate.

The day started out with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring NHL Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille and Philadelphia Flyers founder/owner Ed Snider. They spoke about the historic day – a long anticipated moment – along with Ice in Paradise Board President Kathy Mintzer, Campaign Chair Jack Norqual, and Goleta City Council member Michael Bennett.

Snider, who shares time between Philadelphia and Santa Barbara, was one of the largest donors.

“I want to tell you. I see all these L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks jerseys… but watch out for the Flyers,” Snider joked.

He credited Norqual with coming to him and getting him involved. Norqual connected with Robitaille and the L.A. Kings as well.

“This rink would not be here if not for Jack Norqual,” Snider said.

Robitaille and the L.A. Kings sponsor the high school hockey league that the new Santa Barbara Royals play in. That team has its debut next weekend on October 17. The overall demand for ice time has already been intense with 18 adult league teams registered and more youth hockey participation expected with time.

“Eight years ago I got a call and we wanted to help and make a difference. For years whenever I come down to Santa Barbara I see how many Kings fans there are here so we are certainly glad that everybody now will be able to play the great game that we love so much,” Robitaille said.

Figure Skating - Ice in Paradise

Santa Barbara’s Valentina Juricek does a spiral at Ice in Paradise.

The hockey star wasn’t stick sport exclusive.

“Hopefully a few years from now we will watch the Olympics we’ll see a figure skater that grew up in Santa Barbara and trained here,” Robitaille said.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, 10-year-old figure-skater Valentina Juricek took to the ice and performed a routine in front of an overflow crowd. The Santa Barbara resident recently won her division at the Southwest Pacific Regionals in Pasadena. Liz Schmidt, 20, from San Francisco, performed next. The spectator stands sit on the second floor overlooking the ice. The elevated vantage point is ideal for fans.

Many of the figure-skating spectators flowed onto the ice for the first public skating session on the large rink. It was full with skaters of all ages and abilities. UCSB’s hockey team then took centerstage later in the afternoon and faced off against Cal Lutheran.

The Ice in Paradise venue is not 100-percent finished. The restaurant isn’t open yet and some of the signage and final details aren’t in place. But the services on the ice – public skating sessions, skating instruction, adult hockey, adaptive sports, etc., are all in motion. The website is

Many there on Saturday expressed relief that Ice in Paradise was finally open after hearing about the prospect of an ice rink being built locally for almost 20 years. The effort picked up steam when Norqual got involved and came into clearer focus five years ago when the land was donated.

“It took a little longer to complete it but we never compromised on the quality of it all,” said Norqual, a retired businessman and hockey enthusiast originally from Minnesota.

A grand opening is planned for November.