By Jorge Casuso
November 2, 2023 -- After encountering several obstacles over the past few years, ICE at Santa Monica will glide into the holiday season with a bang next week.
On Thursday, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. will hold a grand opening celebration for the holiday staple from 5 to 8 p.m. in a new, bigger rink with a major sponsor -- Netflix -- and a big-time producer of ice skating shows.
The opening celebration will feature live entertainment, including a performance by ice hooper Mayumi Namikoshi and music from DJ Super Mario (Mario Salcido).
"It just looks really great," said Andrew Thomas, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., who will offer remarks at the opening event. "I feel like we're taking it to the next level."
This year, Ice at Santa Monica, which opened this Wednesday, is produced by Willy Bietak Productions, Inc., a company created by nine-time Austrian pair champion and two-time Olympian Willy Bietak, who has an office Downtown.
The company has produced shows including The Ice Capades®, Le Ice Show®, Broadway on Ice®, Holiday on Ice®, Festival on Ice® and Royal Caribbean Cruise Ice Shows.
"Willy had a really energizing and thoughtful proposal," Thomas said, adding that there will be multiple free skate nights this year.
Passersby on the street will get an unobstructed view of a rink glowing with sparkling lights and festive decorations on the corner of Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue that will be 25 percent larger this holiday season.
An expanded "kiddie rink" will give youngsters more room to learn to skate, Thomas said.
"It was tough to learn when it was small," he said. "It's a little bigger, calmer environment to get your skates under you before you go into the big rink."
This year's Ice also features an "exclusive rink-side fire pit experience with artisan s'mores kits by S’moreology, private party tent rentals plus a diverse lineup of special events and themed skate nights," Downtown officials said.
Special treats and concessions can be bought from local favorites, Ugo Trattoria and Stefano's Pizzeria.
Among the themes during skate nights on Wednesdays will be an ABBA Disco Night, a Holiday Pet Pageant and an Ugly Holiday Sweater contest.
Started two decades ago as an experiment to draw holiday shoppers Downtown, the ice rink four blocks from the beach has become a holiday tradition.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID emergency in 2020 and a blown transformer in 2021, the rink returned last year but was delayed for a week after a major storm rolled through the area ("Ice Returns to Santa Monica Wednesday," November 11, 2022).
Thomas, who was the Downtown agency's head of operations when Ice was launched in 2003, says the event has "come a long way."
Like many parents, he watched as his son and daughter learned to ice skate at the rink. This year, his son is back, this time as a worker.
"My son and daughter both grew up going to ICE at Santa Monica," said Thomas, who returned last year to head DTSM. "It's a big part of our family, like it is for a lot of others."
The rink opened on Wednesday, November 1, and will be open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Monday, January 15.
In addition to regular hours, the rink will offer extended hours from December 15 to December 30, when it will open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Admission is $22 for a 60-minute session, which includes skate rental. For more information on Ice at Santa Monica, tickets and party rentals, visit iceatsantamonica.com or call 310-807-4822.