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Sacramento's holiday ice-skating rink is coming to Midtown this year, thanks to the Midtown Business Association.
Members of its board voted Wednesday night to keep the palm-tree-studded capital's winter skating rink tradition alive by having an outdoor rink installed on the street of one the hottest blocks in town — 20th Street from J Street to the alley, between the Marrs Building's new businesses at 1050 20th St. and the Sacramento News & Review (SN&R) across the street.
"The ice rink is going ahead," said Rob Kerth, executive director of the Midtown Business Association (MBA) .
The vote — nine in favor and eight opposed — illustrated that business owners are not in agreement on the rink's merits.
Kerth proposed that the rink temporarily replace a seasonal rink that's been in operation for 18 years at Christmastime at St. Rose of Lima Park at 7th and K Sstreets. That rink, which was his father's idea, won't be built this year because of park and streetscape renovations. A Carnival of Lights will be held at the park instead.
Kerth acknowledged that the MBA and its members are is taking a risk by hosting the rink from Nov. 20 to Jan. 18. It will cost about $250,000.
He and a majority of board members say the rink will advertise Midtown's small businesses. The rink will attract people for holiday fun and provide an opportunity for businesses to encourage visitors to shop locally, Kerth said.
"The holidays are flooded with advertising, and it's very difficult to remind people of what you're offering," he said. "Any national chain in the Sacramento market is going to spend more on advertising than our entire ice rink budget. That's just not something that individual businesses can compete against."
The owners of Newsbeat, which moved to the Marrs Building about 18 months ago, have a "mixed" reaction to the rink, which will take up half a block, from J Street to the alley.
Terence Lott, who owns Newsbeat with his wife, Janis, said they expect crowds on the front deck would impact their business the most out of all the building's tenants because customers can access the newsstand from the front door only. The other businesses also have side entrances. The couple also worries about parking, which won't be available in front and may be a problem in the area for two months.
Yet they are "intrigued" at the possibility of being in the center of a "great community and civic function," Lott said.
"It's tantalizing, in the sense that it would bring people around," he said. "We don't anticipate that it would be disastrous — but there's an element of wait and see."
Other Midtown merchants are opposed to the rink and other events planned by the MBA.
Corey DeRoo said none of the events this year have increased the profits at French Cuff Consignment, which she owns at 2419 1/2 J St. with her mother, Darcy McNie.
"As we've understood it, the goal has been to bring folks to Midtown so they stay and shop and dine and play but instead people come to these events and many go home afterwards," she said in an e-mail.
DeRoo said she and other members of the MBA would prefer the association's money be spent on activities they believe would accomplish those goals, such as a marketing campaign to brand Midtown as a great destination and a beautification effort that would increase cleaning services and add trash cans, benches and flag markers.
"Unfortunately, with the passing of this terribly expensive and highly unpredictable ice skating rink, the money to accomplish any of these goals are gone," DeRoo wrote.
Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn held a meeting with the city's decision makers, who agreed to close half a block of 20th Street and the sidewalk in front of SN&R, Kerth said.
There's still a possibility the 40-by-120 foot ice rink would be built at 18th and L streets if an adequate electrical supply isn't available in an electrical vault in the alley behind SN&R. Construction is expected to start begin Nov. 1.
Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.