Julian Martinez and his daughter Celine watched as his wife Isabel and son Sebastian stepped out onto the ice at the Culver City Holiday Ice Rink for their first time ice skating last Thursday night.
For the past five years, Martinez said the Los Angeles family has come out to the annual Culver City tree lighting to see Santa. This year, the seasonal outdoor ice rink was a new attraction.
“It’s like every start; it’s rolling, it’s building,” said Willy Bietak, president of Santa Monica-based Willy Bietak Productions, which specializes in portable ice rinks, ice shows and other productions. “Of course we are looking forward to a good holiday season. Once the children are out of school it will get even better.”
Bietak and Robert Keith, ice rink general manager at Willy Bietak Productions, visited the ice rink last Thursday evening following the tree lighting ceremony at the nearby Downtown Plaza. The outdoor ice rink, which opened Nov. 20 and will operate through Jan. 7, is located at 9300 Culver Blvd., just off Washington Boulevard near The Culver Studios.
Bietak, a two-time pair-skating Olympian who resides in Mar Vista, said inspiration for the Culver City holiday ice rink came during a night out with his wife Cathy, who also skated professionally.
“My wife and I walked across the plaza here and we thought, ‘Wow, with all the people around, it should really be a good place for a holiday ice rink,’” Bietak said. “So we decided to try it and got the city council involved and the Culver Hotel got very active on it.”
A couple of rainy days canceled a few skating sessions early on, but ice rink manager Valerie Abraham said the biggest challenge so far has been getting the word out that the ice rink is open for business.
“We’re picking up nicely now. People are starting to know that we’re here,” Abraham said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from the tree lighting ceremony, so we’re really excited.”
The tree lighting ceremony attracted the Martinez family to the ice rink, as well as Culver City residents Corrin Hu, Marcus Johnson and their 3-year-old son Connor Johnson. Hu said Connor enjoyed their pre-tree lighting skating session so much, they returned for a second session after the ceremony.
Lori Oddino, who works for Culver City architecture and design firm Berliner and Associates, and her friend Tracey Friedman also took a spin around the rink Thursday night. Friedman said they considered skating in West Hollywood, but decided to support the local community.
The ice rink, which is presented by sponsor MelroseMAC, provided community support earlier this season by holding skating sessions as fundraisers for the Culver City Education Foundation.
“We’ve got some good sponsors. We have a lot of support from the local community,” Abraham said. “We’re really happy to be part of it, to be contributing something to the community for Christmas.”
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