Dozens of skaters could be seen elegantly gliding across the ice, working in the occasional twirl or desperately holding onto their balance during the grand opening of the Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Skating Rink at City Center Bishop Ranch earlier this month -- a sight that San Ramon city officials hope will become a treasured tradition for many winters yet to come.
During the unveiling event held on Nov. 15, hundreds of families, teenagers, local government officials and the Olympic gold medalist herself were on hand to hit the ice and celebrate the Tri-Valley's first and only outdoor ice skating rink.
"It's very exciting, as I was coming here tonight I ran into a bunch of parents and their children coming down from the parking structure, rushing down the stairs wanting to get to the ice skating rink and see it open up," said Alexander Mehran Sr., chairman of the board at Sunset Development Company -- the owner of City Center Bishop Ranch. "It's just one more element of the activity that people can share at Bishop Ranch and (makes) it a point of gathering and celebration as we begin this holiday season."
Located in City Center's front parking lot near the corner of Bollinger Canyon Road and Camino Ramon, city officials say they believe the 4,100-square-foot ice rink will soon prove to be a cherished holiday tradition that will contain regional appeal, as well as a resource of fun for local teens and families.
"We have a significant population of under 17 (kids) and they need things to do. And this ice rink is going to serve them during the holidays," San Ramon Councilwoman Sabina Zafar said at the grand-opening event. "When my kids were younger we would go over to Walnut Creek or San Francisco so having it right here is going to be awesome."
San Ramon's Mayor Bill Clarkson was also at the event, saying a few words to welcome in what he says is an attraction that residents were highly enthusiastic about since City Center's early development.
"If there's one thing I heard the most enthusiasm about, because we are really a family-friendly city, the thought of having an outdoor ice skating rink here in the downtown area where people can bring their children and families just had a broad universal appeal," he told the Weekly prior to the opening. "I'm really excited that this real first winter they are actually going to open up and do it."
A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Yamaguchi's Always Dream Foundation, which the Alamo resident and retired figure skater says aims to promote literacy among underserved children in America and help instill children with a love of reading.
"We focus on early childhood literacy and have a reading program that targets low-income kindergarten students," Yamaguchi told the Weekly. "This is a population that does not have books at home, so what we do is provide access to high-quality books at home via technology and tablets."
By reaching out to kindergarteners, Yamaguchi says that they can instill a lifelong love of reading and books early on, adding "There's a recent study that came out a few weeks ago that 65% of fourth-graders here in the U.S. read below grade level. That's a crisis situation."
She also added that the program strongly encourages parent engagement to help families feel empowered by their own involvement in their child's learning at home. Learn more about the foundation online at www.alwaysdream.org.
Hours and prices
The Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Skating Rink will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tickets are $12 per skater, $10 for skaters 4 and under and $5 for skate rentals. Students with a valid ID can receive free skate rentals on weekdays before 5 p.m.
The rink is also available for private party rentals online, learn more at www.citycenterbishopranch.com/ice-rink.