Skating on thin ice: the Promenade Ice Chalet closes

Due to an order by the LA county health department and difficulty making a profit during the coronavirus pandemic, the Vargas twins lose their second home.

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Mackenzie and Delaney Vargas after a Christmas show (2019)

The Promenade Ice Chalet got colder recently, and not to keep the ice solid.

Ice America, the company that ran the Promenade Ice Chalet, planned to close it on Sept. 27 due to greatly reduced attendance and rising costs. An announcement on the rink’s Facebook, posted on Sept. 5, said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, running an ice rink profitably was “simply not possible.”

And so two weeks before the closure, the countdown began for junior twins Mackenzie and Delaney Vargas, who spent the better part of their Saturday’s attending lessons, mentoring younger kids, participating at the “Theatre on Ice” program and free skating at their “second home”. 

“I think it’s really sad because I only have two years left here,” Delaney said. “I can still skate and go to other ice rinks, but I won’t have my team anymore, I won’t see the people that I usually see. I’m really sad because now I don’t really have anything to look forward to at the end of the week.”

For ten years the Vargas’ have been going to the Promenade Ice Chalet, counting on it as their relief at the end of a stressful school week, even if they had to arrive at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. 

“Even when it was really early in the morning and sometimes raining, I would always get my blood pumping, start moving, and I wouldn’t feel cold anymore. It just felt nice and refreshing, and that’s something I looked forward to,” Delaney said.

Delaney has fond memories of the ice chalet, some of which go all the way back to the start of their 10 years.

 “Back when I was really  little, they had a lesson you could take with your parents, and my dad played hockey so I remember taking it with him. That’s my earliest memory,” Delaney said.

About four years ago the “Theatre on Ice” program started, which allowed both Delaney and Mackenzie to form deeper friendships with the people they had skated among, but never really interacted with.

“I’m really gonna miss the ‘Theatre on Ice,’” Delaney said. “I’ve been skating with them for 3 to 4 years as a team. It doesn’t seem like that much time when I think about it, but I’m really gonna miss them. We had a lot of plans to do stuff, and we were gonna compete and do showcases, but that’s all gone.”

When they got the notice that the rink would be closing, Delaney and Mackenzie’s Theatre on Ice team decided to “mess around” and make one last program, which turned out to fit perfectly into the theme of “Spongebob Squarepants.” They were set to compete with it on Sept. 26, the day before the rink closed.

But then the Promenade Ice Chalet announced they would move up their closure date to Sept. 16, a week and a half earlier than expected due to an order from the LA County of Health Department.

”It was pretty disappointing. We had plans for the next two weeks where we’d have themes to dress up for. It was going to be a cowboy theme where we wear cowboy hats, and it was going to be fun. It was sad; nobody got any notice,” Mackenzie said.

Although the Promenade Ice Chalet is closed, neither have any intention to stop skating. According to Mackenzie, they will continue at The Edge, in Torrance, but it won’t be the same without their team and the ice chalet’s atmosphere.

”I thought that our rink could make it through COVID. They opened up a little bit and they had limited sessions with a few people, and I thought, ‘Okay, this is good.’ But obviously [it’s] not. It makes me sad,” Mackenzie said.

According to Mackenzie, the rink’s closure is easier to deal with when she has Delaney by her side, with whom she is “very close.”

”I think as people we’re actually pretty different, but when we’re skating we have one thing in common that brings us together that we can talk about, something we’ve always done together,” Mackenzie said.

However, they haven’t given up yet. A Change.org petition called “Save the Promenade Ice Chalet” has been circulating, and even though Mackenzie is “wary” because “there is only so much a petition can do,” she’s still hoping for the best.

According to the Promenade Ice Chalet’s Facebook page, the possibility of eventually reopening in the coming months or years is still being considered by Ice-America, even if the future is uncertain. 

”With stuff like this it’s hard to tell if it’ll work. But with all the support, and the comments of people who have been skating there their whole lives, I think it’ll reach somebody, and maybe we can get something to happen,” Mackenzie said.