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ICED OUT SYLMAR RINK MAY HANG UP SKATES FRIDAY.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

SYLMAR - National teen skate medalist Andrew Huertas shot across the ice, spun into a blur and arched into a flying camel twist Tuesday at the Iceon Skating Center.

But the skating home for Huertas and hundreds of figure skaters and hockey playing youths may close at midnight Friday - shuttering the only recreational facility in Sylmar.

``It'll be hard, I'm here every morning,'' said Huertas, 13, a lanky teen of Lake View Terrace who recently clinched a bronze medal at the junior figure skating nationals.

``It's sad. It's a cool rink, it's a great rink. I hope it doesn't close.''

If the Iceon closes, skaters say, it'll be one more of many San Fernando Valley ice palaces to melt into obscurity.

Ezri Namvar, owner of the property, notified the rink this week that it had until midnight Friday to strip the Iceon of all skates, equipment and fans.

Namvar is president of NAMCO Financial Inc. of Brentwood, parent company of Pico 26 LLC, which owns the Iceon. He did not return phone calls.

The closure notice followed the collapse of a multimillion-dollar deal between Pico 26 and the North Valley Tigers Youth Hockey Association, which offered to lease or purchase the rink.

Though Tigers officials said the deal was all but dead, a Pico 26 official would only say, ``There are always last-minute changes.''

``Closure is imminent at this point, it's terrible,'' said Mark Fonterotta, president of the Tigers association. ``We've got about 500 kids that will be thrown into the street.

``It'll destroy our programs and leave us no place to play. It's really sad.''

The Iceon Skating Center opened on Valentine's Day 1998 in a long-defunct bowling alley on San Fernando Road across from the Union Pacific tracks.

Residents say it is one of the few places where Northeast Valley kids can go. Sylmar has no bowling alleys, not even a movie theater. They like its clean ice and family atmosphere.

``To me, it's not about the rink, it's about the kids,'' said Patty Pasco, the Iceon's manager. ``It keeps 'em out of trouble.''

Through the years, the Iceon has been home to Ekaterina Gordeeva, two-time Olympic pairs champion from the former Soviet Union, and Ilia Kulik, a Russian Olympic champ.

Before the city had a rink, minor league and youth teams from Bakersfield drove over the Grapevine to practice there.

What especially worries figure skaters is that a dozen coaches will have a hard time signing on to the Valley's remaining rinks in Valencia, Panorama City, Burbank and Van Nuys, which can charge more money for ice time.

On Tuesday, figure skaters cut wide swaths through the ice before a team of adult hockey players suited up for a lunchtime scrimmage, their pucks thumping against the boards.

Pete Lemoine, manager of the Iceon Pro Shop, has managed rinks and sharpened skates in the Valley for 47 years. In his lifetime, he's seen five Valley ice rinks close.

``A lot less places to go,'' said Lemoine, 67. ``Very sad. I think it's a big loss to the community.''

``We wouldn't know where to go, where to skate,'' added Noreen Petite, 16, a figure skater who must drive all the way from Lancaster, which has no rink. ``It would be terrible for us. I'm just upset.''

Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) Marina Kolmey, 18, of Reseda, right, practices Tuesday at the Iceon Skating Center in Sylmar. Its sign is shown left.

(3) Iceon manager Patty Pasko on Tuesday sorts skates at the center, which is set to close Friday.

(4) Andrew Huertas, 13, of Lake View Terrace goes airborne.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 5, 2004
Words:620
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