The Culver Ice Arena has been on quite the rollercoaster these last few months, before which most people probably took for granted that the 52-year-old community institution would always be around. Now, not only is it closed, but it could also release a toxic gas cloud that would affect a lot of Culver City and some of West LA. Uh oh. Rewind a few months, to when everyone found out that the ice rink's landlords had jacked the rent up 100 percent and that it would have to close; there was an outpouring of sentiment for the rink, and impassioned campaigning against Planet Granite, the new tenant who intended to turn the building into a rock climbing facility. Then there was the gamechanging discovery that the zoning for the land dictated it be used exclusively for ice skating rinks. And the tables have turned once again, with the discovery that the ice rink's current ammonia-based refrigeration system needs to be removed because it poses a danger to public health. The rink had inspections every year and passed, reports the Culver City Observer, but they were not at the depth that would reveal cooling problems. As detailed in a special report by the city manager and the fire chief, the rink's operator arranged for utilities to be shut off February 15 (that's tomorrow), but according to a Planet Granite report, "A shutdown of the refrigeration system without appropriate removal of the coolant can lead to leakage or in a worst case scenario, rupture from excessive pressure build up and release of ammonia vapor." And: "…the ammonia coolant used in the system is a significant and potentially dangerous environmental and health risk, especially for those living closest to the facility." The city has been furiously trying to get the owner or ice rink operator, and Planet Granite to do something about safely decommissioning the rink, but everyone refused to deal with it.
(Planet Granite has since disentangled itself from the lease and will no longer be opening on the site. There's no official word on why they backed out, but with all the drama surrounding the changeover, is it any surprise?)
It's unclear how much anhydrous ammonia coolant there is at the rink, but, according to the report, "A catastrophic release of 100 gallons of liquefied anhydrous ammonia would create an 11,250 cubic foot vapor cloud. The anhydrous ammonia vapor cloud would then start to mix with the surrounding air and travel downwind." That cloud could cause "severe injuries and death." And "a 100 gallon release of anhydrous ammonia at night with a southwesterly wind is predicted to impact an estimated 5,000 residents, including persons at Culver City High School, Culver City Middle School, Farragut Elementary School, West LA College, and two shopping centers."
Now the fate of the rink is up in the air. The coolant system needs to be taken out, but there's no real time frame or plan presented for getting that done, although the report insists the city is doing whatever it can. No rush, folks!
· Arena Can't Reopen Until Damage Is Repaired [CCO]
· More Twists for Culver Ice Arena: Planet Granite Pulls Out of Lease, After Old Ice Declared Unsafe [DnA]
· Ice Skating is Only Thing Allowed on Culver City Ice Rink Land [Curbed LA]