San Jose: Solar4America ice rink expansion moves forward – The Mercury News

The Solar4America ice rink in San Jose could more than double in size over the next few years and become the largest ice venue west of the Mississippi River.

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council voted to allow the city manager to negotiate an agreement with Sharks Ice, which oversees the rink, setting the stage for the facility’s fourth expansion since it was built in the mid-1990s.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for us,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo.

But not everyone is thrilled. A gun range — the San Jose Municipal Firing Range — would be knocked down to make room for the expansion.

“This would be a terrible loss,” one instructor at the range said, prompting Councilman Johnny Khamis to ask whether there might be a way to preserve the gun club.

Keeping both “can’t be done,” said Nanci Klein, the assistant director of economic development.

Right now, the ice facility at the corner of 10th Street and Alma Ave. serves as a practice facility for the San Jose Sharks and the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda. At about 180,000 square feet, it’s one of just eight facilities currently operating at least four National Hockey League regulation sized rinks.

The expansion, which would be financed through an approximately $150 million bond, would add some 200,000 square feet, including an additional community rink and a new competition rink for the Barracuda team.

If everything goes according to plan, construction could start at the beginning of 2020 and end around December 2021.

Councilwoman Maya Esparza said the rink has provided opportunities to local kids that they might not otherwise have.

“This is a model public-private partnership,” Esparza said.

Demand for ice time has increased, the Sharks said, and increasing the size of the facility will allow expanded program offerings and more flexibility. The Sharks also agreed to a ticket distribution program where community members who can’t afford it otherwise get access to the facility.

Already the facility runs the largest adult hockey program in the nation, with 188 teams and 97 youth hockey teams.