Bloodshot eyes and a voice that sounded like he’d been chewing gravel hinted at the stress Brentwood on Ice owner Tom Gregory has been under since damage done by vandals shut down his business, but after three days of around-the-clock activity, skaters were once again gliding across the ice.
The popular downtown skating rink reopened Tuesday, Dec. 17, and the skating season that at one minute seemed very much in question, was back on track.
“We opened up at noon today,” Gregory said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m ecstatic about the fact that we actually got opened back up today. I really was optimistic for Wednesday. We opened on Tuesday with the support and help of some of the local businesses, friends and family. I’m very, very happy that we opened up earlier than I expected.”
The start of the holiday season held a lot of promise for Gregory. With the move of The Big Chill skating rink from the Streets of Brentwood to Pittsburg, Gregory had good reason to expect a banner year. However, trouble began sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning, when valves to the ice chiller were opened and several hundred gallons of glycol coolant drained from the system.
According to Gregory, his rink looked more like a lake Saturday morning — a day that was expected to be the busiest of his very short season.
“It was really heartbreaking for me, what I saw happen on Saturday,” said skating instructor Laura Carreon. “This place is very special to me. It hit really hard, feeling that it could be gone. It was very sad.”
Gregory and his crew spent much of Saturday attempting to assess the situation. They determined a chiller unit needed to be replaced if any of the season was going to be salvaged.
“The old chiller that was damaged last night was removed around 10:30 p.m.,” said Gregory on Sunday afternoon. “A new one was brought in at 3 a.m., and installed and hooked up by 6 a.m.”
Getting the new unit in place and operational was touch-and-go for a while as the crew of technicians addressed one problem after another. But by Sunday afternoon, Gregory was confident he would reopen on Wednesday — an important goal, because 400 Girl Scouts were expected throughout the day Wednesday. With the business closed over the weekend, Gregory had to cancel nearly a dozen parties scheduled for Saturday alone.
“All I can do is apologize,” he said.
Gregory, who also owns Got A Party party rental business, said the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming, often leaving him at a loss for words. Friends and strangers have shown up and made cash donations to help him offset the extra expenses incurred and revenue lost as a result of the vandalism, for which he did not have insurance coverage. Several people started Go Fund Me accounts to help, as well. Representatives of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10789 made a surprise visit Monday afternoon and presented Gregory with a check for $400.
“Tom has helped us out for years, and we get to help him out now, whether he likes it or not,” said Steve Todd, commander of VFW Post 10789.
Carreon was encouraged as she watched the business come back to life.
“I’m in shock with what I saw unfold over the last few days,” she said. “But there’s also a big part of me that knows if anybody can do it, Tom can do it.”
The Brentwood police are investigating the incident, and surveillance videos are under review. Anyone with any information regarding the vandalism is asked to contact the Brentwood Police Department at 925-634-6911.
For hours and information about Brentwood on Ice, visit www.brentwoodonice.com, or call 925-516-7664.