By 2004 local Michelle Kwan wannabes may be able to hone their skills without trekking to Oxnard.

Plans for an indoor ice rink were developed and approved in 1997 as part of the Camino Real Marketplace project. However, when construction of the entertainment and shopping center began, the Wynmark Company, which owns the marketplace, was unable to find a firm interested in taking over the ice rink project.

Five years later, the non-profit Greater Santa Barbara Ice Skating Association is taking the matter into its own hands. The GSBISA is working with Wynmark to raise enough money to build the delayed rink. Ron Biscaro, a GSBISA spokesman, has a specific goal in mind.

“By the end of 2003, our goal is to get the necessary government approvals, the development permit and funding,” he said. “And by early 2004, we’d like to get started constructing the rink itself.”

Biscaro and fellow GSBISA members are working with the help of PARC – the Parks and Recreation Community Foundation – to get the project underway. Together, Biscaro said, they are working “as a vehicle to improve parks and recreational facilities in the area.”

The ice skating rink will be an indoor facility, located in the Camino Real Marketplace behind Home Depot, adjacent to Girsh Park. The rink will be designed and constructed through the collaboration of a local architect and a Canadian ice rink company. Biscaro said although designers have not yet finalized the dimensions of the structure, it will allow hockey as well as figure and free skating. The facility will also include dressing rooms, a skate rental department and a small restaurant.

“It’s basically going to be one indoor rink plus a few extra perks,” he said.

However, before the rink is constructed and the local government permits are given, the feasibility study currently underway must be concluded, said Mark Linehan of the Wynmark Company.

“The feasibility study will tell whether there’s enough local ice skaters to support the facility. It’s based on demographic studies on the greater Santa Barbara area, and on similar areas which have recently installed similar projects,” Linehan said. “We just want to make sure there is a high enough volume of skaters to make the project work.”

Though the final cost of the project as of yet remains unknown, the estimate is high. “In the beginning, a couple firms turned down the offer to take over the rink project,” Harriet Philips, president of the Goleta Valley Land Trust, said. “And it’s all because of the high energy costs of maintaining such a facility. I sure hope this time the project doesn’t fall through.”

Biscaro said the nearest ice skating rinks are in Oxnard and Simi Valley. “With the population of Santa Barbara at roughly 200,000, this rink should be a success,” he said. “With the closest rink 50 to 70 miles away, we all hope it will draw enough skaters.”