Snoopy's Home Ice earns 'senior' status
Schulz's Redwood Empire Ice Arena celebrating 40th anniversary
Published: Friday, April 24, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 2:23 p.m.
At last, Snoopy’s Home Ice will be old enough to enter its own Senior World Hockey Tournament. On Tuesday, the Santa Rosa haven for skaters, also known as the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, turns 40.
Where: Snoopy’s Home Ice, also known as the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, 1667 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa
When: Special skating sessions, with music from each of the decades the arena has been open, on the last Saturday of the month — April 25, the ‘60s; May 30 will be the ‘70s; June 27, the ‘80s; July 25, the ‘90s
Information: 546-7147, snoopyshomeice.com.
“You have to be 40 to be in the senior tournament,” said Justin Higgs, the arena’s general manager since last summer. “We’ve been kidding around about that.”
On April 28, 1969, the arena opened with a gala performance starring skater Peggy Fleming. Over the years, many top skaters performed there: Scott Hamilton, Robin Cousins, Kristi Yamaguchi, Charlie Tickner and others. Bill Cosby, Victor Borge and Bob Newhart clowned there. Crystal Gayle and Helen Reddy sang there.
The arena was built by “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz and his first wife, Joyce. Schulz grew up with skating and ice hockey in St. Paul, Minn. He moved to Sonoma County in 1958, settling first in Sebastopol and later in Santa Rosa, where he died in 2000 after writing and drawing the comic strip for nearly 50 years.
“When Joyce and Charles Schulz devised this plan, they really did have the goal of making it the most beautiful ice arena in the world, and they had the wherewithal to do it,” Higgs said.
“Santa Rosa was fortunate enough to be ground zero for the phenomenal success that ‘Peanuts’ was enjoying at the time,” he added. “It was because of Charles Schulz’s love of skating and ice hockey that he wanted to be able to share that with the community.”
Schulz maintained a studio at the ice arena during 1970 and 1971, then moved into his permanent studio nearby, at 1 Snoopy Place, Higgs said.
One of the most familiar faces at Snoopy’s Home Ice over the past four decades is Skippy Baxter, 89, who has worked there as a teacher and coach since it opened. He considers the arena, with its Swiss chalet facades and Swiss Alps murals, a rare beauty among its kind.
“It’s hard to beat this arena,” Baxter said. “I don’t know of any rink that has what we have here. It’s a lot more beautiful. It’s just a wonderful place.”
Higgs, a former interim education director at the Charles Schulz Museum and interim director at the Sonoma County Museum, is a relative newcomer, but he shares Baxter’s sense of awe.
“It really is amazing. If you go to most other ice arenas, they’re just basically big tin sheds,” Higgs said. “We’ve just finished a multimillion-dollar upgrade to the chillers, compressors and air conditioning, to make it more efficient and environmentally friendly.”
As for the dual names used by the complex, Higgs has worked out his own explanation.
“For me, the Redwood Empire Ice Arena is the entire complex, including the gallery and gift shop, and the Warm Puppy Cafe,” Higgs said. “Snoopy’s Home Ice is the actual ice arena.”
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or email@example.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.pressdemocrat.com.
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