In June, crews began to convert the former Berkeley Iceland property into the building that will house Sports Basement beginning in November. Photo: Ted Friedman
In June, crews began to convert the former Berkeley Iceland property into the building that will house Sports Basement beginning in November. Photo: Ted Friedman

There are mounds of dirt where once there was ice, and construction crews where there used to be skaters. If work continues on schedule, Sports Basement will open on Nov. 1 at 2727 Milvia Street, the former site of Berkeley Iceland.

The 71,862-square foot building is currently undergoing a seismic upgrade. Heavy construction began in June 2014, with crews building a new roof and new walls on the north and south sides of the building, and beginning rough plumbing and electrical work in the interior.

This is the sixth location for the Bay Area sporting equipment chain, which started in San Francisco in 1998.

Work at the new Sports Basement site. Photo: Ted Friedman
Work at the new Sports Basement site includes a new roof, seismic upgrades and new walls. Photo: Ted Friedman

“Berkeley has long been a city where we wanted to locate a store,” said David Rumberg, project manager and partner in Sports Basement.

He said the chain looked at sites on San Pablo Avenue and near Fourth Street, but “the right building just hadn’t emerged.”

Sports Basement bought the Milvia Street property for $6 million in 2010. But it was two years until it got the go-ahead from City Council to adapt the landmarked building that used to house the beloved skating rink. For years after its 2007 closure, a group called Save Berkeley Iceland campaigned to reopen a rink in the building.

“It’ll likely stay much as it was when there was an ice skating rink there,” Rumberg said. “It’s just a big, huge, open interior, which we like.”

As a tribute to the rink, concrete will be poured in a configuration similar to the sections of an ice hockey rink. There will be scores in the concrete where there would be goal boxes, and the crews may paint an Iceland logo in the center.

The site’s history as a rink is part of its charm, Rumberg said.

“The building has character that is unique and independent of Sports Basement,” he said.

Crews work on the interior of the new Sports Basement. Photo: Ted Friedman
Crews work on the interior of the new Sports Basement. The site’s history as an ice rink is part of its charm, said project manager David Rumberg. Photo: Ted Friedman

Employment applications are being collected, but no external applicants have been hired yet, Rumberg said. There are over 70 positions to be filled at the store. Some current Sports Basement employees who live in the Berkeley area will be transferred to the new location.

A space of at least 3,000 square feet will be reserved for community meetings and events — and there will be couches for tired shoppers, said Shelley Berniker, partner in Sports Basement. All Sports Basement stores host community athletic programs, such as post-race activities and local league meetings, and allow schools and organizations to host fundraisers and events in the store for free. Existing stores host nearly 2,400 groups in total each year, Berniker said.

“We’ll take what works for us in terms of community outreach and bring it to Berkeley,” she said.

That includes highly subsidized CPR classes and revenue sharing partnerships with local schools. So far, 10 schools in Berkeley and three in Oakland have signed on, Berniker said.

Construction so far has gone fairly smoothly, save for a few minor obstacles that slowed the process, such as extra structural work needed on the walls, Rumberg said.

Initially the project was predicted to cost $6 million. Rumberg said the figure is now larger but declined to name the amount.

“The budget has increased but everything is on time,” he said.

Next, crews will complete the carpentry and construction and build the interior walls. The completed project will have 44 off-street parking spaces and 64 off-street bike parking spaces.

Group circulates ballot measure to preserve ice rink (04.13.12)
Sports Basement to take over historic Berkeley ice rink (09.12.12)
Op/Ed: Berkeley Iceland is so much more than a building (09.11.12)
Op/Ed: Let’s maintain Berkeley Iceland whatever its fate (07.25.12)

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...