After nearly half a century as this city’s community ice rink, welcoming everyone from wobbly-legged children to fleet-footed hockey players, it’s no wonder that Oak Park could use a little help.

But with tens of millions of dollars in parks and recreation upgrades identified all across Stockton, there is more need than there is money.

That’s why supporters of the ice rink are urging the public to help them land a new LED lighting system valued at more than $50,000.

It won’t require any city spending; all it takes is your vote.

“The community side is huge,” said Derek Eisler, who manages the rink for SMG, the company that handles large city venues. “Even if you haven’t been to Oak Park, if you want to see something good for Stockton in general, get out and vote.”

Oak Park is one of 10 community rinks across the country in the running for a free lighting system as part of a contest put on by the American Hockey League — to which the Stockton Heat belongs — and the Ireland-based power management company Eaton.

The rink that gets the most votes, and can demonstrate that it needs the help, wins the lighting system.

Supporters showed up strong during an initial round of voting, with Oak Park placing third among more than 30 rinks.

The ongoing semifinal voting will extend through March 2. Visit

One critical detail: Any one person can cast one vote every 24 hours. So you can vote again and again, and you’ll probably need to if Oak Park is to prevail.

If the first round is any indication, Eisler is optimistic.

“What this has shown is that there are a lot of people that understand the importance of having Oak Park,” he said. “We are a community that fights and claws for these things.”

LED lighting would brighten up the rink, a plus for both safety and aesthetics. It would lower the power bill. LED lights also emit less heat than conventional lights, which should take some of the strain off the rink’s ice refrigeration system.

In a 2017 plan listing scores of capital improvement projects across Stockton, city officials identified $1 million in upgrades for the ice rink, including replacing the chiller. Without the improvements, officials wrote, “future operations are at risk.”

Indeed, in 2012 the ice rink closed for nearly three months after the refrigeration system broke down. The cash-strapped city hadn't properly maintained it. Youth hockey players took their practices to the asphalt parking lot.

Winning the contest wouldn’t solve all of the rink’s potential problems, but it would be a start.

“Let’s win this for our community!” local rowing enthusiast Pat Tirone wrote on Facebook, urging her friends to vote.

Eisler said the new lighting would nicely complement efforts to draw more skaters to the rink, efforts which he says have been successful. Public skates are held every day except Thursday. The Stockton Colts youth hockey club still uses the space, as do figure skating groups and, occasionally, the Stockton Heat players themselves when they need a place to practice.

“If we get this upgrade,” Eisler said, “it’s just going to enhance that feeling of coming to someplace that’s bright and a good place to be.”


Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or Follow him at and on Twitter @alexbreitler.