9 June 2016

"Significant challenges" of ice rink dream

An ice rink for Brighton & Hove could be a tall order due to a lack of suitable sites and scarce public funds.

Those are the main conclusions of a new report to the council’s economic development and culture committee.  It says the idea faces “significant challenges”.

Despite these, the council is set to agree a soft market testing exercise to see if there is potential for a rink in the city. 

The authority says it is responding to public calls for it to support efforts to build an ice skating venue. These include a 2,000-strong petition handed to the council last year.

The report says that rinks elsewhere tend to rely on either being part of a large complex or having a ready supply of money to cover costs.  It cites the rink at Spectrum Leisure in Guildford as an example.  The facility is part of one of the largest sports complexes in the country.  This helps attract visitors from a wide area and could help to spread operating costs. 

By contrast, Cambridge is set to open a stand-alone rink this year, but has the benefit of a wealthy benefactor – and a site, which has taken over 20 years to find.

The council is clear that it cannot subsidise any facility, due to a lack of money.  It also does not own a suitable site that is readily available, says the report.  A location has not been earmarked as part of the city’s planning blueprint.  However the council says it would be prepared to work with developers to try and locate a site. 

Proposals by a developer for a rink at Black Rock, next to Brighton Marina, fell through around 2012 when private financial backing could not be found.  The site has since been set aside for a new convention centre and event venue. Replacing the Brighton Centre is seen as the top economic priority for the city.

The King Alfred site will be used for a mixed sports centre with pools, because the council’s Indoor Sports Facilities Plan 2012-22 identified that as the city’s main sports priority.

Brighton’s major rink at the Kingswest site closed in 1972.  A smaller facility in Queen Square was shut by its private operators many years ago. 

Committee chair Cllr Alan Robins said:  “It’s important we have this report to show we understand public clamour for a rink – but also to explain the challenges involved.  Rinks need lots of space and consume lots of money through energy bills and staffing.  But if councillors agree, the next step would be to see if there are potential developers interested in providing an ice rink for the city.  There is certainly no quick or obvious solution.”

The committee meets on June 16.

More information

Read the reports for the economic development & culture committee here: http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=705&MId=6164&Ver=4

(The ice rink report is agenda item number 8)