Warning that popular ice rink could close by end of year

Moray Leisure Centre

An ice rink that has helped create two Paralympic medal winners and is the base for one of Scotland’s most successful ice skating development clubs could close by the end of the year.

That is the warning being given by Ice4All, an organisation set up to improve ice sports facilities in Moray, who say that an issue with the legality has been known for 14 years and yet nothing has been done to rectify it.

Now they say European legislation will force the closure of the Moray Ice Rink in Elgin by the end of this year unless positive action is taken soon.

The Moray rink is understood to be the last one in the country that still uses R22 gas – banned by the European Parliament in 2000. As a result rinks throughout the country have converted their systems – but Moray is yet to take any action and under current European law that means it will be forced to close at the end of the year.

“Thousands of ice users from all over Moray and beyond use the ice rink several times a week,” Ice4All chairman Graeme Summers said. He added: “It is the only ice rink in Moray and is incredibly popular amongst the general public as well as local elite sportspeople.

“We have been waiting for years for the R22 legislation to be complied with. Every other rink in the UK has achieved this, many of them years ago. Why is Moray still waiting? Thousands of people are worried we will lose this flagship.”

The rink is owned and operated by the Moray Leisure Centre (MLC), who in return receive substantial grant funding from Moray Council.

MLC said at the end of last year that the rink had been saved – but the funding to upgrade the ice plant is yet to be forthcoming, despite SportScotland having provided 50% grants to other Scottish rinks facing the same predicament.

Two options for replacing the ice plant at the rink have been discussed, one that involved repair to the existing plant at a cost of £50,000 and the other a full replacement costing £350,000.

However, the former ‘drop-in gas’ conversion solution is being dismissed by Ice4All, who say that idea had already been dismissed by other Scottish rinks as being too risky, Mr Summers saying: “The current plant is over 21 years old and could fail at any time.

“The plant is severely outdated and was second-hand when it was installed at the leisure centre’s inception.

“A new plant would significantly reduce the rink’s operating costs which are dominated by energy bills – and would at the same time reduce the facility’s carbon footprint.”

In May, Moray’s medal winning Paralympians Gregor Ewing and Jim Gault warned that their preparations for future events were being hampered by doubts over the future of the rink.

Lossiemouth-based Jim Gault said: “We are hoping to compete in the world championships in Finland next year as well as the 2018 Paralympics games. But we and everyone else needs to know what is happening with the Elgin rink.”

The future of the ice rink is set to be discussed at a meeting of Moray Council next week.

Moray Leisure Ltd Chairman Drew Baillie said: “We are geared up and ready to implement the cheaper £50,000 option should the council decide it its leisure review that an ice rink should remain in Moray.

”That hopefully gives us time to reopen the rink before the curling season in September – but we appreciate that the council is under financial restraints.”

Moray Rink – Ice4All Factfile

•  A new plant would significantly reduce the rink’s operating costs (dominated by energy bills) whilst simultaneously reducing the facility’s carbon footprint. One company in April 2012 quoted Moray Leisure running cost savings of £9,880 per annum with a new plant.

•  Sixteen months ago the council received a quote for a new plant, piping and headers costing £847,704. Various public bodies would provide funding, with Moray Leisure asked to provide £298,446.

•  ice4all believes this could be achieved for a far lower figure. Plants for comparable size rinks have been replaced for around £200-250K.

•  A new plant would also produce much better quality ice. Poor ice quality is a big problem in Moray and falls below the quality of other UK rinks.

•  The other viable option is to rent the chilling equipment. Murrayfield ice rink in Edinburgh hire one for £500 per week, which includes maintenance costs and associated running costs savings of a new plant. Rental for Elgin’s rink would be less because it’s half the size.

•  The Zamboni (ice resurfacing vehicle) is in desperate need of replacement. It breaks down or fails to start regularly leaving skaters with very poor quality ice that is far below the standard of other rinks and sometimes downright dangerous. We have been led to believe that some years ago TMC provided approx. £60K for a new Zamboni.

•  MLC voted to formally ask MLC to engage with ice4all to use their experience and knowledge to find ways to resolve the plant issue and better manage the ice rink for the benefit of its users. However, ice4all has not received any answer from MLC.

•  ice4all was set up to preserve and improve ice sports facilities in Moray and represent the ice users. It is made up of local representatives from the curling, skating and hockey clubs. ice4all was formed back in 2010 when the Elgin rink yet again faced the threat of closure due to possible withdrawal of Moray Council funding for Moray Leisure Centre. ice4all is mandated by the various clubs to represent them in discussions with Moray Council and MLC. These mandates are covered by an ice4all constitution agreed by all parties.

•  ice4all also comprises members with significant technical and management skills including direct experience in the profitable management of other ice rink facilities. The group understands the needs of the many various club members through being passionate ice users themselves.

•  Despite accusations to the contrary, in the event of the ‘Drop in Gas’ solution being the only option on the table and the alternative is to risk the closure of the rink then clearly all users would want to ensure the rink stays open by whatever means possible.

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