Moray Councillors have voted to intervene in the crisis being faced by the Moray Leisure Centre over the future of their much-used ice rink.
The rink had faced a risk of closure because its ice plant had been deemed illegal by European legislation, with a deadline having been set for it to be replaced by the end of this year – or closed down.
A consortium of groups who use the rink for Ice Skating, Curling and Ice Hockey was formed to help find a way forward as the Leisure Centre’s owners faced an bill of up to £350,000 for temporary repairs or replacement.
The issue was discussed at a special meeting of Moray Council on Wednesday, where councillors discussed the options available before agreeing to fully replace the ice plant – with half the costs expected to come form sportScotland.
The more expensive option was taken with the view that any temporary repairs came with no guarantees – and would quite likely lead to further troubles in the future for the rink.
Elgin councillor Barry Jarvis welcomed the decision last night, saying: “I was delighted to support my colleagues’ motion to fully replace the ice plant at Moray Leisure centre.
“It has been clear from the start of the Leisure and Recreation Review that there are great amount of people in Moray who highly value the unique facility which has helped produce a number of high quality athletes across a number of sports – including Paralympic medallists.
“It is also important that in replacing the plant we take the long term view and it is obvious that none of the alternatives to full replacement would be sustainable in the long term.
“Also vital to the long term future of the facility is working with the Moray Leisure Board to resolve the ongoing differences with regards to approach the issues with governance and to put a proper service level agreement in place that reflects the aspirations of Moray and the capacity of the Moray Leisure Centre to deliver.”
Along with the motion to purchase the new ice plant by Councillor Douglas Ross came a call to look again the way the Leisure Centre is funded. Currently the local authority subsidise the venue to the tune of £600,000 each year.
Graeme Summers, who is chairman of Ice4All, the group formed to consult with the Moray Leisure Centre over the future of the rink, welcomed the council decision.
He said: “We’re naturally delighted that the council will be funding a new ice plant. The decision means thousands of people across Moray will be able to enjoy their ice sports for decades to come.
“It will also mean much lower running costs and an improvement in ice quality. We would like to thank all the councillors for their unanimous support for this much loved facility.”
Drew Baillie, the chairman of Moray Leisure Ltd, said: “The leisure centre is and always has been run for the benefit of the people of Moray.
“It is a charitable organisation and none of the directors is paid or receives expenses – quote the opposite. They given their time, effort and expertise for nothing.
“I’m delighted the ice rink has been saved and I’m also very happy for the staff at the rink – it has been a very difficult time for them.”