THE future of Oxford’s ice rink looks to have been secured – with the city council ready to invest in new equipment to keep the leisure facility going.
Councillors are ready to pay for a new £450,000 ice rink chiller, with the existing unit having reached the end of its lifespan.
The news signals the Labour- controlled council’s decision to stick with the aging leisure facility in Oxpens, rather than seeking to build a new multi-million-pound attraction that would combine an ice rink and swimming pool.
The ice rink is run by Fusion, a specialist leisure management charity, in partnership with the city council.
The revamp was welcomed by Oxford City Ice Hockey Club, which said the decision lifted a lot of uncertainly about the future of the rink.
The idea of creating a new ice rink on a site on the edge of the city, possibly near Blackbird Leys, was an option that had been pursued by the previous Lib Dem-led council.
The option of building an ice rink and swimming pool together, to create an new energy efficient facility, had been investigated by both consultants and officers.
But a report going to Tuesday’s city council central south and west area committee suggests the 27-year-old ice rink is set to stay where it is. The report said: “The new chiller unit will allow the continued use of the indoor sports facility for a further number of years. This is in accordance with the principles in the Oxford Local Plan.”
Elaine Sutcliffe, chairman of the Oxford City Ice Hockey Club Juniors, said: “Anything that makes the ice rink last longer and remain viable has got to be viewed as good news for clubs like ours.
“There seems to be a massive programme of work that is on-going inside the ice rink, with new shower facilities and changing rooms.
“There was a lot of uncertainty about the future of the ice rink.
“But since Fusion became involved, it seems that the city are in it for the long term.”
Bob Timbs, city council executive member responsible for leisure, said: “When we found out how much a proposed ice rink and swimming pool in Blackbird Leys would cost it was simply out of the question.
“We are happy to keep the existing ice rink going and a new chiller will allow us to do that. The ice rink is now doing very well, and we would very much like to put in a restaurant and cafe.”