The push for a new ice rink in the capital will soon get its skates on when the ACT Government asks for expressions of interest in developing what would be a multi-million dollar facility.
A Government spokesperson said the EOI documentation was being developed and would be publicly advertised in the coming weeks. Sports Minister Yvette Berry had said a tender would go out early this year.
The tender would seek interest from suitably qualified and experienced parties to design, construct, operate and maintain a new ice sports facility in the ACT.
The ACT Ice Sports Federation – representing figure skating, ice hockey, including the Canberra Brave, and broomball – has been driving the bid for a two-sheet replacement for the current 38-year-old Phillip rink, which it argues isn’t big enough for world-class competition and the growing fan base.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr promised in 2016 to start building a new ice rink before the 2020 election and an undisclosed amount of money was allocated in the mid-year budget review in February to support the bid, although the Government has made it clear that the private sector will have to stump up most of the money.
The spokesperson said the tender would specify that the Government will consider providing some financial and/or non-financial contributions to support the establishment of the facility, but the Territory did not intend to directly own or be the primary funding source for a new ice sports facility.
The Government-commissioned options paper compiled by Lockbridge and released last October examined three options, looking at how big the rink (or rinks) would need to be, the size of the parcel of land required, facility program requirements, capital cost, operating costs and potential funding scenarios.
It found the AISF-preferred two-rink facility over two levels would cost $35 million, a two-rink facility over a single level $30 million and a one-rink facility over two $22 million.
The paper said the preferred option would make a profit of half a million dollars based on patronage of 50,000 people a year. It said the average attendance at Canberra Brave games was about 800 and the AISF wanted a capacity of 2500, although option one only allows for 1600 seats.
The Government spokesperson said the viability of the options relied on a private sector partner or partners fulfilling the tender requirements.
The Government did not have a possible site in mind and the tender would request that interested parties identify a suitable location, as well as specifying a range of core facility requirements and conditions that will need to be met.
The manager of the Phillip ice rink and pool John Raut and the owner Wayne Houghton both say a new rink would mean the current facility would close, but they had not heard anything from the Government about the future of the prime site on the corner of Melrose Drive and Launceston Street.
The site requires a rezoning for it to be redeveloped for other use, such as the high-rise residential buildings proliferating in Woden.
Geocon’s massive WOVA development is planned across the road on the former Tradies site, and Mr Houghton acknowledges that the site would be very valuable for that purpose.
But he said he could only react to what the Government decided.
Both said that the urban environment had changed in Phillip and it was no longer suitable for an open-air pool.
Mr Raut, who has been deeply involved in ice skating for decades, defended the quality of ice at Phillip as state-of-the-art but acknowledged the ice community would like a bigger facility.
He could only afford to ‘patch and paint’ the facility without closing it for any length of time, and any new facility would have to be built elsewhere to avoid ice sports being shut down during the transition.
A study had been commissioned on the viability of a new ice rink being developed on the nearby surface car park but the proposal was deemed unaffordable.