Were dreams of a new ice sports facility in Canberra just a melting moment?

Tim Gavel 11 August 2020 13
The current ice rink at Phillip

The Phillip ice skating rink has seen better days and is in need of refurbishment. Photo: Supplied.

In the lead up to the last ACT election in August 2016, Labor staged a media conference on the shores of Lake Tuggeranong and announced plans for a new ice sports facility as part of a pre-election promise.

As one of the media representatives on hand for the announcement, I can tell you there was optimism from the Canberra ice sports community. They were confident that after years of campaigning the dream of a new facility would come true.

At the time it was suggested that construction would commence within the current parliamentary term, meaning it would have been operational around now.

The signs were promising with Labor re-elected. It was felt as though things were on track to move on from the existing facility at Phillip, which was opened in 1980 and in need of refurbishment.

The ACT Ice Sports Facility Options Analysis Report of 2018 estimated the cost of a two-rink facility to be around $35 million. The ACT Ice Sports body had a vision of all manner of ice sports being played on the two Olympic-sized rinks.

The plan was for a public-private ownership model with the ACT Government playing a facilitating role.

But far from being operational by August 2020, and after one election cycle, the facility appears far from construction.

The government didn’t open the tender process until September 2019, seeking expressions of interest in the design, construction, ownership, operation and maintenance of the facility.

READ ALSO: Government opens tender for new ice rink facility in Canberra

For its part, the ACT Government indicated it would provide a financial contribution to support the establishment of the facility.

Since the opening of the tender process there has been virtual radio silence on the future of the project.

I must admit I had forgotten about it until I was alerted to concerns from some in the ice sports community. I was informed that they hadn’t heard anything for almost a year.

My understanding is that the ACT Government remains committed to the project but a number of factors may have lined up against it.

The most obvious is the economic downturn created by COVID-19 and the ability to secure a privately financed facility is diminishing by the day.

As the tender process indicated, the government was prepared to facilitate but not finance the entire build of the project, nor maintain or operate the facility.

If there is a lack of interest from the private sector, is it then up to the ACT Government to offer a better deal to prospective operators?

Prior to COVID-19 there were already financial pressures in the wake of Mr Fluffy, the construction of the light rail and the tourism downturn during the bushfires.

The government is also being canvassed from a number of other sports organisations for amenities including improved basketball facilities, tennis facilities in Gungahlin, and of course there’s the possibility of having to contribute financially to re-open the AIS Arena.

READ ALSO: Courts crisis means the next Kyrgios could be lost to Canberra

So where does that leave the proposed ACT ice sports facility?

The hope is that there remains interest in the business community to build and operate the rinks. The worry is that the momentum of four years ago has diminished.

At this stage, I presume all options are back on the table, including the possibility of redeveloping the current site at Phillip. And with 2020 being the year of unforeseen circumstances, the ice sports community, like others, can only hope that 2021 will bring good news.

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13 Responses to Were dreams of a new ice sports facility in Canberra just a melting moment?
Adrian Sandrey Adrian Sandrey 2:45 pm 13 Aug 20

That’s because it’s still on hold as a holding morgue for COVID deaths

Adam Rath Adam Rath 12:41 pm 13 Aug 20

Maybe if he can paint a rainbow on the ice 🌈

Emma Davidson Emma Davidson 8:01 am 13 Aug 20

I read in 2016 that an ice rink needs to co-locate with another facility to be viable for a private operator. With all the other facilities on ACT Govt’s list to be built, surely there’s something that would work to speed up the process?

Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 6:32 pm 12 Aug 20

Typical. Andrew "Gunna Do" Barr. Signs going up just before the elections. Time for change.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 4:53 pm 12 Aug 20

Hopefully stage 2 of Light Rail will be scrapped, particularly now that it will be considerably slower than the existing bus service, and hugely expensive.

David Brown David Brown 4:19 pm 12 Aug 20

I enjoy a good pun.

MERC600 MERC600 4:15 pm 12 Aug 20

Tim I fear your saying ‘The most obvious is the economic downturn created by COVID-19’ will prevail.
Also this Covid bug economic downturn will be used
ad nauseam by the Legislative Assembly leader and his government to explain away pot holes and all manner of things.

Even perhaps a stage 2 tram line ?? Am sure it would take more than a Covid 19 to put a stake in it.

Roberta Lynne Anning Roberta Lynne Anning 1:12 pm 12 Aug 20

The tram got in the way. Maybe next time round. 🤞😁😂

Chris Olsen Chris Olsen 12:50 pm 12 Aug 20

The rink was tired 30 years ago, long over due, but with the current situation it’s likely to have been pushed a long way down the list.

Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 9:43 am 12 Aug 20

This Government vary rarely delivers on promises like this, another example is the lack of support for a diving tower at any pool constructed, it’s always a we may look at that in a stage 2 that never materializes.

Eddie Majcic Eddie Majcic 8:22 am 12 Aug 20

If you haven't got it till now. Forget about ever having it.

Kim KD Winks Kim KD Winks 7:57 am 12 Aug 20

Why do you think they would? I just sigh at the latest round of promises they are spewing leading up to the election in October. I hope people see through the lies and vote them out!

Guy Randell Guy Randell 7:45 am 12 Aug 20

Have they looked at the option of using the AIS arena for games and Phillip for training. Surely this would be less than the cost to build. Watched the Lakers and then Kings over two days and they added the ice in a couple of hours. Stadium already there, no change to stands. Cracking venue with parking.

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