Gavel / Ice crush awaits Labor’s promise

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IN the heat of an election battle many promises are made, some materialise, while others disappear into the ether.

Tim Gavel
Tim Gavel.

The ACT ice sports’ community is keen to ensure Labor’s promise of a new ice sports facility made in the lead up to October’s election doesn’t become the latter.

Demand time on the ice rink at Phillip is at an all time high with operations running at capacity seven days a week.

The demand is due to the two growth areas in ice hockey; the women’s and juniors’ competitions.

Because of the lack of available space on the rink, the women’s and junior leagues have been moved to a summer competition.

There is also the potential for tension between the competitive skating community and recreational users. Recreational use is important because it makes the centre financially viable.

The obvious solution is a two-rink facility, which would allow social users to skate on one rink while competitive sports use the other.

In the lead up to this year’s election the Labor Party promised to facilitate the construction of a new ice sports facility if re-elected, providing $75,000 for design and consultation in the first instance.

The announcement was made on the shores of Lake Tuggeranong, if nothing else signalling an indication of the preferred location.

There was also a promise of the facility being constructed within the next four-year parliamentary term. There is the vision that it would attract international ice sports events to Canberra, which ticks the tourism box.

There are plenty of questions yet to be answered. The main one being: What happens if a private-sector partner can’t be found to help build and eventually run the facility? Does it get put on the back burner?

The cost of building a two-rink facility is not insignificant with estimates ranging from $9 million to $16 million.

So where to from here? One school of thought suggests the government should make approaches to the licensed clubs to gauge interest in becoming involved. An example being the Liverpool Catholic Club, in Sydney’s west, where the club operates the skating rink as part of its overall club experience on the same site.

There have also been successful private sector/government funding models in Canberra. The most recent being the redevelopment of the Lyneham Tennis Facility with Next Generation.

The ACT ice sports community is keen to get the project up and running as soon as possible, but there is uncertainty as to where it falls in terms of the re-elected government’s priorities.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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