Ice rink refurbishment could destroy what we've built says Slough Jets general manager

Ice rink refurbishment could destroy what we've built says Slough Jets general manager

Dan Darlington

Ice rink refurbishment could destroy what we've built says Slough Jets general manager

Concerns have been raised that potential ice hockey stars of the future, as well as promising ice dance skaters, could drift away from their sport because of the planned closure of Slough Ice Arena from October for a £7.3million refurbishment.

Steve English, general manager of the Slough Jets, said the planned nine-month closure of the rink in Montem Lane could ‘destroy’ many years of hard work for the club and wreak havoc on its plans for next season.

Slough Borough Council (SBC) plans to close the rink for a multi-million pound refurbishment in the autumn, but organisations who use the centre on a regular basis say they haven’t come up with a suitable interim solution and are urging them to cough up the £500,000 needed to construct a temporary rink.

Various organisations and individuals, including SPICE (Special People on Ice) and the Jets, were planning to meet this week to try to come up with a viable solution to the issue, and desperately hope their ideas won’t fall on deaf ears at the council.

“From our point of view this could destroy everything we’ve built up, and worked on for so many years,” said English. “The kids who come here could go to other clubs, take up other sports, or just go back to their Xboxes. It’s very hard to bring people back once they’re gone.”

The worst case scenario would see the club shut down for a year as English says they simply won’t get the ice time needed for matches and training at other venues.

“From our point of view we can’t start a league season (which for the Jets runs from August to May) if we can’t finish it,” he said. “If the rink closes we might not sign up.

“We simply can’t get the ice time elsewhere. It wouldn’t cover the 15 hours a week we need and it would mean stopping the team for a year. If that happened it would take years to rebuild it because once people have gone it’s difficult to get them back.”

Helen Prior, a former international skater who now coaches ice dance couples at the centre, believes a temporary rink, built close by, possibly in the car park, is the best solution, but the council has so far balked at the £500,000 it would cost to install. It’s not seen as a ‘viable option’.

“If it doesn’t happen people, skaters, users of the centre will go elsewhere and the rink will lose an awful lot of business,” she said. “It won’t simply open again with the same level of business.

“These people need to skate five days a week, some are training for the British Championships in October and other international competitions. It will impact their performance levels.

“A temporary rink is the ideal option because everyone can continue training and then would slot back in when the refurbished rink is ready.

“The plan is to try and persuade the council that this makes sense.”

SBC has said it will cost ‘more than £500,000’ to provide a temporary ice rink which is not a ‘viable option’ despite agreeing to a £33.3m investment in its leisure facilities.

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