Thursday, 16 February 2017

'MELTDOWN' NOW LOOKS CERTAIN FOR TOWN ICE RINK

A DECISION on the future of Grimsby Ice Rink is set to be made at a full meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council next Thursday - with the likelihood that its closure is now imminent.

The recommendation from portfolio holder for health and wellbeing Cllr Jane Hyldon-King and director of health and wellbeing Stephen Pintus is that: The Ice Rink at Grimsby Leisure Centre be closed as soon as reasonably practicable. 

A report to councillors reads as  below

The council has been through an extensive process of engagement over a considerable length of time in an attempt to secure a commercially viable ice rink operation in the   borough. 

This has included investing in, and continuing to operate a “temporary” ice rink for two years in order to allow further time for a commercial option to be achieved. (The two- year period ended in August 2016).

The Ice Rink is operated at a loss and the council is currently absorbing costs in respect of the hire of the ice rink chillers and maintenance and repair which it cannot afford indefinitely. 

The council needs to achieve further efficiencies within the health and wellbeing portfolio and this decision allows the council to support as cost efficient sport and leisure service.

Grimsby Leisure Centre has been operational since 1975. The building is largely original, having only one major change during its life. The second sports hall was removed to enable the development of Grimsby Auditorium,opening in 1995. 

Since this date, only operational/internal modifications have been made. 

In 2008/09 the Council commissioned a strategic review of all its sports and leisure assets.

The report followed the Sport England guidance at that time and provided a programme of replacement/refurbishment and removal, based on a needs assessment and future demographic profiling.

One of the recommendations within the review concluded that an ice rink was best served via a private sector/commercial development instead of public sector subsidy.

In 2013 the Council responded to the changes in refrigeration materials. From December 2014, the use of R22 gas became illegal. This substance was the main refrigerant of the Grimsby leisure centre ice rink. 

The council undertook not to replace the ice rink, but it did commit to hiring/leasing a temporary ice pad and refrigeration unit for a two-year period, the aim being to give the commercial  market a further opportunity to consider this area for investment.

The report recommending the installation of a temporary ice pad also noted the limited life span of the GLC and the associated maintenance costs for the fabric of the building.

The two-year contractual period for the ice pad expired in August 2016.

The contract is being extended on a short term basis, with the costs being met by the council to allow time to consider the views and proposals from key stakeholders, primarily the Grimsby Ice Hockey Club. 

Various models and commercial options have been proposed and reviewed over recent years and to date no option has come forward to replace the ice-rink at no cost or subsidy to the council. 

Since 2009 dialogue has taken place with a number of commercial ice rink operators including a proposed joint venture scheme being put forward in September 2012. 

As a result of the subsequent due diligence work, the council determined that it would not be in its interests to enter into that arrangement and work on this proposal ceased

The council subsequently entered into further dialogue with other potential ice rink developers, two of which, when previously contacted in 2010/11 were not in a position to develop an ice rink in the area without a capital contribution from the council. 

Both organisations expressed an interest in developing a facility within the borough and present ed different models for development and operation. 

However, these options were based on the council providing land or buildings at market value to facilitate the development, which  the council has been unable to facilitate.

Since the installation of the temporary pad there have been no proposal’s received by the council 

Following representations from the Grimsby Ice Hockey Club in July 2016,seeking clarification of the future of Ice rink, meetings were held to consider alternatives. 

As Lincs Inspire Ltd are the exclusive contracted provider of the facility and solely responsible for revenue and pricing, the Ice Hockey Club were advised to work in conjunction with Lincs Inspire to generate proposals to maintain the Ice Rink as a viable going concern.

Lincs Inspire have supported the Ice Hockey Club in this endeavour as best they can.

There has been extensive email correspondence between the council and Grimsby Ice Hockey Club. 

The Grimsby Ice Hockey Club proposals are wide-ranging in nature and make suggestions counter the drop-off in the number of people ice skating. In general the proposals require the council to invest in anticipation that subsequent usage increases sufficiently to recover that investment.

The proposal from Grimsby Ice Hockey Club is progressive in its approach. However it was predicated on the following (summarised) changes:

* NELC capital investment into the facility infrastructure in excess of£115k (including tractor, new floor,Perspex protection, barriers, air-handling replacement, toilets refurbishment, new skates).

*Various changes to Lincs Inspire operational activity and further NELC investment into the site, some of which affected all Grimsby Leisure Centre, totalling an increased income of £25 - £27K and an unspecified further capital and revenue costs for NELC (including but not limited to the reinstatement of kitchen, café , car park charges) and operational costs/losses for Lincs Inspire (including but limited to new marketingproposal, ice disco sessions and modification of skate and swim membership).

* Potential isolation of the ice rink facility within the centre itself, including the necessary changes to site access and security in order to allow independent operation. 

Many of the proposals from Grimsby Ice Hockey Club were considered at a scrutiny panel meeting in July 2016 

 These primarily focused on the following themes:
1. Income Generation
2. Operational Management
3. Facility and Access modifications
4. Membership/Pricing/Promotional 

All 42 members of the council are due to attend Thursday's meeting which is open to the public

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