Gallery: Cambridge Ice Arena opens its doors to the public
It may have been a long time coming, but it seems Cambridge Ice Arena was well worth the wait as nearly a thousand people flocked to the ice rink on bank holiday Monday for its first day of business.
More than 20 years in the planning, Cambridge’s new £5.5m rink, situated off Newmarket Road, finally opened its doors to the public on Monday (August 26).
The state-of-the-art facility, which will also be home to the University of Cambridge’s ice hockey team - as well as hosting curling, figure skating and discos - boasts a 300-seat arena and is one of the most energy efficient ice rinks in the country.
Building work on the site, which is being leased by Marshall of Cambridge, began in November 2017 but progress was halted following the discovery of 194 small grenades dating back to the Second World War.
The arena is operated by leisure and cultural social enterprise GLL, under its ‘Better’ brand on a 26-year lease.
Daryl Emes, GLL partnership manager for Cambridgeshire, explained that there were a number of sessions taking place throughout the day and that it had all sold out “within a couple of hours.”
He said: “We’ve got six sessions today for people to come down and just have a taster. We’ve got 150 people per session and we’re sold out, so nearly a thousand people to test our first day - it’s great to see people using it.”
Daryl continued: “It’s been a long time coming. I know a lot of people have been very excited about it and we’ve had a huge amount of correspondence already from people very much looking forward to having it in place. It’s good to be here.”
The project was inspired by Canadian chemistry undergraduate and war hero David Gattiker of Christ’s College (1929-1931) who was captain of the university ice hockey team.
His £1m bequest on his death in 1993, as well as donations from other alumni and a £2.4m loan from South Cambridgeshire District Council, enabled the project to get off the drawing board following the gift of the land from the Marshall family.
Andrew Stephenson, another former Blue in ice hockey - and also from Canada - was present at the arena on Monday with his family.
He said: “I still pinch myself, this is like I’m living the dream... There were many attempts made to put something together and they all fell at various hurdles.
"I really didn’t think that my kids would grow up with an ice rink in Cambridge; I didn’t think that would happen but I am so happy it has.”
Andrew, who has coached both the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams at the club, notes that Cambridge’s new ice rink is of the very highest quality.
“I have played in an awful lot of ice rinks around the world - Finland, Switzerland, Canada, America, France, Czech Republic,” he said, “and this is equal to the best ice I’ve ever skated on anywhere.
"This is a beautiful ice surface, they’ve done a remarkable job.”