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Funding for Cambridge Ice Arena to be confirmed

Cambridge Ice Arena - an artists impression of the arena
Cambridge Ice Arena - an artists impression of the arena

Facility would entice residents with free ice hockey games.

Hopes for an ice rink in Cambridge are expected to be realised this week when the remaining funding it needs could be confirmed.

South Cambridgeshire District Council is recommended to approve a £1.85m loan for the Ice Arena, which is planned for land next to the Newmarket Road Park & Ride site.

The ice rink is mainly funded by £1 million left by Canadian Cambridge University alumnus David Gattiker, which has since grown to £3 million.

Professor Bill Harris is head coach of the university ice hockey teams. He said:"David Gattiker didn't specify that it was for the team, but he loved the sport so much that he wanted the town to have an ice rink.

"We've always gone in this looking forward to the ice rink being a gown and town facility, with an emphasis on the town.

"It's been a long time for us to turn his dream into a reality."

Since he left his £1 million about 20 more alumni have donated to support the cause, and hopes are that the generosity will continue to make the facility as good as it can be, and help pay off the council loan.

Prof Harris said that he is in the process of reaching an agreement with the arena operator that would give the team about 10 per cent of operation time. With this the team would get good practice sessions through the week, and a game would be held every week that would be free for the public to attend.

He said:"Right now we go to Peterborough to practice. We have terrible ice time there. We only have one practice a week. With travel and after all the teams have had a chance to practice the whole thing takes about 6 hours which is not great for the students."

Prof Harris said that over the years he has been coaching he has seen many players take the ice as complete beginners and become excellent players. One woman who played for the first time at Cambridge University even went on to represent her national team.

"Oxford has an ice rink in town. They also have a lot of alumni support, but I'm definitely hoping that this is going to be a turning point."

The loan is due to be confirmed on Thursday, September 22, at a meeting of the full council, due to the significant sum requested and the fact that this is currently not provisioned as part of the council's budget.

The council officer's report recommends that councillors approve the loan to support the development of a recreational facility that will be used by residents of South Cambridgeshire.

In 2006 Cambridgeshire Horizons identified the need for an ice rink in the Cambridge sub-region as one of the facilities to support future growth.

Ryan McGinley is the captain of the Cambridge Eskimos ice-hockey team in Cambridge. He said:"We as a team are extremely excited at the opportunity to play ice hockey actually in Cambridge!

"Every other year we get to play on the fens for a few magical days when they freeze over. But playing in an actual purpose built facility like the ones we travel to in Peterborough, Milton Keynes, and London Ally Pally, would be the dream come true to a lot of our team.

"If the council sign off on this deal it will mean a great deal to our community. Cambridge is a global city with people coming far and wide from countries where ice hockey is the national sport.

"Travelling frequently in the week to other towns and cities puts off so many potential players, so a rink in Cambridge would be a big turning point for our club. It would also make the possibility of creating a junior ice hockey club with teams at all age groups - inspiring the next generation to pick up the sport and get some great exercise.

"It would be a great amenity for the city and bring people from far and wide to the city for sport.

Planning permission was given last year. With the loan in place, building aims to begin later this year with the ice rink potentially opening as early as autumn 2017.

Plans are for a 56 metre by 26 metre permanent rink, with room for up to 1,000 spectators, built to international standards.

Although the recommendation is to approve the Ice Arena, the business case may be subject to revisions in light of the result of the EU Referendum.

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