Skaters launch campaign to call for funding to reopen Murrayfield Ice Rink
Skaters at historic Murrayfield Ice Rink are launching a campaign to save Edinburgh’s only ice facility after the board warned that it would not open “in the foreseeable future”.
The owners of the rink, which has been in ownership of the same families since the 1950s, issued a statement saying that opening with limited capacity and without crowds at weekly hockey matches, re-opening would not be financially viable – and pointed to a lack of government funding for leisure facilities which cannot operate in a normal way.
It costs around £13,000 a month in electricity costs alone to run Murrayfield Ice Rink, while the costs to re-start after lockdown, including laying new ice after it was melted in March – are estimated to be around £50,000.
Skaters are set to write to local MPs and MSPs in a bid to raise the profile of the plight of the historic rink, which was used as a storage facility during the Second World War, before opening as an ice rink in 1957.
Annabel Mansell, who started skating at Murrayfield four years ago, aged 34, is spearheading the campaign. Ms Mansell, who usually trains at least three times a week and competes in the British National Adult Championships, said the closure of the rink was a continued loss to the local community.
She said: “To not fund a facility that has operated without any funding for the government for more than 50 years is ludicrous. A lot of the other rinks in Scotland which have opened are council owned, so have back-up funding, whereas Murrayfield is one of the only privately-run rinks in Scotland.
"It is bad enough for me as an adult skater, but for some of the kids who have real potential, it is a huge shame and some of them are having to travel all over the country to be able to train. It is such a great sport for the community – there is no other sport where I could train with a six year old and a 90 year old on the same session.”
Many other ice rinks in Scotland, including those in Dundee, Kirkcaldy and Stirling, have re-opened in recent weeks, with restricted numbers and social distancing in place.
Willie Kerr, one of the joint owners, said: “With a large amount of funding, there is a chance we could look at opening around Christmas, but that would take serious funding – or at least back-up, if we had to shut again. Without that, it is going to be August next year. It is just financially not viable to run it. We want to have the rink open for everyone’s benefit.
"There hasn’t been any consideration given to businesses like ours – or swimming pools – which you can’t just switch on and off. If we came back tomorrow and started laying the ice, there could be another local lockdown next week.”
A petition has been launched by rink users to save the facility, generating almost 200 signatures in the first hour.
The statement, from the directors of Murrayfield Ice Rink, said: “Murrayfield relies heavily on public skating income to be able to cover our high operating costs and we have concerns about the ability and appetite of the public to return to skating during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our normal activity programme will be impacted to such an extent by the operational restrictions that a soft launch would not be financially viable.”
It added: “Without the same level of financial support that has been granted to the arts and culture sector we are now at a stage where essential measures are required to reduce costs to a minimum in order to protect the long term future of the business.”
The Scottish Government said it was aware that some businesses remain in a “very challenging financial position”.
A spokesperson said: “We understand the severe impact this pandemic has had on people’s lives across Scotland – it’s been an enormously challenging time for the sporting sector and the pandemic has put a real financial strain on many organisations.
“While we have offered extensive financial support to businesses throughout the pandemic, now exceeding £2.3 billion, we recognise that some businesses remain in a very challenging financial position.
“We will continue to work with partners in the sporting sector, including sportscotland and local authorities, around how we best support the sector and identify any further available funding.”