For more than 50 years, professionals and amateurs alike have skated around Ayr Ice Rink. But the facility could soon be closed for good.
Ayr Curling Limited (ACL), who own the rink, claim it will cost an extra £150,000 a year to continue operating the facility due to rising energy bills – a price they say is not achievable in meeting.
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition against the closure and clubs who use the rink have made a series of suggestions, such as making the rink open for public use, to prevent the space’s demise.
Sisters Teigan and Slyvhanna Horne have been skating at Ayr Ice Rink for over a decade.
They said constant training at the rink allowed them to achieve success at the British Championships. Now they worry youngsters won’t get the same chances.
Teigan told STV News: “I’d be heartbroken. I mean this place holds a very special place in my heart. I now actually coach younger kids here so I’d absolutely be devastated to see it go.”
Slyvhanna added: “It would just be a shame if the younger kids who are just starting out don’t get the same opportunity.”
Elise Forrest has been coaching figure skating for 17 years at the rink and has seen the positive impact the rink has had on many.
Elise said: “The club provides children and young people with a safe and nurturing environment and we help to nurture talent where children have achieved success at a local, national and international level.”
Leila McGowan, a local figure skater, said: “To see it close would be really upsetting not just for us but for everyone, for parents involved and like a lot of hard work goes on to keeping it open.”
Leighton Roach, a hockey player, said: “This rink honestly just means a lot to me. I was here first day of hockey ever and mon’ the Bruins.”
Corra McMillan, a hockey player and figure skater added: “If it shuts down, I don’t really know where I’d go and I might end up having to quit and stuff.”
ACL said it was not optimistic that a solution would be found.
Andrew Kerr, managing director at ACL, said: “Ayrshire Curlers Ltd has managed the rink effectively as a not-for-profit company with all the directors being unpaid volunteers and with any small surplus being reinvested in the facility.
“Our largest expenditure is in energy creating the ice and in the last financial year this amounted to £153,129. We were/are on a three year contract based on 13p/kWh but this contract expires on September 30 this year.
“The best deal we have been able to secure from October 1 will see that rate rise to 29p/kWh – an increase of 110% which, translated into hard cash terms, means we would need to generate in excess of another £150,000 just to pay for energy never mind wage increases and inflationary pressures on all the other expenses of running an ice rink.
“That, simply, is not achievable resulting in us having no alternative but to move towards a Members Voluntary Liquidation.
“We have carefully considered proposals put forward to generate more income but, in our opinion, they would not address the sheer scale of the problem.
“We have been in contact with South Ayrshire Council for the last year when the problem first appeared on the horizon and are engaging with their Economic Development team but we have yet to see any realistic proposals which would see a viable future for the rink.”
The community are hoping they can do all they can to save the rink.
Stuart Robertson, a parent representative, said: “People have started the petition which has got over 10,000 signatures. Between the clubs that are using the rink we are trying to form a charitable trust to see if there is some way we can run and get some government and national funding that could be available to charities rather than a limited company.”
South Ayrshire Council says it will consider such changes and carry out an energy audit to discover if any savings can be made.
A council spokesperson said: “In light of Ayr Curling Club’s decision to close Ayr Ice Rink in October, we have written to their Board to offer support which could help prevent the closure of the facility. We have been in discussions with the club for a number of months in relation to their potential future delivery model.
“Most recently, we have offered to provide full support through our Economy and Regeneration team which will include a full review of the ice rink’s business plan, and carry out an energy audit to establish feasibility of energy savings and new energy sources. We will also work with their Board to consider potential changes to the legal structure of the organisation.
“The council are keen to provide assistance to ensure that the Board are able to focus on future growth and long-term sustainability for all users of the ice rink. The Board have confirmed that they are willing to explore all avenues to help keep the ice rink open and we are now progressing at pace with appropriate council officers working on this to support the Board going forward.”