An ice rink in South Ayrshire closes to the public on Saturday night for what many fear could be the last time.
The lights will go out at Ayr Ice Rink at 6pm despite thousands of people signing a petition against its closure.
Ayr Bruins Junior Ice Hockey Club has invited current and former members for one last skate on Saturday, with the venue set to go into liquidation next week.
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.
Alex Strachan, the chairman of Ayr Bruins, said: “It’s killing me, it’s just heartbreaking. We have 65 kids at the club and I would say about 60% of them will not be able to continue in the sport.
“It’s very emotional. The last few weeks have been very hard, and tonight and tomorrow are going to be even harder. We have fought as hard as we can but we have faced roadblock after roadblock.
“It is going to have a large impact in the local communities. We are still fighting the good fight and hope that people will resolve this.”
For more than 50 years, professionals and amateurs alike have skated around Ayr Ice Rink.
Mr Strachan’s vision for the rink is for it to serve as a community hub that is accessible for all.
But it’s future could be determined at Ayrshire Curlers’ EGM next week.
An offer for the rink tabled by Glasgow Ice Centre and the Save Ayr Ice Rink group was withdrawn on Saturday after a substantial debt attributed to Ayr Ice Rink was discovered.
A new bid is being drafted but the rink remains under threat as it will be placed into liquidation of more than 75% vote in favour of that action at the EGM.
Sisters Teigan and Slyvhanna Horne have been skating at Ayr Ice Rink for over a decade.
Earlier this year, they told STV News that 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.”
ACL said earlier this year 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.”
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