Three members of the Great Britain Winter Olympic 2014 Luge squad joined the Mayor of Swindon Cllr Nick Martin to unveil the newly refurbished ice rink at Link Centre on Monday 19 August – now rebranded as the Swindon Ice Arena.
The refurbishment which included new ice chilling plant, a new ice pad, complete internal redecoration and new finishes around the rink has cost £700,000.
Work still to be completed by the end of August includes new doors, a new customer entry lobby, a raised area at one end of the ice rink with a ramp for wheelchair users, and new canopies over the high level viewing areas above each end of the rink.
Red carpet on the ice for the Mayor with from left, Swindon Wildcat Shane Moore, Clive Seabrook, Cllr Kieth Williams and Link rink mascot Penguin. Pictured by Richard Wintle www.calyxpix.com
The process of creating the new ice pad has taken several weeks and has involved the removal of the original ice pad and freezing 7,600 litres in stages until the ice reached an optimum thickness of 50mm.
Cllr Keith Williams, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Strategic Transport and Leisure, said: “I’m really pleased the refurbishment work has been completed on time providing a fantastic new ice pad that will benefit the casual ice skater as well as the ice dancers and wide range of hockey teams based at the rink.
“Visitors will notice an immediate difference because the ceiling has been cleaned and painted white; with the reflection off the ice the whole rink is much brighter. It’s brilliant when the extra lighting is turned on for ice hockey matches.”
The Mayor tries out a luge with Harry Foulkes, Ray Thompson, Adam Rosen
Angela Reid, parent of ice hockey playing Katie, said: “We started to queue to get in at 9am this morning. I know it was two hours before it opened but we’ve been really excited to see the new look ice rink. Link Centre was a great facility before the refurbishment compared to the other rinks we’re been to, now its absolutely phenomenal.
“My only gripe is the lack of provision for female changing. The mixed team up to under 18s have to share a changing room so they have to go home to shower.”
The Mayor said: “After 28 years since Link Centre was built it was time for a major overhaul. The £2 million cost of refurbishing the ice rink, installing a new roof and the complete overhaul of the swimming pool over the last 18 months has been money well spent.
"We now have the best ice rink in the South West of England and a major regional attraction all round. We need to shout about what we’ve got to attract more users.
“Compared with other towns, I don’t think people who live in Swindon realise how good the facilities are here.”
Ice dancers, Jordan Berwick, Megan Edginton, Melissa De Beer, Rosie Bowden
Swindon Council is investigating how the £1.5 million public subsidy of leisure services can be reduced by offering the leisure centre to third party management organisations.
Cllr Williams said: “The leisure subsidy represents 2 per cent of the present council tax charge and leisure is not a statutory obligation compared to adult social care for example. By making the major infrastructure investment in Link Centre we have put it into a much better place for a social enterprise trust or an external profit making organisation to manage it, to reduce the cost that falls upon the council, yet maintain a high quality of provision in the town.”
In September the Team GB luge squad will be travelling to Swindon from their Bath University base on two evenings a week to use the ice rink for their paddle training to build up strength and the technique used to push off the one man sledge down the track.
Olympian Adam Rosen, who has competed at two Winter Olympics for Team GB and is aiming to make his third appearance in Sochi, Russia in 2014, said: “The Link Centre is the closest rink to Bath and the new ice surface is excellent. We’ll becoming here from September until late November when team members will travel to Norway for training on a luge track, then take part in a series of World Cup competitions. To qualify for the Olympics you have gain top 20 positions in several World Cup events.”
Adam is a civilian whilst Henry Foulkes and Ray Thompson are on release from Army duties to train full time for the Olympics in 2014 and 2018.
Photos by Richard Wintle of Calyx