The ice rink at Swindon’s Link Centre will reopen earlier than anticipated thanks to an extraordinary effort by Link Centre staff and the support of Swindon Borough Council.
It is now hoped that the rink will open its doors to the public on 18th December, with the first home matches for the Swindon Wildcats Ice Hockey team taking place on the weekend of 16th and 17th December.
The ice rink closed as the result of a devasting flood at the Link Leisure Centre on 17th September following unprecedented torrential rain overnight. The flood water penetrated the ice rink itself, compromising lighting and electrical circuits. The damage also affected the sand ice pad base, which had to be replaced. The rink had only been open for a matter of weeks following a £300,000 16-week renovation programme replacing the cooling tower that had taken place over the summer months, designed to improve energy consumption and improve efficiency
In order to support Better in opening the ice rink as quickly as possible, the Council procured the new state-of-the-art ice technology and equipment using part of the £2m funding the local authority agreed already allocated to leisure provision earlier this year.
The new ice installation, which cost £385,000, is expected to reduce electricity usage by 20 per cent, saving the equivalent of 283 metric tonnes of CO2, helping Better reduce its carbon output in line with both its own and the Council’s Net Zero ambitions.
The ice rink is likely to operate on a temporary timetable during December, with a full reopening and new extended programme planned for the New Year.
Commenting on the reopening, Jason Curtis, Better's Head of Service for Swindon said: “The impact of September’s floods has been devastating for the Link Centre and the Ice Rink was badly affected. Our operations team, alongside specialist contractors have been working around the clock to get the rink open as soon as possible. We’re hugely grateful for their efforts and the support of Swindon Borough Council, which has enabled us to include improvements to the ice base coolant system, rink hall insulation and plant as part of the restitution works.
“We are now planning to re-open the rink to the public on the 18th December contingent to some key milestones being met and look forward to welcoming the local community back to this much loved Swindon facility.”
Councillor Jim Grant, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Joint Working, said: “I am really pleased we were able to step in and help Better get the Link Centre back up and running sooner than anticipated because the leisure centre is such an important facility for the whole of Swindon.
“The new ice installation uses the very latest technology which will cut down on energy usage helping to reduce Better’s costs and therefore make the rink more sustainable, which fits in well with our Achieve Net Zero mission.
“The real driver for us was we knew the Swindon Wildcats had major concerns about the impact on them if the ice rink wasn’t replaced before the end of the year and that we needed to act immediately. The fact we have been able to procure the technology so quickly means we have also helped secure their future which is fantastic news for all concerned.”
Steve Nell, Managing Director of Swindon Wildcats, said: “This has been a very difficult couple of months for the whole ice hockey community in Swindon. We are extremely grateful to Better, SBC and the contractors on site that have worked around the clock to get the ice rink back open sooner than expected. Getting back on the ice in Swindon before Christmas will secure the long-term future of the club. Over the last few months, we have had incredible support from our sponsors and supporters, we can’t thank them enough and can’t wait to see them back at the Link Centre soon!”
The Link Centre’s swimming pool will be the final facility to reopen to the public. The team is currently awaiting delivery of specialist, pool-specific mechanical and electrical equipment, which is required before the pool can become operational again and this is expected to happen in early January 2024.