Skaters say emotional farewell to Bristol ice rink
FORTY-five years of skating history was brought to an end as Bristol Ice Rink closed its doors for the final time.
The popular venue in Frogmore Street hosted its last skaters for a farewell Halloween party yesterday before a planned redevelopment into student flats by owner Unite.
Opponents of the closure claim aspiring youngsters will now be forced to travel long distances to reach another rink, with some giving up all together.
They also say the loss of the attraction will take Bristol off the sporting map as skaters travel to rinks in Cardiff and Swindon instead.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
An online petition organised by a pressure group opposed to the closure, called Bristol Ice Rink User Group, attracted thousands of signatures from supporters earlier this year.
Among the clubs displaced by the closure are Bristol Ice Skating Club and the Bristol Pitbulls ice hockey team, whose members took part in a protest march through Bristol earlier this year against the plans to shut the venue.
Bristol Pitbulls' owner Richie Hargreaves, whose efforts brought professional ice hockey back to Bristol four years ago after a 16-year absence, said the closure was a big loss for the city.
He said: "Personally, it's a sad day for myself and my family. I've been a part of that 'youth club' for 25 years and it's brought a lot of stability to our lives and put us on the straight and narrow by getting into sport.
"When you take something away which has been a big part of your life, there's a big void to fill.
"For the city it's big loss. The kids now will either have to travel or give up the sport. To lose an asset like Bristol Ice Rink, especially in an Olympic year, is bad. We should be promoting sporting facilities.
"The rink is old but it is well-loved and well-used. People don't care about what's around them in terms of the way the rink looks – they travel from all around to use it."
Mr Hargreaves said the Pitbulls were now "soldiering on" and had been accommodated by Swindon's rink. While homeless, the team has been playing away games only as the location of its future home remains uncertain.
Mr Hargreaves said: "We will decide what will happen at the end of the year. Swindon can accommodate us with ice time so we can continue to train."
Carla Bessell, a professional figure skater and member of Bristol Ice Skating Club, was among the dozens of people who attended last night's Hallowe'en send off.
She was joined by other figure skaters, hockey players and many more from Bristol's skating community past and present.
The last ever public ice skating session at the rink ended at 10.30pm.
Ms Bessell, 25, from Brislington, practises at the venue three times a week and says the rink is extremely busy on Mondays.
She said: "Everybody is really emotional. I'm now at a midway point in terms of what I'm going to do with the rest of my life.
"I've always trained here and always come back to Bristol after touring Europe.
"I was hoping to spend the rest of my life coaching in Bristol.
"The future of ice skating in Bristol is uncertain – no one is saying they will build a new one. It's not like a swimming pool, where there's usually another one down the road. I won't be able to travel to and from Cardiff."
She added: "I don't see it being a case of the ice rink failing or struggling to bring people in."
Bristol-based student accommodation specialist Unite wants to redevelop the 1960s building which houses the ice rink because it claims it is no longer viable.
It had considered including a smaller ice rink as part of the redevelopment but the idea was abandoned in June.
Unite is adamant that its scheme will improve the neglected Trenchard Street area and open it up to other businesses.