End of Big Time Hopes in Manchester
The latest plans for the Altair development in south Manchester have been sent to the council for consideration. They are again scaled down and crucially do not contain a new ice arena but instead a revamped and extended building that would also contain a bowling alley. But does this signal an end to hopes of big time hockey in Manchester?
The Altair project was announced partway through the last decade and included a permanent ice rink amongst the shops, cafes, apartments and offices. Now the plans have scaled down as part of a wider regeneration of the Altrincham town centre. The plans will now see the temporary ice rink under go a permanentisation programme but with the new development pencilled to include a bowling alley in the extended building the arena part is likely to be unchanged.
The Ice Dome is one of the smallest ice pads in country to sustain a league level team and holds around 2000. The size of the ice pad and low capacity were two of many reason behind the Manchester Phoenixâ€™s move away from the EIHL and the top level of the sport and into the UKâ€™s second tier English Premier League. Whilst the club had made no commitment to move back into the top flight once the ice rink issue was resolved it was hoped a permanent and larger ice arena would at least leave the door open.
The door may not have closed completely but it would now be very difficult. The Cardiff Devils had managed to survive at the similar Cardiff Bay ice rink but they did only survive and have now have secured a new arena as part of a wider winter sports centre. There is also the option to play games at the Manchester Arena. However this is a money is no object option given the demand on the arena, size and operating costs.
Other possibilities have been mooted though. The current Arab owners of football side Manchester City have reportedly been interested in other sports. This has it is rumoured to have included some financial support for the new National Speedway Stadium and the Belle Vue Sports Village. There have been whispers that the same group was interested in ice hockey and basketball and building a new 5,000 capacity sports arena in the Eastlands area of the city.
Those rumours however have abated and the decision by developer Nikal not to rebuild the ice rink could very well mean that top flight ice hockey may not return to the city of Manchester for the foreseeable future.