North / South Divide # 3: What A Refreshing Change!

Isn’t it nice when people actually do what they say they are going to do? No, I don’t mean people like you and me – it’s big companies and local authorities and other such faceless entities that I am alluding to.  In this particular case, I wish to applaud Tesco’s, Lambeth Council and everybody else who has been involved in building the new Ice Rink and Leisure Centre in Streatham and the provision of the temporary rink in Brixton while the work was being carried out.

It is not very often that a story involving ice rinks, property developers and supermarkets has a happy ending – look at how many times in the past a rink has closed for the dreaded “refurbishment” and never opened again.

Close to home for me – it almost happened at Peterborough in 1994. The rink closed suddenly under mysterious circumstances and the operators then went bust. Happily, on that occasion, the rink was saved by local fans that took it over and got it open again. In fact, at one point, fans and Pirates players actually camped overnight in the rink building to make sure it didn’t get vandalised and to safeguard the equipment.

However, it wasn’t such a happy ending on the banks of the River Thames at Richmond. The Ice Rink there – which had played host to top-level ice sports since 1928 – was knocked down in 1992 to make way for a luxury apartment development overlooking the river. The developers had been given permission to do this on the condition that they built a replacement rink on an alternative site in the borough.  This never, in fact, happened and they got away with it by making a payment of £2.5 million to the council instead.  Richmond has been without an ice rink ever since – although there is now some sort of temporary rink in nearby Twickenham.

So, with property prices at such a premium as they are throughout London and the south east, it is even more gratifying that everybody involved in the Streatham project did what they said they would. The Redskins and other Streatham teams were able to keep on playing at Brixton during the building works, maybe attracting some news fans at the same time, and they now have a shiny new home to move into.

My only gripe here would be that the temporary rink building from Brixton is now going to Sweden – what a waste of an opportunity!  I am sure that there must have been lots of other places in Britain that might have welcomed the temporary rink.  And don’t forget, we are not just talking about one of those twee Christmas skating rinks that crop up in town centres for a few weeks over the festive period – this was a significant indoor structure that was substantial enough to accommodate senior ice hockey for almost 2 years.

It’s a shame that it couldn’t have gone to Romford, for example,  where skaters and hockey fans are currently going through their own “supermarket nightmare” – or Southampton, or Brighton, or Durham or Sunderland….to name just a few of the places that have lost their own rinks and ice hockey teams over the years.

You could even have a travelling “road show” of a couple of these buildings that are set up in a particular place for a period and then moved on somewhere else.  This would give local authorities and property companies a lower risk opportunity to see if a permanent rink would attract enough support – and possibly bring ice sports to places where they do not currently happen.  For all we know there could be hundreds of people in Cornwall who’d be really good at ice hockey if they had the chance to try it…. How about it, Tesco’s?

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

You may also like...