Rink Report: Wild About Widnes!

I had never actually been to Widnes before so was very pleased to finally get the opportunity to go and visit the recently opened Silver Blades rink – home of the new Widnes Wild ice hockey team.

Travelling, as we did, from the centre of Liverpool, Widnes is really easy to find. It is clearly signposted and you basically just follow the same road all the way.  Once you arrive at the turn off for Widnes, there is one of those big brown tourist signs announcing the way to the ice rink.  However there is still a bit of manoeuvring to be done and the rest of the route can be a little bit tricky if you don’t know where you are going.

To get to the ice rink, you actually have to follow the (non brown) signs for “Widnes Waterfront”. Once you see the Premier Inn on your right, you are almost there but first of all, you have to negotiate getting across to the other side of the dual carriageway and around a sort of roundabout.

Now, if you are heading there on a Sunday afternoon for a 6pm face off, I am sure that you will manage all this fairly easily.  However, as we were attempting it at 1pm on a Friday afternoon, we encountered a huge amount of traffic – shoppers, business people, lorries, vans – which made finding and getting into the right lane quite an achievement in itself.  However, once we got round to the area where the ice rink is, all was quiet and pleasant and easy to find.

There is a large car park outside the ice rink and, if you want to eat before the match, there is a Nando’s next door, a Frankie & Benny’s across the road and a Brewer’s Fayre around the corner. Inside the rink, there is also a refreshment counter and seating area down by the skate hire, although that wasn’t open when we were there.

I have to say that access to the rink is superb. There are wide entrance doors and everything is on one level. The box office, toilets, changing rooms, skate hire and café area are all easily accessible for pushchairs, wheelchairs and people with mobility difficulties.

At the far end, there is a separate mini rink where beginners can take their first steps on skates in a more enclosed environment away from the big ice pad. This is a really good idea because it can help build up your confidence before stepping out among the more experienced skaters. During our visit, there were a few toddlers on here  learning to stand up or pushing forward with one of those “penguin stand” things. How I wish they’d had those when I was first learning to skate – although I’d probably have looked a bit silly hanging onto a penguin when I was 14!

What I especially like is that the spectator seating is all at floor level.  You do have to go up a few steps to get there but it is certainly much more accessible than places where you have to climb up two or more flights of stairs to get to a viewing balcony.

My own personal bugbear is normally the lack of legroom in the seating area.  At 6’4”, I sometimes have trouble wedging myself into rows of seats that are too close together but the spaces between the rows here are nice and wide.  Of course, it means that there aren’t as many seats there in total but you don’t have somebody else’s knees in your back or directly behind you head and, although they don’t have full backs on them, the seats are actually pretty comfortable.

You can get all the way round the ice pad and there is lots of standing room to watch the match.  The rink lighting is very good and the plexi-glass means that visibility of the ice is superb. The team benches and penalty box have clear backs so that spectators have a completely unobscured view of everything that goes on during the game.

So there you go – having now established that I can get there, get in, sit down AND see the game properly, I am really looking forward to going and seeing a Widnes Wild match at the new Silver Blades rink – or a Widnes Wildcats rec game – sometime soon.

And, by the way, you’ll be pleased to know that the toilets passed the all-important Best Kept Secrets “Emilie Test”..!

To find out more about opening times and prices at the Silver Blades rink in Widnes, look here:   http://silver-blades.co.uk/page/Times_and_Prices_(Term)/Widnes

To find out more about ice hockey at Widnes, try here: www.widnesicehockey.co.uk

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