Durban - Durban’s once landmark ice rink will again take its place as one of the inner city’s major tourist attractions, with a multimillion-rand refurbishment of the Olympic-sized facility, which is set for completion by Christmas.
Built in 1955, the ice rink, which was once the site of elaborate ice shows and home to ice hockey and figure skating, crumbled owing to lack of funding and a decline in interest.
Durban businessman Sastri Ramiah declined to speak about the facility, as he was planning an official launch in June. He currently uses the venue for the Olive Convention Centre and started construction on the new rink in September. All ice sports were transferred to a smaller rink at the Galleria Mall in eManzimtoti.
Arthur Gammage, from eThekwini’s architecture unit, confirmed that the re-establishment of the ice rink was in line with the conditions of the 2008 sales agreement with the city, which required the buyer to rebuild the rink.
However, the issue of parking had yet to be resolved.
“In the past, spare parking at the adjoining Eden Crescent was used, as well as space across the street. But I don’t think that will be enough,” he said.
Gammage said that the conference element would be retained, while the back of the original building would be extended to accommodate the ice rink with gallery seating.
He also said that a plan for a multi-storey parking garage tacked on to the front of the building had been turned down as it would have destroyed the facade.
A spokesman for the eThekwini municipality, Thabo Mofokeng said: “The ice rink is in a strategic location. It is close to the beachfront and areas like the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The aim is to develop this into a world-class sporting precinct, offering an array of sports.“
He said the municipality hoped that the improvement would be a catalyst for other improvements and attract tourists and investors.
Gwen Sparks, from the Ice Station at the Grand West Casino in Cape Town, said the venue there was a major tourist destination.
“During the holiday season, about 50 000 people a month use the ice and about 20 000 during the off-peak season. Ice hockey competitions take place regularly, as well as figure skating competitions,” she said.
The facility was also used by development clubs, ice dance and synchronised ice-skating clubs.
Michelle Murphy from DurbaKnights and Kieren Edge from the Southern Storm ice hockey clubs said that the new rink would grow the sport locally and could host international and inter-provincial tournaments, previously held in Cape Town.
Barbara Higgins, who trains disabled skaters for the Special Olympics, agreed that it would be a massive boost for her charges. - The Mercury