Wellingtonian editorial: City on ice-skating map

Last updated 05:00 20/10/2011

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OPINION: Because of its balmy climate, Wellington does not lend itself to ice-skating, which makes the initiative on the waterfront these past few weeks such a good one.

The city council and Wellington Waterfront supported the installation of a temporary Wintergarden ice-skating rink on Queens Wharf.

The venture required imagination and boldness.

Happily, Wellingtonians have revelled in the opportunity to indulge in a bit of ice-skating, even if the area available is only 15 metres by 40 metres.

Wellingtonians of a certain age will recall when ice-skating was available at the Kilbirnie centre.

These days there is no permanent ice-skating facility.

Indeed, Wellingtonians interested in even roller-skating have to travel to Upper Hutt to join the only roller-skating club in the region.

Ice-skating can be a fun sport, as more than 15,000 people who have used the Queens Wharf rink since September 30 will attest.

It is estimated 30,000 people will try their luck at ice-skating before the rink is dismantled at the end of the month.

There might not be too many potential Torvill and Dean skaters on show, but the rink has been a buzzy place, full of laughter.

It has gelled nicely with the other efforts the council has made, from light shows to the FanZone, to enliven the waterfront during the Rugby World Cup.

Not surprisingly, Wellington Waterfront chief executive Ian Pike said his organisation was now looking to make the ice rink a permanent feature each winter.

Perhaps because they are so sun-drenched most of the time, Wellingtonians seem to especially enjoy getting out on the ice.

A rink was set up in Chaffers Park in 2002 and drew 20,000 skaters in just 16 days.

Kerry Prendergast made an ice rink for Wellington a plank of her mayoralty bid in 2001.

For a while, it seemed she might get her wish.

There were plans for an ice rink to be installed at the Winter Show Building, and for a 20-lane indoor bowling alley to be built there to help cover the rink's costs.

The council supported the project, contributing $50,000 towards resource consent costs and committing to spending $70,000 a year for land rental.

However, when the big bowling alley was built at Reading Cinemas, the project at the Winter Show Buildings fell over, and that was the end of the ice rink – until this month.

The rink was brought to Wellington by Christchurch events promoter Douglas Webber Group, in conjunction with Ice World International from the Netherlands.

The company took the financial risk, but the council provided the site rent-free.

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Some initially baulked at the price – $20 entry for adults and $15 for students – especially when a session of rollerskating at the Kilbirnie Recreation Centre costs just $3.50.

But with its central location and novelty value, the ice-skating rink has proved a huge hit, and a winner for the owners, council and punters. It seems a no-brainer that the ice-rink will return next year.

Without the additional support of Rugby World Cup visitors, it will be interesting to see if it garners the same level of support.

Let's hope so, because it's been another fun activity on the Wellington waterfront.

- The Wellingtonian

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