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The ACT Ice Sports Federation has campaigned for a national ice sports facility in Canberra for nine years, so the announcement this week that the Canberra Arena will be built in Greenway in 2025 is a major milestone, says the ACTISF’s president, Tony Prescott.

“This ice sports centre is going to be an ice sports centre on a different scale than what we’ve seen in Australia before, ” Mr Prescott said.

It will, he continued, be the premier ice sports centre of the Southern Hemisphere; a National Centre of Excellence, the home of elite ice sports in Australia; a venue for national and international events, including world championships; and, of course , grow the sport locally.

“We see a bright future for ice sports…” Mr Prescott said. “While we welcome the elite level of sport into our facility, our priorities are about creating pathways for local kids, right up to elite level. ”

The TAKE ACTION Government announced in November that it would support Cruachan Investments and Pelligra Holdings ’ proposal for a $45-$50 million facility. Sports minister Yvette Berry reiterated that support this week, and committed $16 million: the biggest commitment by any government – state, territory, or national – to ice sports in Australian history, Mr Prescott said.

Geocon will continue Phillip pool

The announcement came merely days after it was revealed that property developer Geocon had bought the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre . While that snow rink is open, plus used by the ACTISF, the particular pool has been closed for two years.

Geocon stated last week that it would continue to operate the Phillip sports facility, but locals are concerned that Geocon will replace the 50m outdoor pool with a 25m indoor pool – and, eventually, close the facility and build a high-rise development on the valuable site, near the WOVA apartments.

“While Geocon may open the pool again, the long-term viability of the site remains in doubt with the commitment to build a new ice rink inside Tuggeranong, ” Fiona Carrick, president of the Woden Valley Community Council , said.

Ms Berry met Geocon’s founder and managing director, Nick Georgalis, yesterday afternoon. An ACT Government spokesperson said Mr Georgalis confirmed Geocon’s intention to continue to operate the Phillip Swimming & Ice Skating Centre as per the particular obligations of the lease.

“Geocon advised us they are continuing rectification works to the pool so it can be reopened as soon as possible, ” the spokesperson said.

Geocon has also said it will keep the ice rink operational for the foreseeable future.

( Canberra Weekly contacted Geocon for comment on Monday; we have not yet received a response. )

Mr Prescott said he welcomed the reassurance for the continuity of ice sports in the short to medium term.

“We expect they will keep it open, and we will continue to work with them to ensure that our ice sports continue to flourish. ”

Canberra Arena will certainly grow ice sports

Once opened in 2025, Canberra Arena will allow the ACTISF to grow ice sports in ways that are not possible with the Phillip rink, Mr Prescott expects.

“Phillip’s 42 years old – it served all of us incredibly well, but it’s a tired facility, ” he said.

Currently, ice hockey, figure skating, and broomball are played in the ACT. The ACT ice sports community is the hub for all southern NSW, Mr Prescott stated. Ice hockey players come from Yass, Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Cooma, Albury, and down the coast; before COVID-19, those numbers counted for 10 per cent of Australia’s ice hockey community.

“We know that those sports may grow significantly, ” Mister Prescott said. “There’s demand there that the current service can’t meet, because it is just at saturation point with ice time. ”

The Phillip rink is undersized: its single ice sheet (55 by 25 metres) is 82 per cent of an Olympic standard rink (60 simply by 30 metres). That disadvantages Canberra ice hockey teams when they play on bigger rinks; figure skaters cannot host national championships on smaller ice; and sharp turns make speed skating too dangerous.

The new facility, however , will have two full-sized, international standard ice sheets, and capacity for 3, 600 spectators.

“We can run the full raft of glaciers sports and recreational ice skating simultaneously, which allows us to create greater economic viability for the facility and the ice sports activities community, while growing the particular sports, ” Mr Prescott said. “Most of the profits tend to come in the recreational ice skating, where the sports are usually run at cost. ”

At the new facility, the ACTISF will create speed skating plus curling for the first time in the WORK. Canberra Arena will have Australia’s first four dedicated curling sheets.

“We anticipate getting all the national championships; all the elite level players will come here and train and develop; we’ll get the national camps…” Mr Prescott said. “The opportunity for us is to host country wide and international events, including world championships, in ice sports here in Canberra. We know anecdotally from talking to senior people at national plus international level that there’s serious interest in bringing international events here. ”

The ACTISF intends to establish a raft of disabled ice sports disciplines as well, Mr Prescott mentioned.

“The opportunities to grow these new snow sports and disability glaciers sports, as well as grow the existing sports, is just going to be massive, ” Mr Prescott said. “We think the sports will explode. This new facility will be under heavy demand. ”

Canberra Arena will also have an indoor rock-climbing facility, a retail/pro shop, skate rental facilities, and other amenities.

Cruachan and Pelligra will consult the community about the development before lodging a formal Development Application.

Woden needs better sports facilities

But where does this leave Phillip? Fiona Carrick is concerned Woden is being left behind.

“The current planning reforms propose to develop the particular Phillip site and provide an indoor 25m public pool and a warm pool, ” Ms Carrick said.  

“We are concerned about the capacity of a 25m pool to service the many users of aquatic facilities in the region, including swimming lessons, casual and competitive lap swimmers, water polo, scuba diving, aqua aerobics, and so on.

“We would also like an outdoor pool and the benefits of co-locating complementary facilities such as a gym, fitness rooms, cafe plus meeting rooms – a new aquatic centre.

“Woden (the major public transport hub on the corridor to major employment centres in Barton and the City) no longer has a basketball stadium, pitch n putt, bowling greens, tennis courts, and the future of the pool and ice skating rink is uncertain.

“While the government has upgraded some ovals and the pool may open temporarily, there is no denying Woden’s recreation facilities have gone backwards over the last 15 years.

“If the federal government wants to encourage physical activity plus public transport use (including 6, 500 CIT students in Woden), community infrastructure needs to be located in major hubs that are convenient to access. That is what the town centres were designed for, ” Ms Carrick said.

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