No longer skating on thin ice! Rink’s future in town is sealed

Work to transform the former Leisure World site is underway. Photo: Rachel Briant
Work to transform the former Leisure World site is underway. Photo: Rachel Briant

A hard-fought campaign to save Hemel Hempstead’s ice rink has succeeded in keeping the county’s only facility of its kind open.

Supporters of the former Leisure World complex’s Planet Ice brought the sporting and leisure venue back from the brink of closure back in October, and have worked with Dacorum Borough Council to ensure it will remain in place following the area’s renovation.

Not only has its lifespan been preserved, but the rink will also be completely refurbished by the Jarman Park site’s new owners, Tesco Pensions Fund – who secured the sale of the delapidated site from Capital and Regional for £8.5million earlier this year.

The local authority has stumped up around £400,000 for the ice rink’s revamp, and hopes to recover its investment in the first eight years of a 10-year contract which will be underleased to Planet Ice.

Council leader Andrew Williams said: “There was such huge public support for the ice rink – the only permanent ice skating facility in Hertfordshire – we could not ignore the demand for it to continue in the borough.

“Through a commercial lease agreement we have found a solution that secures the ice rink facility for at least the next 10 years.”

The venue will be closed from next Sunday for the refurbishment to take place, and is expected to reopen next spring.

Planet Ice’s managing director John Neville said: “We are really pleased that working alongside Tesco Pension Fund and Dacorum Borough Council we found a way to keep ice in the town.

“It will be a sad day when we close the doors on the evening of the 12th, but we look forward to welcoming the skaters of Hertfordshire back to our revamped facility in spring 2015.

“The investment being made in the Hemel Hempstead facility will complement our soon-to-be-opened flagship arena in Milton Keynes.

“The £4million pound investment made in these facilities will make the area one of the most heavily invested geographical areas for ice facilities in the UK in the past 10 years”.

Work is currently being undertaken on the landmark also known as Wally World, following the demolition of Aquasplash and nightclub venues which stood empty.

The changes include revamping the building and introducing a wide range of family restaurants as well as a gym, with the first eateries expected to be open before the new year.

Jenny Buck, head of property investment at Tesco Pensions Fund, said: “We are committed to bringing the Leisure World complex back to life and creating a great facility for the local community. Along with the new restaurants, gym and cinema, the revamped Ice Rink should help to make the complex something which Hemel Hempstead can be really proud of. We are very excited about the potential of the scheme.”

Among the restaurants lined up to move in are popular chicken eatery Nandos, American diner Coast To Coast, Mexican restaurant and bar Chiquito, Frankie and Benny’s and pub chain the Hungry Horse.

The Empire cinema also forms part of the plans and it remains business as usual at the multiplex.