BASINGSTOKE ice rink means a lot to many people in the town and beyond.

From leisure users, to hockey fans, to parents whose children have found a hobby they love, it’s a community facility that would be a devastating loss to more than just one group.

In light of the recent revelation that ongoing issues with the rink could mean it shuts in as little as six months, the Gazette spoke to one man who knows the value of the ice rink on many levels.

Daren Bavister has been the announcer for the Basingstoke Bison ice hockey team for the past 15 years.

Having grown up in nearby Bracknell, he discovered a love for ice skating as a teenager and in his role has seen this love pass onto his sons - something he has witnessed happen among multiple families.

“I was never talented at school and being a child of the seventies, I tended to be a substitute [in team sports]. I never played football. My friends and I had baby faces - we couldn’t get into pubs underage like others did!” he said.

One of his friends saw that an ice rink was opening in Bracknell at the time, and soon a new hobby was discovered.

He recalls: “We started skating, we would skate three times a week. We had found a new passion and love. I look back now, and it was such good fun. We got involved with the ice rink as fans. We were young and impressionable. I look back with rose-tinted spectacles, I know, but actually I have no negative memories of that particular period.”

It wasn’t long before Daren, now a freelance sports announcer, got his first taste of having a role to play within the ice rink community.

He said: “I got involved with the announcing because I was there watching the Bracknell Bees. I used to cheer them along, and I have this voice that carries. I got to know the DJ, I loved my music.

“There was a period when I couldn’t afford to go, and the manager of the rink called me at home, and i thought I was in trouble! He asked why I hadn’t been coming to the hockey. I told him I was skint, so they used to give me four free tickets to the game as long as I would shout!”

When the DJ moved to Cyprus, he put Daren’s name forward to replace him.

“I had never had any aspirations for it and I got the gig. It was all harmless fun and I learned as I went and it was marvellous,” said Daren.

Mark Bernard, general manager and coach of Basingstoke Bison at the time, called Daren and said “We need you, can you do what you do here?”

Daren’s job involves making announcements before and throughout the match, playing “dramatic” music and, most importantly, getting the crowd excited and engaged.

He said: “I am privileged because I turn up to this building and everyone knows me. I make the effort to talk to people and to families.

“The way I always tackle it is if I look out and I see a young child, or anyone really, and they are distracted or bored, I’m not doing my job right. I can’t affect the hockey, but I can affect the atmosphere.”

What’s been most exciting for Daren is passing on his love for the sport to his two teenage sons: Bailey, 18, and Brayden, 13.

Brayden in particular has really taken to the sport - lining his walls with posters and hockey sticks.

“He would come every single week with me without fail. He is very observant - he would see things that I don’t even see.

“He plays with an intelligence that I’m very proud of. He’s not the most confident, the most outgoing. I would go and watch him and now we’re at the point where I drop him off and pick him up, but it’s safe. And that’s just one of the factors that something like the ice rink, which has so much on offer, that is really hard to quantify what value it brings to those who are not interested in it,” said Daren.

Although Daren, who has lived in Beggarwood, Basingstoke, for the past 20 years, is clearly a major hockey fan, he views the rink as much more than just the place where the Bison play.

“Some people only see it from the hockey aspect, but I see it from being a dad,” he explained.

“I have been a sports announcer since 1990 and I miss it immensely. But it is also the other bits. I miss the kids faces when they fist bump the players. It is very community based. It is very difficult to compare it to other sports.

“Once this goes, if it goes (and I hope it never will), it is near impossible to bring it back.”

Daren says the ice rink means something different for every person who uses it.

He said: “If you imagine that the rink is a tin of quality streets. It’s Christmas and you have all the family round and you pass the tin around. Not everybody is going to take the same chocolate. You have the Camrose, and that was just a tin of toffees. But this is a tin of quality street, it’s not just one flavour.”

Daren invisages a facility which can host conferences and corporate events, theatre shows (with a removable floor over the rink), as well as the already-existent sports groups for all ages.

“It is not like a football pitch that needs flood lights, or a rugby pitch where at this time of year you can’t use it past 5pm because it gets dark,” he said.

“I look at my lad and think, if the rink was open now he could be skating on a Friday, where we have 18 year-olds mixing with 12 year-olds safely. We would lose more than just an ice hockey arena.”

Currently, talks are ongoing between Standard Securities (who own the ice rink building), Planet Ice (who lease it long-term from Standard Securities and operate the rink) and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. The extent of damage and necessary repairs has been identified, but the main sticking point will be who should fund it.

Daren said: “I get that [the council see it as responsibility of Planet Ice], but we are in a different time now. If the rink was built and opened tomorrow, and run properly, it could be a multi-purpose facility.”

“Maybe I look at it too simplistically. I don’t think we have a bad council here. You can grumble about things - no matter where you live there’s always something that could be better.

“But I look at this from the council’s point of view and it all boils down to the fact that this council has asked the users of a facility what they think and it was such an outpouring of positivity, to say we want this, we need this, it must remain. But now, two years down the line, it feels like the decision maker is digging his heels in, and it feels childish and that there is an ulterior motive because he is not getting the answer he wants. He will continue to ask the question as if he is hoping that eventually people will just get exhausted.

“Planet Ice is not coming away squeaky clean, but neither is the council. Let’s just leave what’s gone on behind us and move on. It seems like a huge project that no one is willing to tie it down and do something with it. If you know where you are sitting with one another you can deal with it but at the moment it really is groundhog day.”

Speaking about why people should care about the potential loss of this facility, Daren summed up: “It might not be for you, but it might be for your grandchildren. Don’t just look at it as a piece of property.

“Try and change the ice rink to something you are passionate about and how you would feel if that vanished. It could be a rugby stadium, or the building where your child trains for dance, cheerleading, gymnastics. Or somewhere you meet with other like-minded people to do a hobby. Something that fulfills something in your life.

“If you see yourself in that place and then suddenly it is gone, never to be replaced. That is the only way I can try to describe to people.”