BASINGSTOKE ice rink is set to undergo an upgrade programme this year, it has been confirmed, meaning Bison will skip the 2023-24 season.

Planet Ice, which operates the Basingstoke ice rink, confirmed on Wednesday, April 5, that Basingstoke Bison will not be competing in the 2023-24 season.

The plan is to put together a team to compete in the 2024-25 season after the completion of works at the rink.

Basingstoke Bison will play their last game at Planet Ice Basingstoke at 5.30pm on Sunday, April 9, against Leeds Knights.

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Planet Ice chief operations officer Heath Rhodes said: “Given the works that needs to be done at the rink it seems to make sense to skip next season for The Bison.

“Whilst the legals with Basingstoke and Deane Council regarding the future of the rink are ongoing we are confident of a conclusion and until then it will be business as usual for our other users which include junior activity, Buffalo, patch, learn to skate, public skating and birthday parties.”

Bison director John Neville said: “It’s disappointing, understandable and inevitable that the Bison organisation has been informed by Planet Ice that we won’t be icing a team in the 2023-24 season. Our facility needs much needed repairs and we will work collectively with Planet Ice to ensure that we have a facility we can all be proud of for the 2024-25 season.

“I would like to thank our coaches, players, off ice staff and volunteers for the tremendous support they have given me over the last few years in very trying working circumstances and all at the Bison would like to thank our loyal fans for the tremendous support they have given the players week in week out. Rest assured we will be back in September 2024 bigger and better.”

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Basingstoke and Deane borough council leader Simon Bound welcomed the plans and said it is “great news”.

Cllr Bound said: “We have long wanted to end uncertainty over the future of the much loved ice rink and share the frustration felt by ice rink users about how long this has taken. Negotiations with Planet Ice are near their conclusion, and we are confident in reaching legal agreement for the repairs and improvements as a valued part of the leisure park.

“The borough council is the owner of the park but the ice rink is not a council-run facility. The rink building has been leased on long-term basis since 2000. Under a lease that requires them to keep the building in good repair.

“The council has been working closely with the operator Planet Ice to understand the works being planned, with a start date expected after the end of the ice hockey season in May.”