THE fate of Basingstoke's beloved ice rink remains in question, leaving the local community, including the Bison team, ice hockey enthusiasts and figure skaters, in a state of uncertainty.

Plans for the rink's much-anticipated upgrade, initially announced in April 2023, have hit a standstill reportedly due to a disagreement between leaseholder Standard Securities and Planet Ice, the rink's operator.

Planet Ice confirmed in April that the Basingstoke Bison ice hockey team would be forced to skip the 2023-24 season as a result of the upgrade programme.

The original plan was to assemble a team to compete in the 2024-25 season once the renovation work was completed.

READ MORE: Bison to skip next season as Basingstoke Planet Ice plans upgrade work

However, nearly five months after the announcement, work has yet to commence, leaving the community anxious about the future of the rink.

Stewart Tempest, chair of Basingstoke Junior Bison, expressed his frustration, saying the has been ongoing now for over five years.

“Five years of the ice rink becoming more and more dilapidated,” he said.

“The stalemate should have been resolved years ago by the previous council administration enforcing the terms of the head lease with Standard Securities. Recent discussions with [BDBC leader] Paul Harvey have given us a bit more confidence that the current administration have a bit more about them and that they are moving the situation forward with a bit more pace.

"What should be in the forefront of everyone's mind now is how long it will take to repair the rink and what measures can be put in place to provide ice for all the young athletes competing at all levels and disciplines out of the rink.

“A closure of more than six months without temporary  ice provision will mean the end of ice hockey development in Basingstoke  and the loss of  many national level ice skaters.”

Sally Cashman, chair of Basingstoke Ice Rink Users Forum, shared similar concerns, emphasising the impact of delays on the rink's deteriorating condition and rising costs.

She said: " The situation regarding the ice rink is heartbreaking for all users.

“It is both extremely frustrating and annoying that the two parties involved cannot come to an agreement so that the repairs can start. All the time there is a delay the state rink worsens and costs increase. It is a dreadful situation.”

In spite of the state of the rink, it has a large and very successful junior ice hockey club and a massive figure skating and ice dance community at the rink. 

The junior club has more than 150 players, many being asked to try out for the England team of their age group.  There are also several recreational ice hockey teams that have members of all ages.

The figure and ice dance community have people who come from Southampton, Oxford and even further afield. There is also the synchronised skating club that has more than 50 active skaters competing nationally.

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Planet Ice chief operations officer Heath Rhodes declined to comment on the ongoing delay.

Meanwhile, BDBC leader Cllr Paul Harvey assured the community that they are actively engaged in addressing the situation.

Cllr Harvey said: " “We are very aware of the concerns about the future of the ice rink. Cllr James and I have met with the Ice Users’ Forum and I've visited the rink on several occasions since becoming Leader. I am very grateful to the ice users for making their views known - we are listening.

“We are as keen as the ice rink users to see the poor condition of the ice rink addressed as soon as possible. The situation couldn’t be more difficult or complex, but we are doing what we can to work through the issues.

“We are the freeholder for the land the building stands on. But, as we do not own or operate the rink, the focus of our action is on encouraging the owner Standard Securities and operator of the rink Planet Ice to come to formal agreement about how they are going to carry out the repairs that they are responsible for under the leases. Responsibility clearly lies with them both and discussions with them are continuing with the aim of them agreeing a phased programme of work that they will carry out.

“We are investigating options to bring this to a conclusion as quickly as possible, as the uncertainty has gone on too long and we respect that the ice users deserve an answer.”