Ice rink rescue gets skates on

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One of Scotland’s best-known theme park ride operators is preparing to step in to rescue Edinburgh’s iconic festive ice rink.

M&D Taylor, the company behind “Scotland’s Theme Park” at Strathclyde Country Park, is understood to have indicated to city chiefs that it wants to take over the lease of the Christmas attraction on Princes Street Gardens.

A deal is now being thrashed out to ensure that the attraction reappears next month – with the city council preparing to reduce the £60,000 rent it charges for the site.

The deal comes after the Evening News revealed earlier this month that the future of the ice rink was in doubt because of concerns from its current operator about “significant” losses last year.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “It is great news because it is something we do not want to lose as it has become an iconic part of the city and features on postcards that go around the world.

“There are a lot of other things going on at Christmas as well but in all the old movies you see people on the ice rink in New York City and it is great that we have had one in Edinburgh for the last 12 years.”

M&D already operates Edinburgh’s festive big wheel and has previously run the fairground rides in Market Street. A meeting is expected to take place to finalise the deal next week.

Cllr Cardownie said he had been inundated by people who want to see the ice rink go ahead, including a mother in Australia who said her children had been excited about skating “under Edinburgh Castle”.

He said: “I go to watch it just to see the fun people from all around the world are having. It would have been a shame to lose it so I am delighted we have got it again.”

AJA Events, an Edinburgh-based firm, took over the operation of the rink for the first time last year, but it is understood that it suffered a loss in the region of £60,000, partially because of the impact of the severe winter weather.

But the council only last month wrote off more than £200,000 of debt it unsuccessfully chased from Karen Koren’s GB Productions, the previous operator.

Cllr Gordon Munro, culture and leisure spokesman for the Labour group, said: “It sounds as though we will take less rental but that will have an impact on budgets.

“Edinburgh has been badly stung by this facility in the past and one would hope that it does not happen again. There needs to be safeguards so that the public purse is not used again.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com