A MYSTERY hotelier is responsible for ensuring that Edinburgh’s iconic festive ice rink returns this year, it emerged today.
A deal has been confirmed that ensures that the ice rink – which had been at risk of being axed – will go ahead.
Previous operator AJA Events had run up around £60,000 of losses last year and was unwilling to open itself to the risk of further losses this year.
But it was confirmed today that M&D Leisure, the company behind “Scotland’s Theme Park” at Strathclyde Country Park, has agreed to step in to operate it this year.
The company signed a lease to run the facility after Essential Edinburgh, the group that is funded by a levy paid by businesses based between Princes Street and George Street, handed over £10,000 to the council to enable it to reduce the rent it charges for the site.
It has also emerged that a businessman, understood to be the boss of a well-known hotel chain, has agreed to cover any losses run up by the operator.
It is estimated that 40,000 people will need to use the ice rink for it to break even – but if customer numbers again dip as low as last year’s turnout of 30,000 then the hotelier will pick up the cost.
Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “Edinburgh’s Christmas celebrations really light up the city during the festive season, drawing many thousands of people to enjoy the attractions and shop in the city centre.
“It was touch and go whether there would be an ice rink included in this year’s programme – I’m pleased that we’ve managed to reach an agreement that will allow it to go ahead and we are grateful to Essential Edinburgh and other private sector contributors for their support.
“I know this news will be warmly welcomed not just by skaters, spectators and traders, but also by retailers and businesses in the surrounding area.”
The rink will be delivered, built and managed by M&D Leisure, which is already contracted by the council to provide the Edinburgh Wheel, Flying Carousel, Helter Skelter and Traditional Carousel in East Princes Street Gardens.
The dip last year was largely blamed on the severe weather conditions that kept customers away. In 2009, it attracted 40,000 people.
Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which will provide £10,000 towards the ice rink as part of £25,000 of support to Edinburgh’s Christmas, said: “Essential Edinburgh felt it was important to step in to remove the unhelpful uncertainty which surrounded the continued presence of the ice rink.
“We believe that, with all that is going on in the city centre, it was important that we did not lose what is an important attraction at a vitally important time of year for our levy-payers.
“Essential Edinburgh therefore came up with a financial package to ensure the ice rink goes ahead, along with significant other support for the festive season activities and campaign designed to bring people to the city centre.
“It is another example of the city centre’s private businesses, through Essential Edinburgh, investing in the city centre.”
The hotelier that has offered to cover any losses suffered has asked for his name not to be disclosed publicly.
Douglas Taylor, managing director of M&D Leisure, said: “After many years of working with the city council, M&D Leisure is excited to be delivering an even bigger and better part of Edinburgh’s Christmas.”