Ice rink slides towards oblivion after losses

The Capital’s famous Christmas ice rink is facing the axe amid concerns about the losses it ran up last year.

By MICHAEL BLACKLEY City Council Reporter
Monday, 17th October 2011, 1:16 pm

The UK’s biggest open-air rink has become the heart of the city’s Winter Wonderland since it first came to Princes Street Gardens in 1998.

But it has now emerged that the operator that took over the management of the ice rink for the first time last Christmas ran up a “substantial” loss and is not willing to face a similar loss again this year.

Crunch talks are now taking place with the city council but city leaders say that they can’t subsidise the ice rink at the expense of the public purse, and that could mean that the ice rink will face the axe.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events leader, said: “Discussions are still taking place but the operator made a substantial loss last year and he is reluctant about making a similar loss this year.

“It may be that circumstances are such that it might never be profitable. It is important to have it here but we only have so much money to go around.”

He added: “We are keen to have the ice rink there because it is great for the city but we have to be mindful of how much it costs the city. We will do everything we can but we do, of course, have to be mindful of the public purse.”

The ice rink was first brought to Edinburgh in 1998 by Fringe impresario Karen Koren and now regularly features on postcards portraying the city’s winter scene.

In its heyday, the ice rink attracted upwards of 50,000 people over the festive period but that slid to 34,458 in 2009-10 – the last year that Ms Koren managed it.

Edinburgh-based operator AJA Events was brought in to manage the ice rink last year but the severe winter weather is thought to have badly impacted on its performance.

AJA, which revamped the way the rink was managed, is not thought to be willing to put the losses entirely down to the weather or to risk a repeat of the losses.

It is the latest cash controversy to come from the ice rink – after the Evening News revealed last month that the council has had to write off more than £200,000 of debt that it was still owed by Ms Koren’s GB Productions Limited after the firm was struck off the register of companies by Companies House.

Cllr Gordon Munro, culture and leisure spokesman for the Labour group on the council, said: “We are already a quarter [of a] million down from the ice rink so I would be most surprised if the council even looked at supporting it.

“There is no way that the council can help because of the impact that the previous operator has already imposed on the council. Undoubtedly it will be missed by the people that used it but it is essential for Edinburgh’s Christmas to be special. It is special for more reasons than just the ice rink.

“If the private sector is not willing to provide this then I do not see why the public sector should.”

Nobody at AJA Events was available to comment.