Murrayfield Ice Rink future uncertain as takeover delays lifeline cash needed to carry out £350k works
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Staff confirmed that significant funding is still needed to save the ice rink amid depleting funds, ongoing overheads and additional costs to comply with new operational guidelines which require a number of changes to the building.
Major work is needed to replace the 30-year-old ice pads following a major brine leak, it has been confirmed.
In a recent news update ice hockey club the Murrayfield Racers said owners confirmed they plan to reopen the cash-strapped rink in early 2022, after it was forced to remain shut for more than a year and a half due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But well-placed sources claim the future viability of the rink is ‘a serious concern’, after a new company was set up to take over the lease, causing delays for a vital grant from Sportscotland that could save it from closure.
The Evening News can reveal that a company owned by current manager and shareholder Elizabeth Neil was selected from three bids, including one from the Murrayfield Racers and another from a not-for-profit.
Murrayfield Ice Arena Ltd, whose sole director is Ms Neil, is now in discussions with Sportscotland about the much-needed cash injection which has still not been awarded, despite being offered to the current owners MIR in May.
Sportscotland confirmed £284,000, the most funding granted to any ice rink in Scotland, has been ring fenced and could be used for the £350,000 works needed to allow the rink to reopen.
The national agency said they need to see operating plans from the new business before the grant could be reissued to the new company.
But it comes amid claims that Ms Neil’s brother Scott, former owner of The Capitals hockey team, will also have a role in operations of the new company, which has sparked fears over the stewardship of the rink.
Mr Neil was at the helm of The Capitals when they were forced into liquidation after a petition was presented to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over a substantial unpaid VAT bill.
Liquidators were appointed following a hearing in November 2017 at The Royal Courts of Justice to wind up Capitals Hockey Limited.
A former worker said: "The viability of the rink is a serious concern. Before Covid hit we invested in the building and ran it profitably.
"The owner of the new company will be sole director so she will essentially be leasing the rink from herself. The reputation is a cause for concern, as there is a history of several phoenix companies. Operating costs are significant and work is needed, but it’s not clear where the money is coming from. It’s going to be hard to get people in the door if they are forced to put admission fees up.”
Elizabeth Jayne Neil is still active director and manager of the current owners, company Murrayfield Ice Rink Ltd (The). Other active directors are William Dey Kerr and Michael William Duncan Kerr.
Willie Dunn, director of Murrayfield Racers said: “The Racers confirmed with the current owners that work was due to take place to replace ice pads that could allow the rink to reopen its doors by the start of next year. We are aware of a new company taking over the lease and hope this doesn’t cause delays to much needed funding. We look forward to booking time on the ice again at the rink.”
A spokesperson for Sportscotland said: “The grant award is still available and the required work to install the new ice pads would be eligible, as it would allow the rink to reopen. Discussions are ongoing around the new company, after a change in the rink’s operating model. We need to see full business plans. The formal award offer could then be reissued. We are offering them guidance and hope to see the rink get back up and running.”
Christine Jardine MP said: “It is extremely disappointing that such an important facility is facing an imminent financial threat despite such evident widespread support.
“The priority must be to protect those lifeline funds which would ultimately allow the ice rink to reopen after so long.”
A spokesperson for MIR said: “Everything is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly, for the ice rink to reopen again in the future. We can’t confirm a date for reopening at this time but a lot of work is going on in the background.”