WINTRY conditions added to the atmosphere at the opening of the synthetic ice rink in Hargreaves Mall.
After months of delays, the temporary rink was opened to the public on Saturday morning for a two-week stint in the mall for the school holidays.
The 10-metre by 20-metre rink made of plastic polymer is in Bendigo after more than a year of planning from Central Victorian Ice Sports and Entertainment (CVISE).
The rink was shipped from America for the Easter long weekend but was delayed in customs when it arrived at the Melbourne’s docks.
CVISE treasurer Karen Lucas said it was great to finally see the rink up and running.
“It’s spent a while stuck in customs but it’s terrific to see it – it will be a fun activity for the holidays,” she said.
“I think it’s better having it now, it’s a bit like European winter. That’s exactly how it’s meant to be for the skaters.”
Councillor Rod Fyffe was among the first to pull on the skates and said the rink added another dimension to the city.
“The rink will be a great thing for the mall. It’s something different but really good for families to enjoy.”
The temporary set-up in Bendigo is the first time Canadian-owned company BH Skating has brought its rink to Australia.
Co-owner Steve Frisken travelled from Canada to help construct the rink.
“It’s exciting to be set up in Bendigo,” he said.
“I hope people are really into it. The synthetic skating business is really growing in America, Canada and around the world. It’s easy to set up and about 70 per cent cheaper than setting up a full ice rink.”
Mr Frisken said the group would take the rink to Sydney after Bendigo but had already been in negotiations to possibly return to Hargreaves Mall later in the year.
Cr Fyffe said it would be a great initiative to have the rink as a regular school holidays event. “We need to keep having these types of activities in the mall.”
Members of CVISE worked to raise $14,000 during the past year to bring the rink to Bendigo.
CVISE president Nancy Davis said the response to the fundraising efforts showed there was a lot of interest in ice sports in the region.
“It was really a whole-community initiative paid for by community fundraising,” she said. “We are hoping everyone will come down and have a skate in the next two weeks.
“Not only will it be a fun activity for the whole family, but it will demonstrate how important an ice facility is to the community and is hopefully the first step in getting a permanent ice rink of our own.”
CVISE is hoping to attract about 300 people to the rink each day, to strengthen its push for a permanent rink.
“Our main reason for doing all this is to help continue to foster ice sports in the local community.
“We don’t want our kids having to get up at 3.30am to travel to Melbourne and use their facilities in order to keep their passion alive,” Ms Davis said.
Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards said she was glad to see the initiative from CVISE.
“I’m really happy for them that it’s finally set up. They’ve done a great job getting it here.”
Ms Edwards said she’d like to see the synthetic rink return and would look into supporting moves for a permanent ice skating centre. “It has to be a multi-purpose facility for it to work well. It’s definitely something that could be considered into the future.”
The rink costs $5 per turn and is open Monday to Thursday, 9am-7pm, and Friday to Sunday, 10am-9pm.