There is a growing campaign to save Tasmania’s only ice rink from redevelopment

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When Tasmanian Jen Rayner was a child, she loved nothing more than going to her local rink for skating lessons – and her Friday night disco.

Now her 12-year-old daughter, Olivia, is a dedicated figure skater at the same rink with the dream of becoming a champion.

So when this rink – in North Hobart and the only one remaining in the state – was put up for sale and possible demolition, the pair launched a campaign to save it rather than face the prospect of a 12 hour trip to Melbourne for the nearest alternative.

Tasmania’s only ice rink in Glenorchy, Hobart.

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And with 1,500 people now signing up as supporters of their mission and former world champion Nancy Kerrigan and Australian Olympic coach Kylie Fennell sending public messages of encouragement, Tasmanian Prime Minister Peter Gutwein has pledged to look into its future.

“The government recognizes its importance to figure skaters, ice hockey players and the general public,” he said.

The rapid growth of the campaign shocked everyone.

“It’s amazing the support we have received nationally as well,” said Ms Rayner, who would like to see a new Olympic-sized ice rink built while keeping the rink under threat in the meantime in Glenorchy, nine kilometers from the CBD.

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The rink is used by everyone from social skaters to those training for elite competition.

“The rink is gaining popularity all the time, especially with the advertising on Disney on ice canceled due to COVID-19.

“Tasmania has had some really successful skaters, like Amy Pailthorpe, the National Adult Gold Champion, and World Champion Christine Van Den Berg. It would be a tragedy for all of us if it closed.

NAI Harcourts Hobart’s sales agent Rod Cohen was also taken aback by the weight of support at the rink.

Built 40 years ago by the same Kaitinis family who operate it today, it was put up for sale after the owner’s husband died, and she now wants to retire. It is for sale for offers over $ 1.27 million.

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Jen Rayner and her daughter Olivia have launched a campaign to save the ice rink. They are pictured at the Macquarie Ice Rink in Sydney. Photo: Supplied

“There has been a lot of community support for this,” Cohen said of the 780 square meter building, complete with the ice rink, cafe, playground, party room and storage room.

“They want to keep it as an ice rink, but we don’t know if that will happen. We’ve had a few inquiries and a few inspections, but I’m not sure if anyone will buy it to keep it, convert it to some other use, or tear it down.

However, if it closes, it will leave Tasmania as the only state or territory in the country without an ice rink. NSW, for example, has eight of the 21 national rinks, Victoria has three, Queensland has five and even Darwin has his, started four years ago.

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The counter at the Glenorchy rink.

Currently, the rink is still open to the public, aspiring figure skaters, 70 youth enrolled in the Learn to Skate program, and over 60 adult ice hockey players.

Ice Skating Australia Sport Development Committee Chair Kim Wilson said she was amazed at the support for the Save Tasmania’s Ice Sports and Recreation campaign.

“It would be terrible to lose this rink,” said Wilson. “We would no longer have ice sports in Tasmania. Even if the government agreed to build a new rink it would take time and if it closed we would lose all of these skaters, our knowledge and our resources and we would have to start over.

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Many fear the rink will be bought and redeveloped, leaving the state with nowhere to skate.

“Ice rinks are very popular now. Since COVID, the number of beginner skaters signing up for classes has doubled, and we’ve even had a 70-year-old woman signing up here. It is something that everyone can appreciate.

Ms Rayner contacted Nancy Kerrigan, the Olympic and world figure skating medalist – who was involved in one of the sport’s most shocking upheavals when she was attacked by her rival Tonya Harding – who agreed to ‘record a message, saying she was upset to hear about the potential ice rink closure.

“[It’s] so devastating because skating is so important, ”she said. “It’s so exciting; it’s international, there are so many opportunities for hockey players [and] figure skaters. Plus, it’s just great exercise, not just physically but mentally, and it can be a great thing to do as a family… get out there and have fun!

“I hope you can save your rink because I would love to go there and skate with you someday. Tell me how it’s going and good luck.

Internationally renowned coach Kylie Fennell said in her message of support: “It’s so important to keep places like these open for the next generation.”

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