The days of the Queenstown Gardens ice rink operating as a winter-only attraction could be over.
The Queenstown Ice Arena opens for another six-month season tomorrow – and pre-season completion of a project to fully enclose the rink opens up the possibility it’ll reopen for the December/January school holidays.
Co-owner Dan Graham says the present rink, when constructed in 1996, had a roof and pillars only.
It wasn’t enclosed, making it vulnerable to humidity.
The process of sealing it started in 2006 under previous owners, Graham adds.
“We’ve basically completed that, we’ve insulated all the cavities in the building and clad it.”
The programme, costing almost $100,000, means the rink’s plant can run more efficiently, Graham says.
“We’re just going to see how the building reacts to everything and if it’s fine we’ll probably open in December and January for the school holidays.”
If there’s still humidity, Graham says the owners will look at investing in an expensive dehumidification system.
“If you invest that much money, you have to run all year round to try to recoup it.”
Graham says at this stage he doesn’t know how many people want to go skating over summer.
“But I think it’s worth a try because there are so many people in town. For people that are participating in ice sport, you really need to be training most of the year.”
Graham’s family bought the rink from foreign owners in 2010 and committed to ongoing improvements in return for Queenstown Lakes District Council rates relief.
Early improvements included a new cafe and alpine-themed lounge.
Graham says the rink makes an operating profit: “But we’ve just kept investing everything back into it, and more.
“I think we’re still got quite a few more years of upgrades planned. We never looked at this as a pot of gold – it’s something we’re passionate about.”
Graham estimates at least 15,000 people came through their doors last year.
The rink was fullest for ice hockey games featuring the local Southern Stampede team, often reaching its capacity of 500.
Skating programmes were also fully booked.
Graham expects that will again be the case with the return of popular skating coach Deanna Pielak-Jones.
Day passes this season remain $15 for adults, $7 for pre-schoolers and $55 for families of four.
Adult season passes have dropped from $250 to $199, children under 18 remain $150 and family passes are down from $499 to $399.
There’s no public skating on Sunday due to a senior non-contact ice hockey tournament.