As you know, we, along with the other member clubs who use Auchenharvie Ice Rink in Stevenston as their home rink are campaigning to have to Ice rink opened this year when government guideline permit its opening after Ka Leisure informed the multiple clubs (without prior consultation) that they had decided not to open the ice until January 2021, instead favouring to place fitness equipment there instead.
Today, Our club issued the following update:
Dear members, we feel now would be an opportune time to update you on the efforts made by ourselves and the other ice users in our attempts to negotiate with
regarding their decision to close the ice rink until the end of January.
On 21st July, a group from our committee met with councillors Jim Montgomerie, John Sweeney (also a director of KA Leisure) and Colin Glencorse (senior KA Management)
We put to them the concerns of our club and the other ice users of the long term impact and damage that would result from their decision, especially if other ice rinks were to open in September/October as anticipated.
John Sweeney and Colin Glencorse’s response was that KA Leisure were faced with a £2.8m financial black hole, and that they had to take whatever steps were needed to try to plug this gap.
They were asked how much of this black hole could be attributed to the ice rink? They were unable to provide an answer, and it was requested that they do so by correspondence but have so far declined to do so.
We then asked how much of a financial difference to the situation would their proposed actions achieve. After some fidgeting around, Colin Glencorse “estimated” that over the 4 months projected it would be somewhere in the region of £70,000.
Our statement was then, that for a £2.8m deficit, for a business turning over £8m per year, that £70,000 was not going to make much of a difference either way to the deficit, and that since they had already played the “not for profit organisation” card more than once, that maybe they should put the health and well-being of the community first, given the amount of council funding they receive each year.
We then challenged the lack of commercial acumen being used in the running and management of the ice rink, and KA Leisure’s apparent lack of interest in a building they manage. The allowing of the Café are to be run down, and eventually closed was cited as one example of this. Their lack of interest is highlighted by some very active social media accounts that KA Leisure operate, that NEVER mention any ice rink events, or the clubs using the facility. Just last week they were happy to share information on a beach volleyball event that had little to do with any of their facilities.
In 5 years we have never seen their accounts publicise the Sam Wallace Memorial tournament (one of the largest in UK hockey), nor any of the individual hockey games. Nor have we witnessed them publicise speed skating, figure skating, or curling events that take place in the building. Quite simply because it is an inconvenience they would rather not have.
We suggested that taking a more commercial approach to their ice fees and opening hours would have a significant impact on the ice rinks revenue generation. It was pointed out that not many ice rinks close at 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday evenings, and 7:30pm on a Sunday evening. That’s around 11 hours per week of peak ice time that could be hired out to increase revenue.
We asked why the ice users were not consulted on this decision, to try to achieve a solution to the issues KA were faced with to ensure the building was able to be opened.
The response from KA/NAC was that there had been no clear guidance from the government, or the governing bodies of the sports concerned. Both have now been provided in quite some detail.
We asked if clear government guidance became available, would they review their decision? This question was avoided.
KA Leisure have publicly stated that if they re-opened the ice rink, they would have 100% of their operating costs, but only 20-50% of typical revenues. We have asked for them to clarify these calculations, as all the current ice user groups have already committed to hiring the same ice, and spending the same money. Some have stated on a regular basis that they will take more if it is available. Clarification on how they came to these figures has not been provided. We request clarification on how much of the rinks revenue came from ice hire, and how much from public skating, this question remains unanswered.
Our club chairman wrote to all 33 North Ayrshire councillors, requesting that they fulfil their duty and act on behalf of the constituents that elected them, and take action on behalf of the young people from a number of deprived communities who were about to lose a very valuable sports facility. To date, only 2 of those councillors have responded. We would urge our members to ask their local councillor what they have done to fight for their interests, and remember the response come election time!
On 21st July we requested that the KA Leisure board meet with a representative group from the ice users to discuss the situation and try to achieve an amicable and workable solution, to date there has been no response to this request.
Further requests via councillors that responded to our members have also been made, again, there has been no response.
When giving the news to the ice users, the KA Leisure email included the following:
“Discussion has taken place with The Galleon Centre in Kilmarnock regarding utilising their spare capacity to accommodate club activity and they have confirmed that they will work with the clubs at Auchenharvie to try and accommodate where possible. If you are interested, please contact me direct for details.”
We feel that this was at best, optimistic, and at worst completely disingenuous, a number of ice users contacted the galleon, and they were quite incredulous at the suggestion as they have very little, if any capacity to accommodate the clubs that usually operate out of Auchenharvie.
A freedom of information request has been made to KA Leisure, but has yet to be replied to.
KA Leisure are a company limited by guarantee. A registered charity, established with assistance from the council to manage the council OWNED facilities. We have tried to get the council to act on our behalf as owners of the buildings, and alleged representatives of the people, but the response so far has been 100% backing of the KA Leisure decision.
KA Leisure’s articles of association mention an annual AGM, yet we can find no record nor advertisement of one ever taking place. The same articles mention that the company has members with voting rights, yet we cannot establish who these members are, nor how one becomes such a member. We have asked them to provide more clarity around this subject, but as yet have had no response.
We and other clubs will lose members if there is a return to competitive action in October as planned. The numbers lost could well be enough to bring about the permanent demise of the clubs concerned and remove a lot of local youngsters from their chosen sports forever.
An online petition with close to 9000 signatures surely shows both organisations the strength of feeling about this situation.
We urge KA Leisure, and North Ayrshire Council to be more transparent, to be honest, and to engage with the community and the ice users to find a solution to opening the ice rink at the same time as all the other similar facilities across the country.
Auchenharvie ice rink has the potential to be one of the best of its kind in the country, if only its owners and operators would believe in it!
You can still sign our petition at http://chng.it/tBhHhX8X7c
Thanks to everyone for supporting us!