Loss-making Worthing ice rink frozen out of budgets

Businesses and residents have voiced their dismay at an eleventh-hour decision not to bring back Worthing’s ice rink next month.

Organiser Cities on Ice has confirmed it has pulled out of the planned return to Steyne Gardens in the wake of losing thousands of pounds at last year’s event.

The decision came despite optimism from Worthing Town Centre Initiative and the borough council, which had both offered to put money towards ensuring its delivery.

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It had been widely advertised as happening, including on the town’s key tourism websites.

But the decision to consider hosting the rink after Christmas – during a traditionally quiet period within the town, was believed by some as failing to capture trade from festive shoppers.

As a result, companies in central Worthing have expressed concern over potential lost business.

Anita Miles, manager of Café 33,in Warwick Street, said: “I am very disappointed the rink is not coming back next month.

“I only just heard about it the other day and it is a shame, as it brought a lot of people to the town.

“With it being in Steyne Gardens, it was one of the few things staged down our end which did bring some extra trade for us.”

Steve Shepherd, of Water Music in Warwick Street, also shared his views on its potential impact to the area.

“It definitely brought people here, so it’s disappointing that we’re not going to be doing it.

“Worthing needs things like that if there’s going to be economic regeneration,” he said.

Town Centre manager Sharon Clarke, who previously expressed the strong value of staging ice skating for the town centre to support its central businesses, felt it was unfortunate it would not be returning as expected.

She said: “Ourselves and the council did put money up to help, but Cities on Ice still felt it was too much of a risk.

“They had doubts in December so we offered support to try and get them to come to Worthing but I think they were waiting to see how other rinks performed over Christmas, like Windsor, and they didn’t do very well.

“After four years, some people have used it and not come back and the wow factor has been lost.

“We’re not walking away from ice rinks but having a couple of years away may build demand back up again.”

Former Worthing youth mayor Liam Mills believed the event’s loss was a considerable blow to the area’s young people.

But he acknowledged it appeared not enough people overall had used the facility last year to offer sufficient confidence in its return for 2013,which he said was a wasted opportunity.

“As a young person who every year has used the ice rink, I am incredibly disappointed it will not be coming to Worthing in 2013.

“It seems to be one less thing the youth of Worthing can do this year, especially at a time where young people are taking the brunt of the cuts to youth services.

“I sincerely hope next year young people will be put first and the ice rink will return in 2014, despite the cost.”