Bradford Ice Arena


Krystyna Rogers


Bradford Ice Rink

In January 1966 Mecca Leisure Limited opened Silver Blades Ice Rink in Bradford. It was reputed to be "The finest rink inthe world", with coloured lighting in the barriers, sparkling chandeliers over the ice, and a plush bar and restaurant. The resplendently dressed skaters were entertained with organ music. The opening Gala at the rink had performances by British skaters who had just returned from the World Championships. They included Sally Anne Stapleford, John Curry and ice dancers Bernard Ford and Diane Towler.

The rink prospered until the recession of 1970 affected the leisure industry. It struggled on for several years by cutting back on repairs and by the time Rank Leisure took over Mecca in 1989 it was in a sorry state. As part of the takeover Rank Leisure reviewed the various Mecca businesses and decided that the Silver Blades Ice Rinks did not fit into their corporate plan. To bring them up to the standard that their image required would cost millions and this was not commercially justifiable. They therefore, announced the closure of the Bradford rink in the spring of 1991.

The public outcry created by the announcement was enormous. Ice rink supporters took to the streets of Bradford, demonstrating the rink's importance to the immediate and wider community, as the only ice skating facility in West Yorkshire. With press and television backing, a petition with over 4,000 signatures was presented to the City Council in the hope of a winning reprieve. This, unfortunately, was unsuccessful.

This was an enormous blow to me; I was the mother of a young up and coming figure skater, who trained at the rink and represented Bradford in Open Competitions nationally. I fully appreciated how badly the careers of many figure and hockey skaters would be affected and how serious the loss of this amenity would be for the youth of Bradford. I met with Club Officials to consider and discuss the consequences of the closure and, as a last attempt, a group representation was made to Bradford Council to find out if there was any possibility of their involvement. As a result the Council Surveyor inspected the rink to ascertain future viability. He estimated that the cost of vital repairs would be at least two million pounds and, therefore, the Council refused to be involved.

In April 1991 the rink closed. The closure was a terrible blow to everyone and in desperation I telephoned the Rank Leisure Headquarters and asked to speak to the Company Chairman. Amazingly, I was put straight through to him. I explained my concerns and floated the idea of a private takeover under a lease from Rank Leisure. On his advice I was transferred to a senior member of the Rank Property Department and he agreed to meet me. At the meeting I presented my case and confirmed that I had available finance and was prepared to take risks to move the business forward. He was agreeable and I was invited to come back and present a business plan.

With the help of two professional people a business plan was prepared. A week later I returned with my proposals and agreement was reached, in principal, to grant a three year operating lease. With legal formalities completed the new company was appropriately named Greatcause Ltd and, to the delight of all concerned, the ice rink re-opened six weeks after closure.

The premises were desperately run down and massive sums of money were necessarily allocated to repairs and renovations. An energy efficient ceiling was installed, new seating erected, skate-hire was rebuilt and the coffee shop extended. A new sound and lighting system was installed, as was a huge projection screen.

In September 1991, a super skating gala, hosting Bradford and British Champion skaters, heralded the official opening of the newly refurbished rink. The Rink was packed to celebrate this happy and memorable occasion.

The first years of Greatcause were most challenging and all income was spent on repairs and renovations. The recession hit the business badly and by 1996 the income declined to an uncomfortable low. In order to save the rink again a new company called Ice Time Limited was formed, in which I am still involved. Over the years we have had to finance major capital items, including replacing the ice resurfacing machine, refurbishment of the viewing gallery and a new dance studio. Most recently we have had to install a new freezing plant in order to secure our future trading. Over 22 years later we are still in business. Outgoings remain high and income fluctuates but we are still managing to make ends meet.

We are also grateful to have a team of enthusiastic and hard working employees, many of whom have been with the company for several years. Providing employment to local people remains important to us by giving employees the opportunity to start at the bottom rung of the ladder and work up to managerial positions or for others to use their training as a stepping stone to further their careers elsewhere.

Our skating Coaches have trained many Open Competition winners and British Champions. The Figure Skating Club has almost 100 members of all ages and the Ice Hockey Club has several teams in training. There are thousands of the public who have no ambition to become champions, but who regularly enjoy the facilities of Bradford Ice Rink, because it is here!

The Directors of Ice Time Ltd are local people whose aim remains to provide skating facilities for all. The business is now operated as a charity so admission costs are structured to cover necessary costs and future essential investment to ensure that for the foreseeable future Bradford Ice Rink remains a valued part of local life.

Krystyna Rogers – Director

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