National Ice Sports Centre (NISC)

1999 - 2009


+ timeline of key events

This article was written in 2007 when the National Ice Sports Centre had stalled and appeared very unlikely to proceed. There were a complex array of reasons including the lack of an economic model and a resultant lack of confidence by the developer, despite the large government financial commitment. Geoff Henke has been credited with pushing the project over the line, known today as Medibank Icehouse.

2000 — In its last months in office (1999), the Kennett Government commissions a feasibility study into establishing an international-standard ice-sports venue in Victoria. This was the year that Sydney staged the Olympics that Melbourne had bid for; the end of the development boom that the Kennett government had presided over using its Community Support Fund largely comprised of casino income; the year Telstra Dome opened at docklands and the $65 million, multi-function Vodafone Arena opened at Melbourne Park, one of the biggest sporting precincts in the world, following more than a decade of lobbying for cycling facilities. The following January, the multi-sport State Netball and Hockey Centre opened 3 km from the Melbourne CBD at Royal Park. It was also the year that the UKs Olympic-size, twin-rink National Ice Centre opened at Nottingham, England, at a cost of $98.1 million; the year after the Air Canada Centre opened in Toronto at a cost of $310 million.

2001, Jan — Bracks Government release the feasibility study report by Dr Ken Marriott of HM Leisure Planning Pty Ltd. The report cited joint proposals from Ballarat Council and the YMCA, and Maryibynong Council and Victoria University, as well as the conversion of the Glasshouse sports and aquatic centre in Batman Avenue into an ice arena. "The most significant proposal" in the report, from Melbourne developer Andrew Sheldon, was an ice-sports complex in the Docklands precinct between Colonial Stadium and the World Trade Centre. The $55 million complex would house the headquarters of the Australian Winter Sports Institute, off-season training facilities for athletes, a gymnasium, shops and restaurants, and two Olympic-standard ice arenas. Though the complex itself would be private-sector financed, Sheldon, Director of Ice Sports Australia Pty Ltd says the inner-city location is only financially viable as a sports-recreation venue if it attracts $5 to $10 million in support, in the form of crown land, from the Victorian Government.

2004, May — 'The Age' reports: ' last years budget, the Government spent $400,000 on planning for a "national ice skating centre" and predicted its eventual commitment would be $10 million'.

2004, Jul — Government approves a further $4.5 million of its $10 million NISC commitment in the 2004-5 budget. Total of $4.9 million.

2005, Jul — Government approves a further $4.5 million of its $10 million NISC commitment in the 2005-6 budget. Total of $9.4 million.

2006, Feb — Minister for Sport and Recreation announces NISC consortium. The Consortium comprised ING Real Estate Development Australia (ING REDA), Ice Sports Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee’s Olympic Winter Institute. It was given the opportunity to develop an international standard ice-sports centre in Docklands’ Waterfront City precinct. Five years later, the State Government commits $10 million as Sheldon had suggested was necessary and he says: “Ice Sports Australia is delighted to have this opportunity to progress the development of the project, together with ING REDA and the Olympic Winter Institute. Detailed planning and design have already commenced. Construction is expected to begin later this year.”

2006, Jul — Government approves the last $0.6 million of its $10 million NISC commitment in the 2006-7 budget.

2006, Oct — First Designs Released. Construction didn't start as Sheldon planned but he says: “The design by Cox Architects and international ice sports specialists, Brisbin Brooke Beynon, is based on the development of successful ice rink centres in North America and Europe.” The consortium gives the Minister a locality plan and three glossy renderings inside and out (above). No floor plans, facility plans, project scope or investment analyses were published or otherwise made available. The Government says it now awaits the consortia confirmation of the development proposal and financing arrangements.

2008, Jan — Only silence; two years after the Government funds were fully committed and eight years after the NISC study was first commissioned. The cost of the 2001 report is not known, but at least a further $400,000 of public funds was reportedly spent on the proposal in 2003. All the community has seen are four glossy images of an ice rink and a few clichéd words to attempt to describe and sell it. A good architectural practice could produce that for less than $25,000. In the meantime, Melbourne's next world class stadium, the $268 million Melbourne Rectangular Stadium for soccer and rugby has commenced construction on the Edwin Flack field of Melbourne Park. It will provide another missing link in Melbourne’s sporting infrastructure for a medium size, purpose-built rectangular pitched stadium, and will also incorporate a sports campus, including an elite training centre and office accommodation (images in viewer above).

2008 IIHF World Championships Division II Group B, to be held between April 7 and 13, 2008 at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Just five Melbourne players were selected for the 27-strong team: forwards Lliam Webster, Tommy Powell and Brad Vigon, defender Dylan Moore and goalie Stuart Denman. IHA had this to say:

'Australia first played the great game in 1908 and like the IIHF, is celebrating their 100 year Centennial. The year, however, will be highlighted by Australia hosting the 2008 World Championships Division II, Group B. In his second year, at the helm of the Australian team, former NHL player Steve McKenna is quietly confident of that elusive Gold. McKenna made his debut with the Los Angeles Kings in 1996 and played for both the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. His big-time experience brought the players to a new level in 2007 and the team is expected to go the next step in 2008. The majority of the team will be selected from the Australian Ice Hockey League.' (Source: IHA website)

2008 National League Teams. Pick the difference. (Blacktown Ice Arena, NSW, closed Oct 2007).

IIHF Regional Associations. Melbourne should lead the region by providing core facilities and services for its kids, and selectively hiring them to the region, to the world.

So, what is going on?

a centre for excellence

Cox Architects is a Sydney firm with a minor branch office in Melbourne and although the NISC consortium might like to tout Brisbin Brook Beynon as 'international ice sports specialists' they are simply Canadian architects. Beynon, a partner, has previously worked in Australia and may have connections to one or other sporting authority or individual, directly or indirectly associated with the consortium. Compared to similar government-assisted projects, remarkably little has been said about the NISC proposal, but it is influenced by facilities like the $310 million Air Canada Centre that Beynon managed for his practice and the UK National Ice Centre. Both opened just prior to the inception of Melbourne NISC proposal but, unlike it, neither are saddled with the cost of providing accommodation for the Australian Winter Sports Institute. Perhaps the AWSI intend to lease the space at market rates but it is an otherwise non-revenue producing and inconsistent use in an expensive sporting facility. That shouldn't rule it out but there does need to be benefits as well as costs for every element in a speculative project.

A complex like the NISC proposal depends on as many income-producing users of it's core facilities as possible and, ideally, all making direct use of the core technology in order to offset running costs which, in this case, are ice and seating. Ice athletes, entertainers and recreationalists use the pads, not administrators. The paying public use the seats and the environmentally controlled volume they are in, attracted by whatever the facilty can offer. The first Australian rinks were expertly located, multi-functional cinema, exhibition, concert and sports facilities and although the kind of viable functions may have changed over the past century, the requirement for economic viability has not. Projects must still show a reasonably secure and profitable return on investment in order to attract private funding. Getting the facility mix right — covering the capital cost, interest and ongoing operating costs with income generation — determines whether a project exists or is merely a wish.

Beynon promotes himself as having "particular expertise is introducing economic viability for facilities to enhance their long-term asset value into the design and planning process". That is probably meant to read he is good at selling projects. He led the Canadian bid for the Expo 2000 in Toronto won by Germany by one vote, the year of the Olympics Melbourne lost to Sydney. Melbourne hosted its first International Exhibition in 1888 in the World Heritage listed Exhibition Buildings. Most Australians are proud of their International, Olympic and Commonwealth games achievements, but the new depths reached in the desperate scrambles to secure those kinds of major events, not least delegate vote-buying, 'gifts', dinners and sackings of organisers and officials, has tarnished their reputation. And probably nowhere more so in Australia than in Melbourne, host of the 1956 Friendly Games, which it won by one vote over Rome.

An Olympic tradition began there when athletes of different nations were allowed to parade together at the closing ceremony, instead of with their national teams, as a symbol of world unity. It was inspired by Australian teenager John Wing who wrote to the organisers: "During the Games there will be only one nation. War, politics and nationalities will be forgotten. What more could anybody want if the world could be made one nation." Architects get involved with major events because of the commissions associated with the master planning and major projects they attract. On the other hand, major events do have the potential to revitalise sections of cities and can deliver world-class facilities that might not otherwise eventuate.

The Models

+ crisis of confidence

Air Canada Centre cost $500 per square metre due largely to construction economies of scale. It's a whopping 62,000 square metres with, for example, 50cm wide, fully-upholstered seats, yet the exterior architectural imagery is an industrial shed. As one would expect, it seats 19,800 for basketball; 18,819 for hockey or lacrosse; 19,800 for concerts and 5,200 for theatre with 13,000 parking spaces within immediate walking distance. It is owned by the group that also owns both the NHL Leafs and the NBA Raptors and they spend more than $7 million in upgrades each year. Melbourne is a city where 100,000 people attend AFL matches that are followed by 6 million people each season. Home to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, the Australian Tennis Open and the Spring Racing Carnival. But Air Canada Centre and its catchment population is nothing like the economic context of Australian ice sports and not even a fraction of it is transferrable to Melbourne in the foreseeable future.

OWI Chairman Geoff Henke (second from right, with from left, Victorian Sport and Recreation Minister James Merlino, ING Real Estate Chief Executive Officer Greg Boyd and Ice Sports Australia project consultant Andrew Shelton). 

The UK National Ice Centre is in Nottingham, England; Torvill and Dean's hometown. It consists of a 7,500 seat main arena and a second 'community' rink. In 1998, Nottingham City Council was awarded £22.5 million by the English Sports Council through the Lottery Sports Fund towards its building of the new £36 million Centre. With the exceptions of the new National Stadium development at Wembley, and the 2002 Commonwealth Games Stadium in Manchester, the Ice Centre project attracted the largest single Lottery capital grant from Sport England. The City Council also invested over £4 million in the Centre and a further grant of almost £1 million came from 'English Partnerships', the Government's regeneration agency, to help pay for site preparation works prior to construction. The European Union has also awarded £4 million towards the cost of creating the public square in front of the Centre and improving the approaches to the complex. In summary, Nottingham's population is less than 300,000 or 8 percent of Melbourne and most of the cost of establishing the centre was paid for by National government and the International sporting union.

Melbourne is home to world-class architects like Ashton Raggart McDougall, Denton Corker Marshall and Bates Smart, yet the NISC consortium have gone elsewhere. Attempting to trump up a speculative idea with imported "international specialists" won't make a project viable and most Australian investors are not that stupid. Particularly when there are better architects and planners already in Melbourne. The consortium may lack confidence and understanding of Melbourne's ice sports needs, but it is safe to say that the best of its architects don't need fee-hungry imports to give them credibility. The reverse is true. The city is recognised world-wide for having the best architecture school in the southern hemisphere, many of its architectural practices are international, it has been judged the most livable city in the world on numerous occasions, and it is now recognised in international forums as a world leader in city architecture. The first three rinks in Australia were built by a Melbourne engineer over 100 years ago. Refrigeration was pioneered here almost 150 years ago. Melbourne has successfully hosted International events, particularly sports, for the same length of time. No other city in Australia rivals Melbourne's International events success and possibly no other city in the world, per capita.

The NISC proposal is estimated to cost $60 million plus overruns and experience with similar projects suggest it will probably cost much more. It was conceived at the time the fully government funded Federation Square (1997-2002, England's LAB Architecture Studio and Bates Smart) finished three times its original cost. Also the same time as Vodafone Arena which cost the same as the proposed NISC estimates (images at right and in viewer above). Vodafone Arena is designed for basketball, tennis and cycling but it can be readily changed for almost any event — from ice skating to opera, from cycling to basketball. For example, it will host 'Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour' April, 4th to 8th, 2008, following their 'Finding Nemo' ice show at Rod Laver Arena lin 2007. Vodafone Arena was conceived as a velodrome, with an ICU internationally accredited 250 metre by 7 metre wide circuit. It seats 4,500 for that purpose while raiseable, retractable and removable seating increases capacity to 10,500 for Basketball (and netball), Tennis and concerts. Concert promoters prefer Rod Laver Arena (RLA), however Vodafone provides a suitable alternative when RLA is unavailable. The Vodafone roof is also retractable but RLA seats one half as many again (14,800) and so it tends to be used by more popular international performers. The Telstra Dome in the Docklands and the nearby Melbourne Cricket Ground are both hugely expensive. In 2007, Vodafone's lowest attendance was 3,300 and its highest was 7,400 with an annual total attendance of only 55,000. Recently, the new South Dragons National Basketball League (NBL) franchise made the Vodafone Arena its home court. Formerly, it was home to the Victoria Titans and Melbourne Tigers until high rental prices forced the teams to find other venues. Up until then, it was largely empty outside of the two weeks of the Australian Open tennis tournament and it was, and still is, quite capable of hosting International ice skating events, providing they are properly organised and promoted to cover facility hire costs. The Melbourne Park facilities progressively took over some of the functions of the Melbourne Glaciarium which had operated beween 1906-57.

Even after a quick look at the big picture, there should be little wonder there is a crisis of confidence over the NISC proposal. Even if, in some unlikely future, the consortium reworked the concept to be viable, attracted investors and used architects who know and understand the city, Melbourne is still left to fathom the extent of the further setback the consortium represented; broken promises, lack of professional and commercial nous and almost zero public communication. Add to that their poverty of Australian ideas; their cargo-cult mentality; the loss of public money in Melbourne in the name of Australian ice sports. Perhaps they are due some credit for having at least tried at a time when Victorian ice champions moved interstate to access International standard ice facilities, and Melbourne became a laughing stock for other capital cities who host the international ice events that Melbourne can't. Yet, ironically, the NISC proposal and the way it was managed has contributed to the perception of failure, not eased it.

All you really need to run an ice rink successfully (though not necessarily profitably) is lots of money. It can come from wealthy investors, non-profit organizations or taxpayers but only rarely does it come from actual profits generated by operation of the rink. There are profitable rinks in the US and Europe, but they are few and far between, and the thing they share in common is either low or no debt service (interest on borrowings). Debt service is a constant, unbending payment that cannot be avoided. It can be adjusted sometimes, but the lenders want their pound of flesh. In the late 1990s, there were many double-sheet ice rinks built in North America that continue to lose serious money even though ice sports there are extremely popular. They survive only under the patronage of multi-millionaires until eventually, even they grow tired of pouring in the money. It is not uncommon, even in North America, for commercial rinks to close. Yet, the majority of municipal facilities there seem to keep operating without any expectation of being profitable because they are community facilities funded by taxpayers; the equivalent of public swimming pools in Australia, if you like, but even more costly. A new arena operates for the first 3 years or so covering known construction costs, interest and annual running costs. Then comes the repair phase of the original plant and building and finally, the replacement phase, sometime after the tenth year and accelerating by the 15th year. Rink facilities need new headers, compressors, boards, roof and so on.

The NISC proposal on the roof of a four storey carpark released by the Minister for Sport & Recreation, Justin Madden, in October 2006. (Image source: Minister for Sport & Recreation, Oct 06.)

The three Amendments for the 6-storey carpark, the last made on 9 May 2007; three days before the NISC Consortium were interviewed by ABC Stateline about rooftop ice rink on floors 5 and 6, which had actually been dumped. Drawing received and stamped 17 Jul 2007 by the City of Melbourne Planning Department. [Top] Strip-off the rink bits and ... what we really need... a 6-storey carpark approved by the Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, about one year later. No ice rinks. Construction contract let to Hansen Yuncken , builders of the 'ferris wheel' in the same precinct. The 2 extra car park floors are not obvious in the top images, but on close inspection it looks like they were always there. It looks like the same building without the masquerade. Nice work, boys. (Image source: Hansen Yuncken website.)

[Beneath] The NISC proposal where it should be according to developer, ING — on the “Human Services Land” located adjacent to the Moonee Ponds Creek. Also see larger map of Waterfront City below.

The $120 million 'ferris wheel' — Waterfront City Stage 1C Southern Star Observation Wheel (SSOW). Now nearing completion at double estimated cost. The type of project approved by developer ING. Apparently easier and less risky than a $55 million National Ice Sports Centre, even with one-fifth paid for by the government.

The Reid Legacy

+ the viability question

Rink costs actually start to increase and gather momentum after about three years and ice rates must then increase in order to meet both the original borrowing and operating costs plus the new costs of maintenance, repairs and eventual replacement. Although it may seem odd, inflation can actually help in that regard because debt service can be made constant so it need not increase over time, while the cost to the user increases with inflation. But with low inflation any benefits are minimal. It would be obvious to Melbourne investors and developers that the projected income for an ice arena will take years, if ever, to reach the level necessary to pay the bonded indebtedness required to finance construction, let alone operation. A mostly commercially-funded twin-rink project must be multi-functional and accommodate other significant revenue generators to effectively subsidize the ice-related capital and ongoing costs. In that sense, the economic viability formula is more like a regional shopping centre where the rents for 'magnet' department stores and supermarkets are subsidised by the specialist boutique shops. The 'magnets' attract shoppers, drawing them past the boutique shopfronts and boosting their trade well-above what they would receive in a suburban shopping strip. The smaller traders pay higher rents but they can afford to and that, in turn, subdises the cost of the larger 'magnet' spaces. Lowering the rental of the larger floor areas makes it more profitable for 'magnet' stores to establlsh at a centre designed that way and, combined with the boutiques, they achieve the diversity of offerings and critical mass needed for market competitiveness and survival. Win-win. Twin-rinks alone will not be economically viable to prospective investors and throwing in restaurants, gymnasiums and office accommodation, as proposed in the NISC concept, will not produce sufficient revenue to pay back the $50 million-plus borrowings in a reasonable timeframe, if at all.

The particular problem facing Melbourne is that it now has many arenas capable of staging concerts, exhibitions and other similar events. A new ice arena reliant on such events for income, as the Melbourne Glaciarium did in the past, now has to compete against some of the best arenas and exhibition centres in Australia; all in its own backyard. The NISC concept could be improved, but adding more revenue-producing uses will also increase costs and it is questionable whether that scale of development will ever balance costs and income whilst retaining the core functionality proposed. Questionable whether the concept will be sustainable in Melbourne at the present time or, for that matter, in most other places in the world, without full government-funding like most comparable National facilities. Which begs the obvious: why does a proposal for a National Sporting Institute have no Federal funding? Whatever the thinking, these unanswered questions, the scale of the proposal and its inherent unknowns, combine to produce sizeable risks which investors don't like. Particularly in a city of nearly 4 million, that is projected within the next 20 years to again be the most populous in Australia, but which is struggling to maintain a single, sub-standard surface for ice athletes and enthusiasts who have now dwindled down to the small hundreds. There are probably more people skating at interstate provincial centres with decent rinks than there are in Melbourne at the moment. For those reasons, it is more likely that solutions to Melbourne's ice sport problems lie in an entirely different direction.

In the Centenary year of Australian ice hockey, which should be a celebration of it's founding fathers at Melbourne's South Gate, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) will stage its 2008 Division II World Ice Hockey Championships at Newcastle; one of the eight rinks in New South Wales. Melbourne has 25 times more people, but Newcastle's Hunter Ice Skating Stadium has a 60m by 30m IIHF-compliant rink which Melbourne doesn't. And although its seating capacity is less than 500, IIHF and Government grants, sponsorships and ticket sales will upgrade it to seat 1,000 with VIP/Corporate boxes, new plexiglass rink enclosure and renovated dressing rooms. It is estimated that about 400 competitors and officials and several hundred supporters will visit for 7 days, injecting about $1 million into the local economy. In the meantime, Melbourne ice hockey is poised on the brink of extinction. The State Association is operating without an elected President as it struggles to retain the last of its ice hockey clubs by further downsizing and restructuring of the local league; the breeding ground for most Australian champions. Although Australian ice sports started there, it is now a city with world-class facilities for most major sports except ice, and has been for many, many years.

One of the other options considered in the original Marriott study was the 'Glasshouse', now the Lexus Centre (images in viewer above). Since then, the luxury vehicle maker Lexus bought the naming rights (2004), Telstra became a major partner, and the venue became the indoor training centre for the Collingwood Football Club and the Victorian Institute of Sport. It is no longer a public stadium but an elite training centre for athletes and a function, exhibition and conference centre showcasing cutting-edge Telstra and Sony technology. It has a theatrette, a 25m 4-lane pool, an 8,000 square metre gymnasium, an 80m indoor running track or training oval, and outdoor entertaining for 600 people. The Victorian Institute of Sport succeeded where the National Winter Sports Institute did not. It did that by locating in one of the largest sporting precincts in the world, where it can also offer its core facilities and services to the countless existing users of the precinct, aided by three major corporate partners and the high-profile Collingwood football club. It avoided huge borrowings for a new complex and receives high exposure and additional income-potential from every major and minor event held at Melbourne Park. That is good for them but unfortunate for ice sports in Melbourne and Australia. Despite the political rhetoric favouring the docklands NISC proposal, the 'Glasshouse' may well have been the most viable of Marriott's options. Docklands is still comparatively devoid of community infrastructure and certainly offers none of the commercial and sporting synergies and spin-offs of Melbourne Park. The 'Glasshouse' was the 1956 Olympic Pool and much infrastructure was already in place for things like the current 25m pool. A pool, for example, would be ideal for ice baths used in intensive hockey training, like many of the other opportunities available at that centre. Melbourne can be proud of what the Victorian Institute and its partners did with it. They didn't pay fat consultant fees. They didn't use imports. They didn't wait for handouts. It is uniquely Australian and uniquely Melbourne. They understood the city.

Vodafone Arena probably can't accommodate the whole local ice hockey season, given it's other uses and the cost of changing to and from ice rink mode. However, it's potential for hosting major ice sport events and the associated costs should now be investigated, because it was designed with that capability and it was recently operating well under capacity. In theory, there is no reason why the 2007 Kurt de Fris National ice hockey tournament, hosted very primitively at the sub-standard Oakleigh Ice Skating Centre rink, could not have been hosted there. So could the 2008 IIHF Division II Championships, in the birthplace of Australian ice hockey. Perhaps even the home games of Melbourne Ice, Victoria's only National League team. Vodafone Arena can probably seat well over 4,000 people in ice hockey mode. But that requires a State Association capable of arranging for someone to plan and present a proposal and funding submission. Even if that then proved funding assistance was required, and even if none was forthcoming from government and sporting authorities, the feasibility process itself should be a priority for the Victorian administrators responsible for promoting ice sports. Because it demonstrates desire and capability in the places where they matter most and because others are more inclined to help an organisation that at least tries. But Melbourne administrators, still nursing a very unhealthy seige mentality, just didn't bid for the International. Sadly, the lack of an International ice rink in the city has become the whipping boy for all the woes of ice hockey in Victoria when, in fact, it's problem is equally a leadership without a voice that is preoccupied with minor politics and making-do. That probably won't change until enough fair-minded people in the ice community demand a different future and re-invent the State controlling body and local leagues, so that they are capable of taking them there. The rink problem may well be the lesser of the two and it is probably the best place to start, even though that will be difficult — very difficult — with the way things are currently organised.

In 1995 in the US, Frank Gehry designed Anaheim Ice for the NHL Ducks with twin practice rinks; one NHL-size, one Olympic-size. Gehry is one of the most respected architects in the world but with a reputation for high-cost buildings, yet Anaheim Ice only cost about US$9 million or about A$15 million on present value. That is only one-third more than the committed government NISC funds, and one-quarter its estimated cost. Gehry's original design was framed by steel to cover an 8,000 square metre area, but he changed to engineered timber laminated beams to reduce costs. The complex is clad in corrugated aluminium and the ceilings are plywood. The arched timber beams are 0.22m by 1.292m in section, spaced at 6.7m on centre and span 35.4m. Gehry's complex is about one-eighth the size of the Air Canada Centre, but it was about one-twentieth the cost to construct and its building structure and fabric reduce running costs and will outlast most of its contemporaries. It did not have the huge construction and ongoing operating economies of scale of Air Canada, yet it only cost about $1,875 per square metre. By comparison, a quality home in Melbourne cost upwards of $2,000 per square metre. Architect-designed homes are typically even higher cost and quality, and Gehry's homes are commonly two or three times that and sometimes much more. Anaheim Ice also hosts local youth hockey, figure skating events, and public skating. It contains a restaurant and spaces for community events and, on top of that, it was conceived as a pilot project for a Disney program with a serious social mission. Directed by David Wilk, founder of a pioneering New York City program called 'Figure Skating in Harlem', the 'Disney Goals' program is being developed to serve inner-city youth. Wilk views skating as a way to develop teamwork, discipline and self-esteem. In addition to recreation, 'Goals' offers scholarships, internships and other educational programs. Disney planned to replicate it in other American cities using Gehry's Anaheim rink concept, modified to suit each new city context. The Disney rinks succeed as commercial ventures, but they are not about consumption, tourism or passive entertainment. They're designed to engage individuals and communities in the pursuit of their own dreams.

Isn't that what Melbourne needs? Yes. But it won't work alone. Create and keep it small and local. Brand it uniquely Melbourne. But selectively market it global. Keep it simple and boost it with basic but essential facilities for in-residence ice sports training and development. Think International, not just local or National. Get some paying partners, but don't hock the soul of local ice sports. Locate at or next to Melbourne and Olympic Parks where like-minded 'shoppers' pass your 'store'. Where there is already a range of related world-class facilities with about two million patrons and a wide variety of commercial opportunities from sponsorship, film shoots, supply rights, signage and superbox leasing. Determine the other income-generators according to what is already there. Measure costs and projected incomes precisely and least optimistically. Melbourne has lost most of its rinks, its athletes, its enthusiasts. But, fortunately, it is still Melbourne and there, anything is possible. Don't put it in a tin shed; it will collapse physically and financially, as did all those like it that came before. Until, eventually, no-one will dare touch an ice rink here. Give the operators a fighting chance with the running and replacement costs — design it to run economically, like the purpose-built Glaciarium and even St Moritz which, combined, survived 93 wonder-filled years. Don't import the North American and European ideas and architects. Import their paying ice hockey teams for a week or a month, their elite skaters and their juniors, their trainers, their patrons and coaches. In the off-season or all year round. Attract the same kind of patrons from the region; the New Zealand Federation which includes three associations; the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association; the Ice Hockey Association of Thailand and the Asia League Ice Hockey where seven teams from Japan, China and South Korea play a 30-game schedule (official site). Japan also has College Hockey leagues. All run Development Camps. All could use a well-conceived and promoted training and development venue in a city like Melbourne, as well as Australasian contests and exchanges. Some may even be interested in becoming partners.

Isn't it time to use the legacy Reid left the city and Nation? One hundred years ago, Melbourne Glaciarium was the third-largest ice arena in the world with an international rink and seating for thousands. It employed world-famous instructors and was known as "The Academy of Ice Skating", established 1906. Melbourne should never be satisfied with being the leader in ice sports nationally. It was the cradle of Australian and regional ice sports and it enjoys loyal patronage of all things sporting from its people. Melbourne should aim to be the regional leader by providing core facilities and services for its kids, and selectively hiring them to the region, to the world. That will help rink viability, but it will also produce synergies and spin-offs that will reward in more ways than money. Melbourne should aim to cater for its kids to train and develop at home, side-by-side with the rest of the world, in one of the world's largest sporting precincts, in one of the worlds great sporting cities, with all that the city has to offer. And slowly re-create what it had a century ago, but lost.

Melbourne Culture


? ? [ 1 ] On February 7th, Port Phillip Council approved the $300 million St Kilda Triangle development plan after negotiations with the developer to include an ice rink and other changes. It is not yet known if the rink will be useable for ice sports. The development is scheduled to open to the public end-2010. Few would know, but the City of Port Phillip was the cradle of Australian ice sports. The founder, Henry Newman Reid MSE (London) AMIE (Aust), grew up there; his mother and his prominent father, Rev John Reid MA, lived and died there. The first ice arena in Australia, the Glaciarium Ltd — the Academy of Ice Skating — was built by Reid at City Rd, South Melbourne (now South Gate) in 1906; third largest in the world. Victoria's second rink was St Moritz, St Kilda, later purchased for re-development by, Lindsay Fox. His plans were rejected by St Kilda Council and, soon after, the building was destroyed by fire in suspicious circumstances. For three quarters of a century, 1906 to 1981, ice sports flourished and spread nationally from both arenas, producing national, world and Olympic champions, and endowing the City of Port Phillip with a pre-eminence that no other city in Australia has since rivalled. Nor ever will.

The Triangle is immediately beneath the former St Moritz ice arena (1939-81; image above). The site is presently used mainly for car parking and it has long been the missing link between Fitzroy and Acland streets. The proposed development has been modified to include 19,000 square metres of shops and 18,000 square metres of open space. It is also proposed to refurbish the iconic Palais Theatre, and house Linden II, the new Centre for Contemporary Art in St Kilda and a Port Phillip Academy for hospitality training, to be established by the William Angliss Institute of TAFE. Other elements include a new urban square; a boutique hotel; underground car park; art gallery; bowling alley; art-house cinema complex; eating and drinking establishments; and live entertainment venues. The project will be developed by the Citta Property Group in conjunction with the Sydney-based international investment company Babcock & Brown (BBC Consortium). The design team is led by architects Ashton Raggart McDougall with Grant Amon Architects and Lyons Architects. Great scheme, consortium and architects. This is the way to go on writing Mebourne's history and it will be interesting to see what ARM, Amon and Lyons can do with this new rink opportunity, particularly since it wasn't part of their original plan. They are among the best architects and urban designers in Australia; they love Melbourne; know it like the backs of their hands. Watch with interest.

[Latest News on the St Kilda Triangle]
[Dimity Reed, The Age, Feb 6, 2008..]

? ? [ 2 ] Late last year, the proposed National Ice Sports Centre was dumped from the top floors of the Waterfront City carpark project onto the banks of the Moonee Ponds Creek in the Dockland's boondocks. It is now proposed a few metres from Footscray. The carpark has been expanded into the two floors of space that was approved for the ice rink centre and it is now proceeding without it. On February 5th, 2008, the Docklands Coordination Committee announced the extension of Tram 86 (Bundoora RMIT- Docklands) into Docklands Drive. The service currently travels down Bourke Street, Spencer and LaTrobe Streets and stops at Harbour Esplanade. The Department of Infrastructure decision means it will now continue along the waterfront to Docklands Drive, through the New Quay and Waterfront City precincts, by mid-2008. That will reduce the walk from the nearest tram stop to the proposed NISC site to about 0.4km or two city blocks — a significant improvement, but still distant, and dependent on evening and weekend tram frequency. See the account below and map.

? ? [ 3 ] In January 2008, the operators of the Bendigo Ice Arena announced its closure. The Olympic Ice Skating Centre at Oakleigh, two-thirds olympic size with limited seating capacity, is now the only rink operating in Victoria. In early February, the i2i Teaming Institute promptly switched their focus from their Brandon Park rink idea, to Bendigo, and met with Bendigo Council. They were reported to say that they have a Bendigo alternative for government funds committed to the Docklands rink project, if it falls through (newspaper reports below). On March 5th, Bendigo Council approved a $100,000 interest free loan to Bendigo Ice Skating Association to pay debts owed to the owner of the Golden Square building and fund improvements to the facility. The loan will help to cover the $82,000 debt the centre owes the landlord and the YMCA, and $9702 expected in upgrade costs to improve the rink’s safety, performance and efficiency.

? ? [ 4 ] Also in January, the National Junior Ice Hockey Team (20 and under) competed in Belgrade, Serbia, for the Division III World Championships after having been downgraded from Division II in 2007. The 2008 team had the largest contingent of Victorians ever; over half the team of 20. IHA President, Don Rurak, said: "Although their are other well skilled players who are not available for this Centenary Team, a greater majority of the team roster have attended IHA's Development Camps for the past three years. A number have represented Australia at World U18 & U20 Championships previously. The IHA Board and Directors are extremely proud to see these players rise to international stardom because of their dedication to the sport and IHA's Development Programs. It would only be fitting that their dedication and efforts are further rewarded with a Gold Medal. We truly wish them all the best in their endeavour." It wasn't to be. They finished fourth of six with a 3 -3 record despite having the top face-off leader and 2nd-top goal/point-scorer. The tournament was won by New Zealand who, with Serbia, have been promoted to the 2009 IIHF World U20 Championship Division II. Between them, NZ and Serbia had the Top-19 Plus-minus leaders and Top 2 goalies. Australian colours flew in the Centenary year and Victoria did their share. Well done, Junior Nationals 2008.

[Puck drops on Kiwi hockey season by Bill Meltzer, correspondent, May, 2007. PDF download, 2 pp.]

? ? [ 5 ] In April, the Mighty Roos Australian Senior Men’s Ice Hockey team closed down the Chinese national team 1 goal to nil in Newcastle, New South Wales. No longer is ice hockey a novelty in Australia. A magic tournament ended with a fairy-tale ending. The Aussies were perfect through the tournament, winning each of their five games in regulation time; their last two games in shut-outs, denying their opposition a single goal. Australian goalie Matt Ezzy was awarded ‘Best Goalie of Tournament’ for his feat in winning four games from four played, and allowing only four goals by him throughout the tournament. China started out strong but almost immediately shortened their bench to their top six players. The Aussies held off the early assault, and then scored on their first opportunity. Melbourne’s Lliam Webster poked his own rebound through the goal pads of China’s Yu Yang, with assists going to Andrew White and tournament MVP Greg Oddy. From that point the Chinese never seemed like they had what they needed to win. Both teams hit the posts but the Aussies also won in that phantom category; 5 to 1 in the almost-goals.

The Australian win means many things, but the significance of happening on the Centenary of ice hockey in Australia, and the Centenary of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and on home soil made it a very special occasion for the capacity crowd. With volunteers and players included, rink management estimated an unprecedented 1200 people in the rink to witness the victory. The Australian ice hockey community is already buzzing with the challenge of competing with Division I countries. The task is a mammoth one but not one person involved will believe that it is impossible.

The only goal was by Melbourne's Lliam Webster, off his own rebound. It wouldn't say "no". Yet, it said a great deal.

| Stats |

? ? [ 6 ] In mid-June, the Bendigo rink re-opened following weeks of renovations, which saw 500 volunteers put in 5000 hours of work (see "The Advertiser" article below).

? ? [ 7 ] Aussie Skates recently noted: "Ice Sports Victoria is a new organization developed under the guidance and support of the state government. It covers the sports of ice hockey, figure skating, curling and speed skating bringing them under one organisation whose aim is to promote and develop the ice sports in the lead up to the opening of the National Ice Sports Centre at the Docklands in 2009. Ice Sports…Melbourne’s greatest sporting secret!" (ed. — er... now early 2010 according to the developer. We heard footings were poured early 2009, but we've heard that before. Also, a project that size cannot be built in a year). We don't know of any other reference or links to this organisation but it sounds like the peak co-ordinating group for ice sports that we and others have suggested is urgently needed. A position description dated May 2006 was created for a part-time Sport Development Officer (SDO) with Andy Mc Dowell (IHV) and Cathy Taylor (ISV) as contacts. The position is now occupied by speed skater Melissa Kah, wife of Olympic speed skater, Danny Kah. She can apparently be contacted by email or by telephone (03) 9787 099. Download the SDO Position Description (2 pp. PDF file). A few years back, Melissa Kah boosted the Olympic Southern Flyers speed skating club from a membership of 12 to about 50 with new policies, a racing calendar, a web site and a newsletter. She pulled together information from the Australian Sports Commission; compiled a sport specific CD-ROM for other speed skating clubs across Australia; and presented the Olympic Southern Flyers’ formula for success at a recent national workshop. An Ice Sports Victoria "Family Fun Day" was held on 30th June 2008, but we haven't heard of any development initiatives for other ice sports. The full Southern Flyers story by Kathy Reid can be viewed at the Australian Sports Commission. Perhaps the following article in Sport & Recreation Victoria's late-2006 newsletter is also related. At that time, IHV, ISV, VCA and VIR were granted $30,000 and the NISC "designs" were released:

? ? The new Ice Age
Active State, Spring/Summer 2006, p.15, The newsletter of Sport and Recreation Victoria

Usually one or two images come to mind when people think about ice sports. There is the grace associated with figure skating and the speed associated with ice hockey. Ice sports have long been ‘Cinderella’ sports, with small memberships, a low profile and few facilities. But a project funded through Sport and Recreation Victoria is giving four of Victoria’s leading ice sport organisations the chance to grow through collaboration. Bolstered by a proposal to build a National Ice Sports Centre at the Docklands, Ice Skating Victoria, the Victorian Curling Association, Victorian Ice Racing and Ice Hockey Victoria have come together to prepare an overarching development plan for ice sports. The project will also help the individual sports review their business so they are in prime position to capitalise on gathering momentum.

The Victorian Curling Association’s vice- president Andrew Butler welcomes the new voice ice sports are now projecting. His organisation is also working to strengthen its own position by improving recruitment, administration and governance in the sport. Victorian Ice Racing has about 50 members, two of which were members of the Australian Team for the 2006 Winter Olympics. “As well as increasing our visibility through working together, we also hope to develop an image for short track speed skating which is contemporary and appealing to school aged children,” said the association’s Melissa Kah. With almost 800 members, Ice Hockey Victoria is the biggest player in the ice sports field. President Rick Shaw said the project gave ice hockey the chance to develop a five-year plan, which would include school recruitment and community marketing. International judge and vice president of Ice Skating Victoria, Cathy Taylor, said the project would help raise the profile, not only of ice skating, but ice sports as a whole. “Importantly, it will create a united voice for Victoria’s ice sports in lobbying for facilities and further funding,” she said.

Ice sports received a further boost recently, with the four organisations sharing $30,000 of funding made available through the State Sporting Association Support Grants (SSASG) program. Announced in September, the latest round of SSASG funding means Victoria’s sports associations and disability sport organisations will share over $2 million to help build and enhance their sports. The grants are aimed at strengthening sporting associations in one of three key areas: improving business skills; providing ongoing participant, volunteer and community involvement in sport and recreation activities; and recruiting sport development staff to promote more inclusive membership. For more information regarding the SSASG, please contact Program Manager, Jane Ferguson on telephone (03) 9208 3508.

Notes + Attachments

[1] About Brisbin Brook Beynon
BBB has offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Istanbul and a satellite office in Boca Raton and focuses on architecture, urban design, planning, interior design and project management. Clients range from universities and government to financial institutions and development companies in Canada, the US and overseas. Recent projects include: Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the Neurological Research Institute at the University of Ottawa and Metropolitan Toronto's new city hall, Metro Hall.

[2] About Murray Beynon
Mr. Beynon is Partner-in-Charge at BBB and a registered architect in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Kentucky, Georgia, New York and Illinois. A University of Toronto graduate, Mr. Beynon worked for several years in Japan, Australia and France where he was involved in the design of numerous facilities. Mr. Beynon was Managing Architectural Partner for such recent projects as Vancouver's General Motors (GM) Place, Toronto's Air Canada Centre and Helsinki's Hartwall Centre. Mr. Beynon's particular expertise is introducing economic viability for facilities to enhance their long-term asset value into the design and planning process. Mr. Beynon led the Canadian bid for Expo 2000 in Toronto. In this capacity, he co-ordinated the physical planning, design components and presentation materials for the bid, raised over $8 million in the private sector, secured the support of three levels of government and co-ordinated the international lobbying for the decision (where Canada lost by one vote to Germany).

National Ice Sports Centre dumped on Footscray border
7 Feb 2008, Ross Carpenter B Arch (RMIT) M Des (Urban Design) ARAIA

The Melbourne Docklands precinct is currently one third complete or under construction and by around 2020 is expected to be home to 20,000 residents and 40,000 workers with 20 million visitors annually. The Outline Development Plan (ODP) for the Waterfront City precinct, in which the National Ice Sports Centre (NISC) is proposed, was approved by the Minister for Planning in 2003. It is a shopping and entertainment area revolving around two features: the main pedestrian thoroughfare with the “ferris wheel” and the surrounding commercial properties (images in viewer above). The Development Plan was amended to include approval for a 4-storey car park. Although Melbourne City Council has no authority over Docklands, they were invited to comment and they supported it because modifications were made to add the NISC in two floors above the roof of the car park. They wanted to see an active use integrated within the site, not just carparking, and the rink proposal did that. The consortium developer, ING, had gained approval for the 4-storey carpark and then indicative approval for two additional levels for the NISC.

Mathew Stanley, a reporter with ABC Stateline, interviewed ING Real Estate Development Australia (ING REDA) and other members of the Consortium in May 2007 (original transcript or see below). That was 14 months after the Minister had announced the successful Consortium for the rinks, and Stanley said talk had turned to rumours the project was in danger of collapsing. He said, according to those close to it, the problem was the untested nature of the investment, although ING was spending big, building a 120m high observation wheel modeled on the London Eye, the most popular paid visitor attraction in the UK, visited by over 3 million people a year. He said, by comparison, ING considered an ice rink outside its guidelines, to which Greg Boyd, CEO of ING replied: "globally, we have to look to see where we allocate funds and I guess it's probably similar to a number of other institutions, but it's not an approved category."

Yet, ABC Stateline also reported ING had poured foundations for a Dockland's carpark capable of supporting the weight of two international-sized ice rinks noting that, other than the government's $10 million, there was still no investor willing to bank-roll the rest of the $50 million project, even though a crucial deadline was imminent. The deadline was no doubt Boyd's comment in The Age two months earlier (20th March) where he said a final decision would be required by June if the project was to get off the ground. Stateline asked Boyd: 'with only eight weeks to go until that deadline are you not concerned at all that there are no investors on board yet?' Boyd just replied: 'I would be more concerned if the Icehouse (NISC) didn't come to Waterfront City'. Very ironic, because it is now clear that the NISC ice rink proposal was crucial to ING in securing permits for two more floors to their stand-alone, 6-storey $40 million carpark. Moreover, the end of June 2007 also marked the end of the State Government's 2006-7 Budget, in which the last $0.6 million of the State's total $10 million contribution to establish an international-standard ice-sports venue in Victoria, was budgeted for expenditure. That, of course, was earmarked for ING's Consortium, who had been nominated by the government. By then, the full $10 million had been approved to be spent through the previous four State budgets, even though the Minister had said as late as October 2006 that the government now "awaits the consortia confirmation of the development proposal and financing arrangements". The same article in The Age in March said insiders blame the location in the under-developed Waterfront City precinct for deterring developers from investing in the project: "Stage one (of Waterfront City) has been a complete disaster... until ING develops the second stage and brings a critical mass of people to the area, developers will consider it a very risky project."

Soon after, ING submitted new drawings to further amend the Development Plan to include two additional levels of car parking, instead of the rooftop NISC. Those drawings were commenced in February, 2007 — just before Boyd said publicly that ING would wait until June "to see if the project would get off the ground" — and last dated May 9th, 2007, a few days before the Stateline interview broadcast on the 12th (image left). The proposal was now a six-level, stand-alone car park structure. In The Age on July 12th, 2007, Boyd said the carpark site was problematic and the development timeline restrictive. "It gave investors little room to review, tighten or modify the plans, and this added to the perceived risk," he said. "It is now extremely unlikely the Icehouse will be developed at that location in Waterfront City." He declined to comment on an alternative site for the project. The ING Amendment said the NISC was no longer economically viable due to their inability to attract investors to provide funds. They said investors 'strongly preferred' a stand-alone site at ground level, rather than above a multi-level car park structure. They said their preference was therefore to relocate the NISC within the Waterfront City “Human Services Land” located adjacent to the Moonee Ponds Creek. Part of their justification for the additional carparking was that the two additional floors were about equal to the building envelope of the approved 4-storey car park, combined with the in-principle agreement they had for the NISC located on the two levels above. They argued it was the same thing in terms of visual mass, but that envelope had only been indicatively approved with an active use, specifically the NISC and not carparking, on the the 5th and 6th level. Besides which, a carpark looks a lot different to an active use (as shown in the images at left) and that was one of the City council's urban design concerns.

The Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) referred the application to the City of Melbourne on 17 July 2007 and requested comments within 28 days. In their (late) response on 22 August 2007, the City of Melbourne Council did not support the proposed amendment on the grounds of poor urban design and the relationship with the public realm; and 'in-principle objection' to a stand alone car park:

"We do not support the additional parking, as it would reinforce this as a single-use site and support a relatively unsustainable mode of transport. The ICE stadium was supported, as it contributed a mix of uses to the site. We would like to see a commitment to the envisaged SOHO units before any additional parking were added to the site. Consideration should be given to extending public transport services before increasing carparking. An extension of the Docklands Drive tram line into a loop would enhance development of the E-Gate site on the north side of Footscray Rd. The development of the Human Services Land should be undertaken in the context of a coordinated community infrastructure plan developed in consultation with the City of Melbourne and giving consideration to the provision of money in lieu of land in some circumstances. Building Design: If 2 levels are added to the building, it will become more prominent and design standards should be higher. If anything, parts of the additional levels appear to be less attractive than the levels below. Environmental Sustainability: Consideration should be given to using the roof area for rainwater collection and energy generation.”

The City had also recommended extending public transport services to the precinct. About 2 weeks later, on October 2nd, 2007, the Council Planning Committee resolved to meet with the Minister for Major Projects to discuss the Amendment application and the future of the ice skating rink. The outcome is unknown. The Minister's Major Projects Victoria portfolio manages large-scale development and construction projects for the Victorian Government, from concept to completion, as allocated by the Premier. Their recent sports facilities include the Rectangular Stadium and the Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre. The NISC was conceived as a government-assisted private sector project, not a State 'Major Project'. Justin Madden approved the NISC funding as Minister for Sport and Recreation and the first commitment was made in the 2003-4 State budget. Late in 2006, a short while before he resigned, the Premier announced a cabinet reshuffle in which Madden became the Minister for Planning; the ministerial position with approval authority over the 2007 Development Plan Amendment to the car park.

The NISC proposal was dumped from the carpark roof, as proposed in the carpark Amendment, and a construction contract was let to Hansen Yuncken, builders of the $120 million 'ferris wheel' at Waterfront City. They are now also builders of this $40 million, 6-storey car park, aka the National Ice Sports Centre. According to their website, it consists of a new 7-level car park, with a total floor area of over 65,000 m2 holding 2,200 cars serving the 1B North and South stages of the Waterfront City retail, commercial and residential uses. It has nothing to do with ice rinks and it never did. So, $160 million worth of ferris wheel and carparks but, no ice sports complex. The 'wheel' attracts customers to ING's retail and commercial uses and the car parks directly deliver them there, via enclosed bridges. Combined, they generate revenue in direct competition with retailers in Melbourne's CBD, where parking has long been discouraged by pricing policy and limits on the supply of new car parks.

Professionals in the development industry can tell you 'Amendments' like this are a tried and true tactic to gain approval for what a developer really wants or needs. They start with something acceptable to all authorities, then gradually become something altogether different, after several bites at the cherry over a number of years. To a trained eye, the first images released by the Minister show a 6-storey carpark dressed-up to look like an ice sports centre when compared to the final approved carpark. For example, the additional carpark levels are evident in the distance at the very end (more obvious in the larger, second image in the viewer at the top of the page). No-one we know has seen NISC floor plans although Melbourne Ice IHC were involved in some kind of briefing for the centre.

The International-size rinks, for which footings had reportedly been poured, could not practicably fit within the carpark envelope. The walls at each end would have been only a metre or two from the ice, and more space than that is required for access to and from the 1,000 seats or so each side (see interior 3D image), ice resurfacing, and the like. The same is true if they were rotated 90° (diagram in viewer above). Further, access for the ice resurfacer (Zamboni) could only be achieved by either extended carpark ramps, or a heavy-duty platform lift from ground level to the 5th-floor ice surface. Otherwise, provision for craning would be required for off-site maintenance or replacement. Similarly, the extensive building engineering services required by ice rinks are also more costly to provide and operate at upper levels.

There was more to this scheme that didn't add up, but the point is that any sensible, cost-conscious plan would have located the rinks — the active uses — at ground and first floor levels like any other similar development, with the parking located above. Yet, ING did not propose that; even though they said one of the main reasons they didn't attract investors was the location of their ice rink complex, 5-storeys in the air. Instead, they deleted the rink complex in favour of more carparks. Well, you simply don't expect to attract investors to a 5th-floor rink scheme like that. Accordingly, you are left with some kind of grounds to do something else with the 'approved' space, and the Minister saw fit to approve more car parks. It's never that simple and that is his job but, even so, if NISC plans were prepared, we doubt that they were ever properly developed for the above reasons. The layout of a well-designed rink complex requires a good deal of research, consultation and resources. A developer who commits them using public funds without project viability loses credibilty, and ING would be concerned to preserve their good, but short, 7-year reputation here. Yet, they discussed the rink proposal above their 4-storey carpark in The Age and on ABC Stateline, when they had already drawn plans to replace it with two more floors of car parking.

The Hon. Justin Madden, a registered architect with 30 years experience in sport, was the Minister for Sport and Recreation from project inception and throughout its funding commitments in four State budgets, before becoming Planning Minister with the authority to dispose of the NISC, and so enlarge the carpark by about one-third. VicUrban, who control Docklands and report to a Board, had a power of veto that they did not use; the City of Melbourne opposed it but had no power. The application was not publicly advertised because there is no requirement to do so under the Docklands Zone. It's a kind of 'planning' that is now quite common in Victoria and nowhere more so than in Docklands. The "Human Services" land that the NISC is now proposed to occupy is within the Waterfront City precinct and was/is controlled by the Department of Human Services who plan, fund and deliver health, community and housing services. Melbourne City Council, who will be responsible for Docklands from 2010, believe it should be developed in the context of a coordinated community infrastructure plan developed in consultation with the City of Melbourne and giving consideration to the provision of money in lieu of land in some circumstances. There are presently less than 4,000 residents in Docklands. About 160 (4 %) are under the age of 14, and about 900 are aged 15 to 24 (demographics).

Ice sports need every developer they can find, even if Melbourne has to advertise nationally to attract one of numerous interstate rink developers and/or operators who know what they are doing. Consortium partner, Andrew Shelton, is reportedly a former investment banker involved in ice sports and he certainly wants international-standard rinks. ING have little or no experience with sports facilities in Melbourne but the local branch of Sydney-based Cox Architects does. It was set up when Cox were commissioned to do facilities like Rod Laver Arena and they are now administering construction of their new Rectangular Stadium at Olympic Park. Their Sydney office is capable but we think there are better local options. ING probably do want an ice rink of sorts to draw patrons to their Waterfront City investments; the shops, the 'Wheel' and the ice discos, presently staged on their small, temporary rinks. But the latter are neither sport facilities, nor any gauge for ice rink demand here. They are poorly located for ice sports and events; for use by recreationalists, not athletes. Melbourne eventually needs multiple rinks in different locations, as has already happened interstate, particularly in NSW and Queensland, and so there is scope for a local facility in Docklands.

However, until recently, the proposed location could only mainly serve a catchment that can access it by private transport, probably mostly from the west, until such time as public transport lines were extended. It is a 2km walk from Southern Cross Station and about 1km from the nearest tram stop. The Tram 86 service (Bundoora RMIT- Docklands) currently travels down Bourke, Spencer and LaTrobe Streets to Harbour Esplanade. On February 5th, 2008, the Docklands Coordination Committee announced its extension into Docklands Drive, which had long been planned. This Department of Infrastructure decision means it will continue along the waterfront to Docklands Drive and through the New Quay and Waterfront City precincts (see map). Trams are planned to service the area every four minutes in peak periods, every six minutes in the off-peak, and at core times on weekends. It's primarily the evenings and weekends that this facility will be used and, if present demand at Oakleigh is any indication, 'core times' won't cover its hours of operation. Outside core times, there will be no trams. Nonetheless, when trams are running, the extension will reduce the walk from the nearest current tram stop, to the newly proposed NISC site, to about 0.4km or two city blocks — a significant improvement, but still distant. As part of these changes, which are proposed to be introduced ahead of the opening of the 'ferris wheel' later in 2008, the La Trobe Street tram route 30 will terminate at Spencer Street. It currently travels to New Quay in Docklands during daytime off peak periods. This is better public transport access, but what is really required is a service outside core times and further extension into a loop through Waterfront City, as the City of Melbourne propose. Because the loss of a central location well-served by public transport is one of several key reasons why ice sports here have declined over the past century, quite literally, to the brink of extinction.
The NISC would have made perfect sense in the Stadium precinct, on the eastern edge of Docklands. It consists of Telstra Dome, Seven Network's Melbourne Digital Broadcast Centre, Victoria Point apartments, Bendigo Bank offices, and Quest serviced apartments. It is linked to Southern Cross Station and the Melbourne CBD by the Bourke Street pedestrian bridge, built over railway lines. Yet, remarkably, all but one of the sites were sold to developers since the NISC was first mooted, and they will soon sprout high-rise commercial towers (image below). The last, the 1.6 ha South East Stadium Precinct, is large enough for a twin-rink arena and ideally positioned between Telstra Dome and Southern Cross Station. VicUrban's shortlist of two for the right to develop it was made on December 20th, 2007; Bourke Junction Consortium (ISPT, CBUS Property and EPC Partners) and the joint venture of Leighton Properties and Devine Limited. The successful bid is expected February, 2008, but the site is earmarked for a mixed use development incorporating commercial, hotel and retail, with an opportunity to complement the entertainment and tourism focus of the adjoining stadium. It obviously won't house an ice arena although it could have been in the base of any one of 3 of these 4 development opportunities. Wherever the twin-rink arena lands, it should be HIGHLY accessible by public transport and nearby similar sports facilities, in a location like the Stadium precinct or at Melbourne & Olympic Parks — primarily for the benefit of paying patrons of future ice sports and events, who are essential to the ongoing viability of the facilities.

An adequate twin-rink arena, with seating for 1,000 or so per rink, could be provided for about half the proposed NISC budget of $55 million. Running and replacement costs have crippled ALL make-shift rinks in tin sheds here over the past 40 years, except under-sized Oakleigh (est. 1971), which has cost proportionately less to run (though still very inefficient); received minimal capital improvements; and now has little or no property debt service. Others included Moorabbin (1966-70); Ringwood (1971-82; 1994-2003); Dandenong (1977-87); Footscray (1979-86); Bayswater (2004, closed same year); Geelong (2000-04) and Bendigo (1986-2008). Those leaky, rusting sheds either closed after a few years, or otherwise survived until the 7-11 year mark, when maintenance and replacement costs — on top of inefficient running costs, property lease payments or debt service — really began to bite. Like running your fridge with its door wide open. Efficient and durable ice arenas are designed to be airtight. The YMCA-run Bendigo rink lasted longer, but the problem was the same, except that local Council assistance prolonged its (un)economic life, even though a purpose-built facility has been mooted for years. Even St Moritz (1939-81) suffered poor ventilation and damp, causing the structure to rot from the early 1950s. The building it occupied was originally built in 1923 as a dance saloon and cafe. Melbourne's only purpose-built rink was Reid's Glaciarium Ltd which survived in its two incarnations for over half a century. Cyclical costs, and their associated greenhouse emissions, can be substantially reduced with purpose-designed buildings and new carbon-neutral building and engineering services technology. These days, the extra capital outlay that requires is likely to be significantly offset by Sustainability Victoria grants (discussed elsewhere on this site). In March 2002, Don McKnight, former President of Ice Skating Australia, explained on Radio National how the tropical north came to have more and better ice-sports venues than anywhere else in the country:

'... we do have the best facilities, and one of the reasons that we have got it is that the facilities themselves are purpose-built. We live in a hot environment, in a humid environment, and all our buildings are very well insulated, so that all year round we have consistency of ice temperature, consistency of ice quality. And that's been brought about because something like 25 years ago, my fellow partner and I undertook a lease of a commercial ice-rink in Brisbane, and we undertook that lease on behalf of the Ice Skating Association of Queensland. We were both keen judges, keen skaters ourselves, and we decided that we needed to do something to try and ensure the sport survived. So we leased this ice-rink for a period of three years, and we were able to make some money out of that. With that money, we then approached the State government, who came good with a loan to us, and we then approached the banks for money, which they gave to us only on condition that we personally guaranteed the loan, so that was a bit of a handle. Nevertheless we got around that one. We bought a piece of land and we built an ice-rink, and that ice-rink belongs to the Ice Skating Association of Queensland, and we act as Trustees of that Association. After we'd been operating for a period of about 12 years, we'd made sufficient money then to buy another piece of land, and we built a second ice-rink, and that is a magnificent facility, if I may say so, on the other side of the city from the first one, and that's equipped with a gym and with a licensed bar and restaurant, and we use those rinks to promote the training of our skaters."

'Permanent' ice rinks in Victoria since inception. Temporary rinks such as Ballarat not shown. Click for full image in new window.

Quite frankly, that has also proved to be a better development model for Melbourne than the NISC Consortium. It is basically the approach Reid's syndicates employed in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney a century earlier. The 5,500 ice rinks in Canada each serve an average 0.006 million people and the 2,200 rinks in the US each serve an average of 0.12 million people. Most US skating rinks are owned and operated by towns or cities, which subsidize their operations. NSW and Queensland have both lost rinks (Blacktown and Loganholme) but those presently operating there and in WA serve on average less than 1 million people. In SA, it's 1 per 0.8 million and less than 1 per 0.5 million in the ACT and Tasmania. On the other hand, Victoria has 1 rink per 5 million people. It will take 4 more rinks to make it comparable to the other larger States, and really five. Oakleigh is too small for International- or even National-standard competition and, 37 years on, it is run-down, inefficient and costly to use. It has operated for the past 3 years without market competition. The better, international-size rinks in SA, WA and Queensland, and half the rinks in NSW, are less expensive to use than Oakleigh, where children are charged adult prices. Like Oakleigh, some of the larger NSW and Queensland rinks have been operating for up to 35 years. On most measures, Oakleigh is among the most-expensive rinks in the country, yet it is seriously under-sized by one-third; it is often overcrowded; and the comparatively few amenities it has are neglected to avoid costs. The shower, toilet and wash facilities are under-provided and do not meet public health standards or regulations. The building is non-compliant in terms of fire safety and escape; an emergency incident when crowded could be disastrous. The spate of make-shift rinks in tin sheds started after the Melbourne Glaciarium burnt down in 1964 and St Moritz began its slow decline. They filled the gap on and off, but poorly, and Melbourne lost it's way. For a moment there, that looked like it was about to change with recognition of the gap in ice sports facilities by the previous State government, and funding assistance from this one to provide a purpose-built arena. However, that began 9 years ago, in which time 4 of 5 rinks have closed, and no progress has been made by the Consortium to whom this government gave the 'opportunity to develop an international standard ice-sports centre'.

Cost of public ice skating sessions including skate hire, Australia, 2008

State City Adult < 5yrs 5-9yrs 10-12yrs 13-14yrs Family
SA Noarlunga $11 $11 $11 $11 $11 -
Thebarton $16.50 $9 $14 $14 $14 15% off
Qld Boondall $13.50 $7 $12 $12 $12 -
Acacia Ridge $13.50 $7 $12 $12 $12 -
Gold Coast $15 $12 $12 $12 $12 -
Townsville $15 $5 $15 $15 $15 $50
NSW Coffs Harbour $12 $2.50 $9.50 $9.50 $12 -
Newcastle $15 $10* - $15 $15 $50 *< 8yrs
Erina $15 $12 $12 $15 $15 $50
Canterbury $16 $9 $15 $15 $15 $55
Baulkham Hills $18 $13 $15 $15 - $54
Penrith $18 $15 $15 $15 $18 $55
North Ryde $19 $17 $17 $17 $17* - * < 16 yrs
WA Mirrabooka $15 $11 $11 $11 $11 -
Freemantle $17 $10 $17 $17 $17 $60
Vic Oakleigh $15 $15 $15 $15 $15 $50
ACT Philip $16 $16 $16 $16 $16 -

Source: Ice rink websites. Some rinks have price discounted sessions and slightly different age divisions.
Family pass usually equals 2 adults and 2 children. Skate hire included above is usually $3.00.

It is possible that ING proceeded in good faith; possible that they simply changed tack as they said because they could not attract investors. If so, they needed a better facility concept, economic model and investment/ management strategy. Capable developers committed to raising venture capital would include in their prospectus pre-booked ice with local hockey leagues, figure-speed skating and curling groups, just as builders of office and residential buildings try to prelease space during design. That is common in the US. They would have examined the potential size, age and household incomes of the target catchment of their proposed location. They would have investigated the reasons for the service gaps and failures of no less than nine 'permanent' ice rinks in Melbourne over the past 37 years — one closure on average every 4 years. They would have considered the likely location and impact of future competition and developed a long-term strategy for survival in order to rebuild lost investment confidence. Locating the NISC where it is now proposed will affect opportunities for future rinks in the west. A suburban rink there is likely to be most viable strategically located on the fork of the Melton and Sunbury metro-regional rail lines at Sunshine, perhaps at or near Victoria University or one of two sub-regional shopping centres there (see Strategy). The core catchment reduces farther out toward Watergardens (Sydenham) and Deer Park, and the travel time savings from regional stations that would benefit is only 10 minutes or less (timetables). Ballarat-line passengers can alight at Sunshine (1 hr from Ballarat, every hour) and Bendigo-line passengers can alight there on peak services or connect from Watergardens, each hour on weekends. The outlying growth areas of Melton (pop. 35,000) and Sunbury (pop. 31,000) are within 20-minute rail access of Sunshine. There is strong interest in ice sports in the west. The original government feasibility study for the ice sports centre (Marriott:Jan 2001) cited proposals from Ballarat Council jointly with the local YMCA, and Maribynong Council jointly with Victoria University. However, the NISC site on Footscray's eastern border would overlap up to half the core catchment of a Sunshine rink, leaving the other half under-serviced and less accessible, because a second rink in the west would probably not be viable for many years thereafter.

Overlaps like that are particularly costly with ice rinks because they are highly-specialised and therefore often only marginally economic, or uneconomic if poorly planned and designed. The main urban rink should be located centrally such that it preserves the location that best serves both the western suburbs and the growth areas beyond. Docklands boasts about an estimated resident population of 20,000 people in 2020 but, even if that eventuates, they would be equally well served by ice facilities at or near Melbourne Park. Over three times that number live at Sunbury and Melton right now and, like most people in the western suburbs, they can access Sunshine much quicker and easier than the Moonee Ponds Creek. Between 2001-06, Melbourne experienced the largest population growth of all Australian capital cities, increasing by 273,000 people (or 150 people per day). The inner-city grew by just over 50%, but the largest and fastest growth occurred in the Melbourne suburban fringe LGAs of Casey (40,700 people or 4.1% per year) and Melton (28,100 people or 8.9% per year). Like it or not, the viability of ice rinks in Victoria depends on factors such as these, particularly for future suburban rinks with potential regional drawing power. The best strategic locations are far from arbitrary. Like specialty shops, they rely on socio-economic catchments that are determined by a range of factors such as access and proximity to other rinks, or even vastly different recreational alternatives. The service role and location of the central urban rink in a future heirarchy of suburban ice centres needs to take that into account. Failure to do so will be at its own peril because its catchment and viability will be affected by a western suburbs rink that will be established eventually. Without planning and design, future commercial ice rinks will continue to underperform and will surely fail, taking the natural growth and development of ice sports with them. Australia has had viable, economic models for ice rinks for over a century and it still does interstate. Today's technology and government sustainability incentives can reduce capital and operating costs even lower than the best of them. Victoria also has a significant economic advantage over any other State because it has a higher population density and three-quarters of it is in greater Melbourne, accessible by a 15-line, radial metro train network that extends even farther to numerous outlying growth centres. That is because most of Melbourne's growth occurrs along the original and extended rail corridors.

ING will finance office, retail, industrial, residential and hotel development, like most real estate developers and property managers. However, the NISC is not one of those 'approved investment categories', even though one-fifth is a government grant. So, why is Australia's National Ice Sports Centre in the hands of real estate agents who don't finance sports facilities? Probably for the same reason that any estate agent wants property (rental income) and/or to attract potential customers to their Dockland's real estate investments — but obviously without the financial risk of ice rinks. There are a few examples of rinks in shopping centres interstate, too, even tourist precincts like the Big Banana rink at Coffs Harbour (1999). Well, Melbourne is not short on landlords, particularly the Docklands variety. Nor is it short on Crown land in sporting precincts. Victoria's ice rinks have been provided by the private sector for over a century — a fact that Justin Madden was quick to latch on to in Parliament, as early as March 2002: "I reinforce that the difficulty in this area is that across the rest of Australia and traditionally ice sports facilities have been privately-owned ventures. This would be new territory for the government, and because of that it is proceeding cautiously to ensure that any potential public-private partnership does not expose the government to excessive risk, as was the case with the privatisation that the previous government undertook."

Yet, many ice arenas the world over are fully government-funded and most major sports facilities in Australia are largely government-funded. No disrespect intended, but that statement nonsensically equates government-assistance for a National sports facility to the previous government's privatisation of public assets, and the upshot is absurd: ice sports in Victoria received a government-nominated project Consortium comprised of tenants (Olympic Winter Institute [OWI]), estate agent and no financial partners. Between them, they have achieved exactly nothing in exactly two years. The OWI focuses the little resources it has on getting the best Olympics results and medals. It's website barely mentions ice hockey and curling. Of six coaching staff only one, short track, is ice rink-related, two if you want to count the acrobatic skill coach; the rest are for snow sports. They are involved only with the elite winter athletes Australia-wide, of which ice sports are a pronounced minority. Of them, only those with recent Olympic success receive resources, like short track (7 athletes) and figure skating (5 athletes). And of them, only one or two are Victorians and they have left to train on international standard facilities interstate, like others before them. The NISC proposition is so far removed from the present organisers and participants in mainstream ice sports in Victoria, that is very difficult to imagine it will ever work in their best interests. Why is it proposed that the OWI preside over the city's future International-standard rinks, when the vast majority of ice athletes and enthusiasts in Melbourne have no other, and won't benefit from OWI's elite programs? Perhaps it was some suggestion that Victoria would then retain a couple of elite speed and figure skaters. Clearly, that will only happen with world-class rinks; with or without the OWI. All four mainstream ice sports in Victoria are in desperate need, including their National and International athletes; not the elite winter olympians of the whole Nation. A government-assisted ice arena would be best co-ordinated by ALL stakeholders; like the State associations of the four controlling bodies; IHV, ISV, VIRA, VCA, on an equal footing with the OWI. That may be what the OWI intends, but there is so far no evidence of it. There should be.

A report to Parliament in September 2006 (Public Accounts and Estimates Committee) noted Madden had advised: "execution of the project agreement will be subject to the developer securing finance and meeting the government’s requirements for the Centre". It recommended: "in future announcements on the National Ice Sports Centre, the Department for Victorian Communities outline: (a) construction timelines; (b) the allocation of risks; and (c) the State’s financial commitment to the project." However, almost 18 months on, that still doesn't appear to have happened, even though ING (or someone) have the public funds committed to ice sports tied-up. Treasury reports show $10 million of taxpayer's funds WAS allocated to a new ice rink facility for Melbourne, and it WAS approved by the government for expenditure, progressively each budget between 2003-4 and 2006-7 (Table 2.1 below). The $9 million State Volleyball Centre at Dandenong also received funds in the same timeframe but it, at least, was completed and opened. Yet, the NISC idea has been neatly relocated without public notice to a third 'preferred site', on the Moonee Ponds Creek in the Docklands boondocks; the border of Footscray. It was supposed to close the 30-year gap in International-standard facilities for not one, but multiple, ice sports here. That in itself is a problem but, more importantly, what is the government doing about the public funds that they put towards it? What about the interest on the $10 million capital value committed in four budgets since 2003-4; currently $2 million and compounding at 7 percent per annum or more? The lost opportunity cost? It looks like the funds need a 'Use By' date. After which they return to sender... address unknown. And start again. The bid by the government nominated Consortium was made subject to them securing finance. That hasn't happened and Sports Minister Berlino should promptly re-tender the project nationally. Given the long delays, the significant government funding, and this outcome; the project now needs the project management approach used by Major Projects Victoria for delivering any other major sports facility. Because, the situation with ice sports in Victoria is now gravely critical.

Ice sports there have received no credit for a century of self-sufficiency, at a time when sports with similar international rankings such as soccer, share in a package consisting of a $270 million rectangular stadium and long-term leases of adjacent sporting fields. All of which is mostly State government-funded on crown land at Melbourne & Olympic Parks, with the intent of increasing the popularity of soccer and rugby football codes in Victoria. The reasons are (1) Australia dominates Rugby League internationally and it is the 2nd-most successful nation in Rugby Union; and (2) The FIFA World Cup (soccer) and Rugby World Cup (Rugby Union) are the 1st and 3rd largest international sporting events in the world; the second is the summer Olympics. They each attract a cumulative world television audience of over 3.5 billion. The 2008 Rugby League World Cup will be held at multiple venues in Australia as part of celebrations for the centenary of the game in the southern hemisphere and it was recently announced that Australia will bid for the Soccer World Cup. Victoria's role in all that has been minimal because it was the birthplace of the indigenous rival code, Australian Rules football. Nonetheless, it has still positioned itself to have a share in it. As history has it, 2008 is also the centenary year of ice hockey in the southern hemisphere but, unlike rugby and soccer, which both started in NSW, ice hockey started and spread Nation-wide from the same Melbourne schools as Australian Rules football had earlier done. The Victorian Ice Hockey Association (VIHA) was formed the same year as the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) itself. Yet, the only international event that might mark the occasion will be at one of seven rinks in NSW, in an IIHF-compliant arena seating 1,000 people. Unfortunately, despite 9 years of government deliberations and $10 million of government funding, Melbourne does not even have that. Ice hockey world championships attract a cumulative world television audience of over 700 million from more than 50 countries. Skoda Australia are supporting this one. Through ice hockey, Skoda became the longest main sponsor of world championships in sport history in 2007. Others include Medibank Private. IHA President, Don Rurak, had this to say on the IHNSW (State Press) website:
About the approval authorities:
The Minister for Planning is the Responsible Authority for granting planning approvals for the Docklands area. VicUrban is a Referral Authority under the provisions of the Melbourne Planning Scheme, and, as such, all applications are required to be referred to it for comment. Referral Authority status confers power of veto over any planning application decision and any comment made by VicUrban, in its capacity as a Referral Authority, must be accepted and applied by the Minister for Planning (via DPCD) in the decision making process including conditions on planning permits. The City of Melbourne has no formal status in the planning approval process for the Docklands area, however for some years it has been involved in the process as a result of a Ministerial protocol which requires that the Council be consulted on all planning proposals.
Sources: ABC Stateline broadcast, 12 May 07; Melbourne City Council Minutes and Reports; State Government reports, Hansen Yuncken Builders website; other links above.

Getting the skates on with National Ice Sports Centre
Ian Royall, Herald Sun, Melbourne, October 31, 2008

WORK on Melbourne's new National Ice Sports Centre at Docklands will start early next year. The State Government would contribute $10 million for the $58 million project, which should be open by early 2010, Sport and Recreation Minister James Merlino said. It will be the home for ice hockey, ice-skating, curling and speed skating events, as well as the base of the national Olympic Winter Institute. Waterfront City developer ING has confirmed it had secured the finance to help fund the project.

The centre will have two rinks and be able to host national and international events. The only option for ice sports now is the single-rink Olympic Ice Skating Centre in Oakleigh South. The new centre will be on the western edge of the Waterfront City development near the Docklands studios. It will also sit in the shadows of the Southern Star Observation Wheel, which is due to open next month. "It is a boost to our economy. It's a boost to the sports that will be conducted here," Mr Merlino said. The centre would be popular for ice sports enthusiasts and recreational users, he said. The centre was an election promise by state Labor in 2002. Mr Merlino said ING had guaranteed the funding to start the centre, despite the global financial crisis. ING Greg Boyd said the ice project would take the company's investment in Waterfront City to $700 million. "One of the great things about Victoria is that we cater for a huge variety of sports," Mr Merlino said. "And this is the missing piece in the jigsaw." Waterfront City is now slowly taking shape, with the opening last week of the Harbour Town shopping centre, and the start of the $100 million wheel, which will open to the public on November 28.
Getting the Skates on, original Royall article and NISC image, October 2008.

Footnote: Melbourne-born Geoffrey J Henke AO (1926– ) is a former ice hockey player who married Gwenneth, daughter of Ted Molony. Their daughter, Joanne Patricia Henke (-McDougall), was born in 1958 at Falls Creek in Victoria and represented Australia in three alpine skiing events in the 1976 Games at Innsbruck in Austria. Henke became a vice-president of the Australian Olympic Committee, and later chairman of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, established in 1999, the year the National Ice Sports Centre was conceived at the tail-end of the Kennett government. Henke is also a life member of the Victorian Olympic Council, the International Ski Federation (FIS), and Ski & Snowboard Australia Ltd. He was co-creator of Dinner Plain, the only freehold village in the Australian Alps, with real-estate agent John Castran, and architect Peter McIntyre. Dinner Plain celebrated its 21st birthday in 2007. McIntyre's projects include the original Cadbury-Schweppes House at St Kilda Junction (1970), before the 1987 makeover by others; Knox City Shopping Centre (1972); and more recently, Smorgy's restaurant, perched on the end of the Cunningham Pier in Geelong. Henke was general manager and Chef de Mission of the Australian team in the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary, where Danny Kah was the best result placed tenth in the 5000 metres speed skating, and Colin Coates skated in his sixth Olympiad against orders. Story here.

New Dockland's Ice Sports Centre Development Gets the Go-ahead
Waterfront City web site, Wed October 29th, 2008

Melbourne’s new $58 million National Ice Sports Centre was today given the green light, making up another important piece of the Waterfront City precinct at Docklands. Sport and Recreation Minister, James Merlino said the Centre would be the first of its kind in Australia, catering for a range of elite ice sports events and a new recreational hub for Victorians and winter sports enthusiasts. “ING Real Estate is already a driving force behind the Southern Star observation wheel, which was launched earlier this week, and today I want to acknowledge their further investment in this terrific new project,” Mr Merlino said. “Along with a Victorian Government investment of $10 million, ING Real Estate’s contribution demonstrates investor confidence in the State”
“ING Real Estate is delighted to confirm that the planning application of the National Ice Sports Centre has been lodged with VicUrban with construction targeted to commence early next year.” Greg Boyd, Chief Executive Officer, ING Real Estate Development Australia. “In addition to Harbour Town shopping centre and the iconic Southern Star observation wheel, the National Ice Sports Centre will add even further to the exciting entertainment and retail destination at Waterfront City when it is forecast to open in early 2010.” Merlino also said “This new investment means, that by 2010, the National Ice Sports Centre will be the latest addition to a world-class network of sporting facilities and precincts that help make Melbourne the best sporting events city in the world.It will feature two rinks with spectator seating and be equipped to host national and international ice hockey, ice skating, curling and speed skating events.”
“The National Ice Sports Centre is a genuine first for Australia,” said Mr Geoff Henke, the Chairman of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia. “It’s a brilliant concept that gives new life to the long tradition of ice sports in Melbourne. The National Ice Sports Centre will become the official headquarters of the Olympic Winter Institute, and the cornerstone of national excellence, producing future Olympic champions.” Minister Merlino said “The Centre will also be the home of the Olympic Winter Institute and the national base for Olympic training, helping to support our elite athletes training to compete on the world stage. “Of course, the centre will also be open to the public for anyone wanting to try their hand at ice sports or recreational skating making it a wonderful addition to the other excellent entertainment options on offer at Waterfront City,” he said. Construction of the National Ice Sports Centre is scheduled to begin in early 2009 and is targeted to be completed early 2010. The project will generate an estimated 750 construction-related jobs, and once complete, will directly employ 25 full-time equivalent staff.

Skaters take to the ice
The Advertiser, Bendigo, 16 June 2008

THE Bendigo Ice-Skating Stadium re-opened at the weekend, eight months after it closed its doors to the public because of poor conditions. The Golden Square facility underwent a general maintenance overhaul following safety concerns the ice surface was too dangerous. Works included relaying pipes, improving the rink barrier, servicing the Zamboni, upgrading the sound system, painting and general maintenance. The re-opening followed weeks of renovations, which saw 500 volunteers put in 5,000 hours of work. Bendigo Ice-Skating Association committee member Debbie Botheras said it staggered her that people had put in so much time. ‘‘The committee and the skating user groups have looked forward for months to setting their blades back on the ice.’’ Ms Botheras said it was good to see ice hockey and figure skating competitors stay loyal to their sport, even when the rink’s future was in doubt and they had to withdraw from their season and championships.

Bendigo is home to the only Victorian rink outside of Melbourne. A barbecue for the volunteers was held on Friday night. The not-for-profit community facility will run with a bank of volunteers, paid employees and committee members. The City of Greater Bendigo Council gave the ice-skating stadium a $100,000 interest free lifeline in March this year to help out. The three-year loan was given on conditions that it meets upgrade requirements, maintains the facility, meets a financial plan, increases its level of volunteers, and has council representation on its management team. The rescue package helped to cover the $82,000 debt the centre owed the landlord and the YMCA, and $9,702 in upgrade costs to improve the rink’s safety, performance and efficiency. Northgate Minerals Corporation also donated $11,000 in April.

Goalposts moved on ice rink project
The Advertiser, Bendigo, 11 March 2008

HAVING read the report in The Advertiser on March 7 about the Bendigo ice rink, I completely agree with John Anderson - not only has the rink gone well past its use-by date, but the safety of all users must be addressed. It is still a major issue. Ten thousand dollars will do little to alter the shocking physical state of the premises, and I know - for the past eight years I have had to do plenty of emergency repairs hours before games just to make it safe for play. I also find it interesting that the council has stipulated that it be on the Bendigo Ice-Skating Association board. Since 1999, there has been a council representative at BISA meetings.

The association has lobbied the council since 1999 to help construct a new facility and every year the goalposts were moved and a new excuse rolled out. Late in 2005, a group was formed under the guise of the Bendigo Ice Users Group to address all aspects of ice sports in Bendigo and to work with the council in building a stadium. A full study was done and a report submitted, as per council request, with the belief it was to be put in the next financial budget. We went to great detail and even involved the Canadian Government, which at the time was willing to support the project with subsidised costs for the critical equipment needed and also to supply its top man to ensure all was done correctly. Then, as John Anderson states, we got in-kind support from the council, but instead of action we got no action as it hoped it would just slip away. So now it is saying it wants this all done again, but give us three years as well! And Cr Rod Fyffe, this is not a good facility to help lift and grow future elite sportsmen and women. The players in the past few years who have made an impact at national and international level have had to work twice as hard to achieve what they have, as the facility as it stands actually hinders their performance.

I find the council quite ignorant of what ice sports are about and what is needed in terms of an ice sports facility. If you want and need government funding for the project, it is never going to give it to you by just talking about it - commit to building it, put pen to paper, then you may find that support more forthcoming.

SHANE McKNIGHT, Junior Development Coach, Ice Hockey Bendigo

Rink 'not fit for use’
The Advertiser, Bendigo, 7 March 2008

A COUNCIL rescue package for the Bendigo Ice Skating Stadium was merely buying time for a doomed facility, a leading Bendigo ice sports figure has argued. The City of Greater Bendigo maintains keeping the privately run Golden Square ice rink open with a $100,000 loan it approved this week will provide a usable and increasingly rare facility for ice sports while bigger plans can be pursued. Bendigo Ice Skating Stadium in Hattam Street is the only ice rink outside Melbourne in Victoria. But former committee member and Australian Curling Association president John Anderson said he was disappointed the council had not seized the opportunity to move on the much needed new complex. ‘‘The council would be better served if it focussed its efforts and developed the major facility,’’ he said. ‘‘What this council needs to do is make the tough decision that would galvanise the issue and show our federal and state members, and close it (Hattam Street). We are pleased the rink will be able to be used, but it is not in a fit and proper state for ice sports. The ice is not of a standard where we are able to hold the National Championships this year.’’ He said the major problem lay with the aging ice plant, which could cost more than a $1 million to replace, and he doubted the present rink could remain financially viable. ‘‘But it’s just not worth it; it is really best to scrap it and start again,’’ he said. ‘‘You don’t pour money into a 15-year-old Holden and expect you can make a new Commodore.’’

Mr Anderson said he was frustrated that an in-principle approval of a proposed new complex, based beside the Schweppes Centre, was passed by the council almost two years ago and still had not resulted in any action. But City of Greater Bendigo Councillor Rod Fyffe, who also represents the council on the BISA committee, said a multi-million-dollar centre would not happen overnight and the loan would at least keep Hattam Street open for enthusiasts. ‘‘It’s a good facility to keep open for those who have these skills to keep using, to practise and hopefully go onto represent Bendigo at national and international levels,’’ he said. Cr Fyffe also rejected the suggestion that the rescue package was good money thrown after bad. ‘‘And this is not a grant, it is a loan, and they have a good track record of repaying these loans.’’ Cr Fyffe said he strongly supported the idea of the new complex to make Bendigo a centre for ice sports, but a multi-million-dollar project needed substantial and time consuming support from State and Federal governments, as well as private philanthropy. ‘‘It is also one of a whole host of projects in high demand that the council has to consider and it has to go into the mix.’’ The former manager of the Bendigo Ice Skating Stadium, Ed Yarrington, said five years might be too long a gap to expect Hattam Street to fill. ‘‘I think it’s fantastic that the council has given the centre the chance to keep operating,’’ he said. ‘‘But it’s very tired and does need some serious upgrades, and I think it is not sustainable in the long run.’’ He said he believed a definitive plan was needed in about 18 months, but he remained optimistic there was ‘‘light at the end of the tunnel’’ for ice sports in Bendigo.

City offers lifeline to ice skating rink: three-year interest-free loan helps clear existing debt
Bendigo Weekly, 7 March 2008, by News Report

THE City of Greater Bendigo council has thrown a $100,000 lifeline to the Bendigo Ice Skating Association to keep the skating facility in Hattam Street open. Mayor David Jones said the council would provide a three-year, $100,000 interest-free loan to BISA to clear existing debt and provide funds for much-needed works to take place at the centre. “BISA presented council with a proposal detailing how they plan to operate the centre in a sustainable and financially viable way,” he said. “The organisation plans to reduce operating costs by having a bank of volunteers to assist a paid employee and  this alone will provide significant annual savings. BISA has also developed a specific marketing plan to promote the centre to the wider community and have also detailed plans to improve the car park, undertake some exterior and interior painting  works and improve cleaning of the venue.” Cr Jones said the cooling plant was assessed and work to improve its performance and efficiency would begin immediately. A plan to maintain the plant and equipment has also been developed and costed. “The BISA group has also set out a detailed financial plan on how they plan to reduce debts and improve the centre’s revenue,” he said. “Council is pleased that we have been able to assist BISA to reopen the centre which is a valuable community asset.” Cr Jones said as part of the loan conditions, council would receive a report from BISA every six months detailing the centre’s financial position. He said the city also required a council representative to be part of the Bendigo Ice Skating Association Board and councillor Rod Fyffe would undertake this role.

Council decision pleases
The Advertiser, Bendigo, 7 March 2008

THE i2i Teaming Institute has welcomed the City of Greater Bendigo rescue package to save ice sports in the city. Despite the Melbourne organisation having their proposal for a new rink rejected by council less than a month ago, secretary Dr Cosimo Chiera said he was thrilled ice would again return to Bendigo in the near future. Ice skating, curling and ice hockey representatives have also shared their thoughts on how the latest development will influence their respective sports. The council decided, at its meeting on Wednesday evening, to allocate the Bendigo Ice Sports Association an interest-free loan of $100,000 to again make the Golden Square rink operational.

Dr Chiera praised the council’s initiative, but also revealed that i2i had gained the backing of several local and international entities willing to support future bids for a new ice sports development. ‘‘It’s great that they’re getting the ice back,’’ Dr Chiera said. ‘‘We’re really glad we’ve been able to raise the profile of ice sports in that community and get the council involved.’’ He said the US-based A Powell University for Commercialization had committed to providing $8 million in student scholarships throughout an Australian ice sports network and to building an ice sports academy at each new i2i facility. The University of Kansas has also announced their support for i2i ice sport projects, while Cartridge World and Champions Supa IGA Kangaroo Flat have been enlisted to provide local sponsorship. ‘‘One way or another we’ll get the city a new facility, all we want is good, safe ice for the people of Bendigo,’’ Dr Chiera said.

Spokesperson for the Ice Skating Club of Bendigo Jenny Closey said the group was ‘‘overjoyed’’ with the council’s decision. ‘‘We are humbled by the council’s confidence in both the proposal and the volunteer resource base and are appreciative of the opportunity to maintain an ice sports identity in Bendigo,’’ she said. Australian Curling Federation president Peter Cobden said Bendigo had the potential to again host the sport’s National championships if the rink was properly mended. ‘‘It’s great to see curling back in Victoria again, it’s really the only place in Australia that curls,’’ Mr Cobden said. Bendigo Raiders Ice Hockey Club president Brien Baxter expressed relief that the 2008 season could now go ahead. ‘‘We’re very pleased as members of BISA that we’ve been given the opportunity to keep the rink open, (but) I’m hoping with this that we can work towards a new facility,’’ Mr Baxter said.

City bails out ice rink 
The Advertiser, Bendigo, 6 March 2008

BENDIGO council has moved to bail out Bendigo’s struggling ice skating rink with a $100,000 interest-free loan. City of Greater Bendigo council will make the three-year loan to the privately owned skating rink in Golden Square on the condition it meets requirements to upgrade and maintain the facility, meet a financial plan, increases its level of volunteerism and continues with a council representation in its management team. The rink closed in December and meetings were held last month to discuss the Bendigo Ice Skating Association’s solvency. But last night the City of Greater Bendigo council unanimously voted to support the rescue package, which will help to cover the $82,000 debt the centre owes the landlord and the YMCA and $9702 expected in upgrade costs to improve the rink’s safety, performance and efficiency.

The news also comes after the not-for-profit i2i Teaming Institute submitted a proposal in January to council to incorporate Bendigo, the only Victorian rink outside Melbourne, in an improved nationwide ice sports network. The Golden Square rink’s new financial plan maintains the centre will increase revenue in the next financial year through increased marketing and patronage. Cr Rod Fyffe, who is a BISA committee member, said the rink was a valuable community asset the council needed to keep alive while the BASA had met the council’s stringent parameters. “Unfortunately it has closed and this is a way of going forward that has been tried and proven in the past,” Cr Fyffe said. “We need to keep this open, it’s a point of interest and differentiation for Bendigo, we have some very good skaters in Bendigo and opportunities for our children.’’ He said the BISA had succeeded in repaying all past loans to council.

Cr Julie Rivendell said the council's due diligence in investigating the rink's financial problems had been rigorous and the Discovery Centre showed how a valuable asset with support and revised management could turn itself around from financial stress within years. "I've got great belief in a community's capacity to change its future," she said. "The future of ice-skating and ice sports in general centres around the proposed new centre, but we know that complex may take some time. In the meantime this is our community's commitment to keeping the opportunities for these young people available," Cr Rivendell said. Cr Kevin Gibbins said the council needed to make the commitment immediately to keep the trust of ice sports participants and ensure they understood that the council's commitment was long term. He also called for a strategy to be developed to focus on having a new ice sports centre for Bendigo in four to five years. Cr Greg Williams said the financial problems had been developing over successive councils and he lamented the lost opportunity of a $4million project proposed in 2005 to incorporate a new ice-skating rink with a heated swimming pool at Kangaroo Flat.

Bendigo council promises ice rink aid
ABC News, 6 March 2008

Bendigo council has agreed to a rescue package for the city's troubled ice skating rink. At last night's council meeting, it approved a $100,000 interest free loan to pay debts owed to the owner of the Golden Square building and fund improvements to the facility. The rink was closed last December because of safety concerns. Bendigo Mayor David Jones says it is important to keep the facility and the Bendigo Ice Skating Association going. "The committee there have banded together and they've got a large number of volunteers," he said. "The business model looks very sound so council was absolutely thrilled to be able to support this vital and really dynamic group."

Rink plan discussed: Council, potential developer meet
The Advertiser, Bendigo, by Nino Bucci, 5 February 2008 (click heading above for newspaper article in new window)

Ice rink plan for school site
From Monash Journal, 4 February 2008

DEVELOPERS are hoping to begin building a $25 million ice skating rink and private US university satellite campus in Brandon Park within two years. The former Brandon Park Secondary College site, which has had an uncertain future since its closure in 2004, has been earmarked by charity i2i Teaming Institute for the planned development. So far, Monash Special Development School is set to move in this year, and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has announced the rest of the site as "surplus to educational requirements". Consultant for i2i, Cosimo Chiera, said the university and ice rink would use the remainder of the site.

The institute's plans include twin ice rinks, a creche, cafe and education for about 300 students of the A Powell University for Commercialization in Florida. Mr Chiera said the university, which lacked an ice rink at its main campus, would form an ice hockey team in Brandon Park that could be a gateway for Australians to access the US collegiate sports competition. He said the complex would complement Oakleigh's ice rink, providing activities such as speed skating, curling and ice hockey for young people. "If they're good enough for the Olympics or to go to the US, we want them there. If not, we also want them there and not to fall by the wayside." Mr Chiera said the proposal had so far received "no outstanding objections" from Education Minister Bronwyn Pike and the DEECD. The institute also has plans for a second ice rink in Bendigo, and possibly Geelong. Mr Chiera said construction could begin quickly if the institute won a bid for $10 million set aside by the State Government for the troubled Docklands ice rink project. "If [Docklands] falls through, which it may, we have a proposal to create something else."

Brandon Park residents action group convener John Shrives said residents wanted any development to keep as much open space as possible. A spokeswoman for the DEECD development said the land sale was "under discussion with another government agency". A spokesman for Sports Minister James Merlino did not respond before deadline.

(Ed. — Provided for information only. We know little about the 'not-for-profit' i2i Teaming Institute apart from documents and petitions they have recently distributed through the local ice community; their websites and those of their affiliates now displaying the logos of 'worthy supporters' of their projects including IHA, aussieSKATES, Australian Ice Racing Inc. See for example the associates on their Saints & Sinners website which includes the "A Powell University for Commercialization" mentioned above along with: "The Go Group - Doubling Incomes since 1969"; "Global Commercialisation Community Program"; "Global Operations Pty Ltd"; even their own "Centre of Excellence & Accreditation Authority for Commercialization (CEEAC)". Chiera, the Secretary, was reported above to have said the University in Florida lacked a rink at its campus. But it seems to also lack a campus. The contact section of its website provides no campus address, describing itself as a "Students and Staff Online University". By definition, an online university has no campus. This one does not provide details of its history, staff, nor accreditation details for its courses — other than 'CEEAC' which appears to be its own creation. Chiera's 'Institute' is happily name-dropping and claiming support from a government Minister and the controlling authorities of ice sports here. It recently distributed documents on its ICEPORT concept widely, yet reportedly did not discuss details of its Bendigo proposal with the Bendigo Ice Sports Association or the Ice Skating Club of Bendigo because, understandably, neither signed and returned the non-disclosure forms Chiera reportedly sent to them. Ironically, the reporter said this non-profit organisation gave its reason as commercial confidentiality (see Advertiser article, 5 Feb, link above). They said someone might steal their idea. Why would that concern a charity? The only finance in contention throughout the whole 8-year saga is the State government's $10 million and, now, whatever remains of it. Beneath the pseudo-intellectual material on the Institute's websites, the primary activity is marketing, rebranded 'commercialization' by a mathematician, or perhaps two. The most successful example of maths-meets-marketing I know is Amway. I am not a subscriber, sponsor or supporter for the above reasons, which I am sure Dr Chiera would appreciate. But I will try to keep an open mind. In the meantime, of course, anyone can apply to do a course with this Institute or contribute to their donation drive via their websites.)

About Dr Cosimo Chiera: Chancellor, A Powell University for Commercialization Florida, USA; Institute Secretary & Charity Board Member of i2i ideas2income Inc. PhD from Department of Mathematics, RMIT; Thesis: Perturbation Analysis of the Helical Flow of Generalized Newtonian Fluids, completed 2005, supervisor: John Shepherd

About Professor Alan Powell, after whom the online university is named: Patron of i2i ideas2income Inc; and Chairman of i2i ideas2income Inc - UK

RMIT Maths Petition
ICEPORT Institute Concept

From the Olympic Winter Institute Chairman’s newsletter – Jan, 2008

(Ed. — This was not a public announcement like the newspaper reports and press releases below. It was posted on Kim Wilson's Live Journal (link at right) on 3 Feb 2008. She said: "Well finally I found some information about Docklands directly from one the groups who is backing it.  This excerpt is from the Olympic Winter Institutes Chairman's newsletter. However most people will never get to see this or know anything about it.  That is why I am posting it here so it can become a bit more public for the small percentage of Victorian ice skaters who could find this blog. In the meantime I retain my cynicism that the project will never get underway.  There is no mention about the finance that they have been unable to be obtain (if they had obtained their finance by now they would be screaming it from the Eureka tower).  So let us see what their announcement in March will be and if there will be something in the mainstream media." Subscribe to the newsletter here: Olympic Winter Institute of Australia. Ice hockey and Curling is mentioned under 'Other Winter Sports' at the site).

Work is progressing on the development of the National Ice Sports Centre at Waterfront City in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct. ING, the developer of Waterfront City, in conjuction with Ice Sports Australia, has undertaken further design work for the NISC at the new site on Moonee Ponds Creek, which is immediately adjacent to the large Observation Wheel currently being constructed at Waterfront City. The NISC continues to have strong support from the Victorian Government and VicUrban, the development authority for Docklands.  ING expects to be able to confirm the next stage of the project by March this year. In the meantime, ING has opened a temporary ice skating rink in the large plaza in Waterfront City.  It has been attracting a healthy number of visitors during the summer holidays and is expected to remain open throughout the winter until August 2008.  I would encourage everybody to support this initiative by visiting the rink with family and friends.

Bendigo Ice Arena Closed
By Ian Palangio, Australian Curling Federation

Ice sports in Australia have taken a huge blow with the announced closure of the Ice Arena in Bendigo, Victoria. This leaves only one arena at Oakleigh to cater for all the Ice Hockey, Figure Skaters, Speed Skaters and Curlers of all levels in the State of Victoria.  Demand will surely be much greater than the possible ice time that Oakleigh can provide.  Some, or all, of these sports will suffer in some way to a reduction in facilities. Hopefully one of two options for a new facility will be accelerated with this announcement.

1) That a proposed new Ice Facility in Bendigo with Olympic sized Hockey arena and 2 dedicated sheets of ice for curling will be approved. I believe the blueprints and business plan for this facility exist - it is just a matter of approving the facility by the local Bendigo Council, and figuring out how to finance the project.

2) That the redevelopment of the Melbourne Docklands will include an ice sports facility. The Docklands has had an arena on and off the plans over the years.  The Olympic Winter Institute of Australia has been pushing for a centre at the location for many years - but the facility seems to be a political poker chip by politicians and the prospect and future of the facility changes status with Government changes.  A good YouTube video that summarises the state of Ice Sports in Australia, and the possibilities of the Docklands can be viewed by clicking here. We will see how this pans out - but for me it is considered a serious step backwards in our efforts to grow the popularity of Curling in Australia.

Ice sports left out in the cold
Herald-Sun, January 15, 2008, by Katherine Firkin

THOUSANDS of ice skaters have been frozen out with the closure of the Bendigo Ice Rink. There is now only one permanent ice rink in Victoria to cater for up to 10,000 athletes, coaches and fans. Kim Wilson, secretary of the Olympic Figure and Dance Club, based at the Olympic Ice Rink in Oakleigh, said the loss was detrimental to many sports. "With only one rink in Victoria, all ice sports have limited opportunities and athletes will never have the chance to fulfil their potential," she said.

A lack of ice sports centres has long been an issue for Victoria, which lost the Ringwood ice rink in 2005 and St Kilda's famous Saint Moritz arena in 1981. Brian Baxter, vice president of Ice Hockey Victoria, said we should be concerned about the future of winter sports. "It's devastating to ice hockey especially because there will be a direct flow-on effect throughout the whole sport," he said. The Bendigo rink, operated by the YMCA, closed this month after maintenance proved too costly. The rink was home to many state and national level athletes and housed the annual Victorian Figure Skating Championships, the Raiders Ice Hockey team and Victoria's only curling squad.

Rescue needed for rink
Bendigo Weekly, 18 January 2008 (click heading above for newspaper article in new window)

Help stop Bendigo Rink from Closing
Wendy Meik, Olympic Figure & Dance Club, January 9th, 2008

2008 starts on a rather sad note with the possible closure of Victoria's only regional ice skating rink. One of only two rinks in the entire state, the loss of the Bendigo rink to the Victorian skating community would be a disaster. However the good news is, there is a rescue bid underway and that is why we are helping to send out this information. Bendigo Ice Rink is currently closed and the Bendigo Ice Skating Association Inc (the body that manages the rink) has advised a Special General Meeting to wind up the Association Please read the information below my email that sets out the situation.

The loss of the Bendigo rink to the Victorian skating community would be a disaster. However the good news is … there is a rescue bid underway and that is why I am sending out this information. The i2i Teaming Institute, (Dr Cosimo Chiera – business consultant, and Simon Holmes – Ice Hockey Development), has had a proposal in place to build a 2 rink complex in the Brandon Park area, with a stage 2 to build a second rink in another location. With the demise of Bendigo, they have swapped their plan around to build a rink in Bendigo first. The i2i Teaming Institute is a “not for profit organisation” and they are set up receive tax deductible donations. I have attached some media releases from i2i for your information. Their plan also includes an educational facility with the sporting complex. They plan to fund the rinks through a mix of Government grants (including bidding for the $10 million that has been mentioned for Docklands for the Brandon Park complex), corporate sponsorship, loans and donations.

The aim is to get the current Bendigo Rink open again until a new rink can be built. The planned location of the new rink in Bendigo is in the Schweppes centre. This is on the left side of the main road into Bendigo on the same road that the existing rink is on. It is the same distance from Melbourne. They estimate they will need around $1 million all up to get the existing rink back up and running and to build the new rink in Bendigo.They already have spoken with council and some Bendigo based businesses as well as Victorian / National companies and are confident that they have support of all to move things forward. But nothing can be started until after the Special General Meeting has been held and it is dependant on the outcome of the meeting for the way of moving forward. If the Bendigo Ice Skating Association Special Resolution is agreed to – that will make it easier for i2i to move forward.

City urged to act now on ice rink
Bendigo Weekly, 10 Aug 2007, by Anthony Radford

THE man responsible for running Bendigo’s ailing ice skating rink this week blamed the City of Greater Bendigo council for delays in building a new facility. Last week the council had to spend $40,000 to ensure the rundown facility at Golden Square could continue operating. This week, Bendigo YMCA chief executive officer Peter Krenz said the poor condition of the Hattam Street rink proved action on a new facility was well overdue. "Unless we do something soon it will close before we build a new one," he said. "I have been talking to council about this and all I get is lip service from councillors. "Now is the time to strike. Council must be the catalyst. They are the committee of management."

The YMCA manages the ice rink for the council and undertook a study in 2004 which led to the push for a new $5 million ice rink. "This is one of those projects that is really frustrating because it is not going anywhere because there is no strategic plan for it from council," he said. "We have councillors acknowledging the urgency but I don’t know whether this is one of their priorities, to be honest. ‘There was nothing for it in this year’s budget." Acting mayor David Jones said the council supported a new rink. "The councillors are absolutely soundly behind the new development," he said. "We are waiting on contact with the state government because we clearly need sport and recreation funding. "Council has stated it is prepared to put up the land in kind, whatever the location, which is about $1 million. "However, we are mindful of the fact we need other support and we are working as hard as we can to support that."

The original YMCA plan suggested land next to the Kangaroo Flat Leisure Centre as the best site for a new rink. A grand plan involved also building a new indoor heated pool next to the rink, and extracting the heat used to make the ice to heat the pool. In May last year the council threw its support behind building the new facility next to the Schweppes Centre. However, Cr Jones said that was not set in concrete. Mr Krenz had little doubt Kangaroo Flat was the best site for the rink. "Council said that because of local resentment going through the planning process at Kangaroo Flat might be a bit tough, which is typical of this council," Mr Krenz said. "The Kangaroo Flat Leisure Centre is a bit of a white elephant. It isn’t really viable. "It is on the way into town and it is very central, unlike the Schweppes Centre. "There is also a bit of public disquiet about having such a family-friendly facility next to a pokies venue, but that is an argument for another time."

Financial trouble for Bendigo ice rink
ABC News, Posted Tue Jul 31, 2007 1:48pm AEST

Bendigo's ice-skating rink may be forced to close because of financial difficulties. The centre has recently been required to engage in urgent repairs to the stadium structure. Manager Ed Yarrington says the Bendigo council has been asked to provide a $40,000 loan so the business can keep trading while it pays off its debts. Mr Yarrington says it would be tragic if the ice rink had to shut. "Nobody wants the facility to close, it's only the second one in Victoria," he said. "I believe that this facility here, even though it's old, is better than the one in Oakleigh. "If we had to close, then I don't believe it would open up again, therefore the chance of getting a new facility would be zero."

Docklands parcel goes up for grabs
Michelle Draper and Mark Pallisco, The Age, 11th July, 2007

THE face of Docklands is set to be transformed, with more development slated for a site next to Telstra Dome, and plans for an ice-skating rink revived. One of the few parcels of undeveloped land in Docklands will soon be put on the market while another site at Waterfront City has been identified for a national ice sports centre. Docklands authority VicUrban has confirmed it is selling a site next to Telstra Dome, on the corner of Bourke Street and Wurundjeri Way, called the south-east stadium site. Industry sources said the 1.6-hectare site is expected to fetch more than $20 million. Docklands general manager Michael Hynes said the successful bidder would enter into a development agreement with VicUrban, with the right to buy the freehold title when development starts. "It is expected that the successful bidder will be in a position to commence development shortly after entering into a development agreement," he said.

The move comes after several developers have shown a strong interest in the site over the past few years. At least two are believed to have recently submitted proposals based on the site, for Commonwealth Bank to consider for its 30,000-square-metre office requirement. Leighton Properties is believed to be one. Other developers said to have previously shown an interest include Equity Pacific Capital Partners, which is building National Foods' new Docklands home, and Cbus Property. The sale comes after developer Morry Schwartz, of Pan Urban, confirmed plans to build a $150 million tower development between Telstra Dome and La Trobe Street, on the railway side of the stadium. Myer is believed to be considering a proposal to house its staff in an office building opposite, in front of Channel Seven's building on the corner of La Trobe Street and Harbour Esplanade.

Meanwhile, a $60 million national ice sports centre is now unlikely to be developed on top of a car park at Waterfront City, but could be built nearby. Sources close to the project said an alternative site at ING's Harbour Town, in Waterfront City, at the foot of the Observation Wheel, is now proposed. Developer ING Real Estate was this month expected to start building the project - the Icehouse - on the car park site. But ING Real Estate chief executive Greg Boyd said the site was problematic and the development timeline restrictive. "It gave investors little room to review, tighten or modify the plans, and this added to the perceived risk," he said. "It is now extremely unlikely the Icehouse will be developed at that location in Waterfront City." He declined to comment on an alternative site for the project.

Andrew McDowell, president of Ice Hockey Victoria, said the ice hockey community was "110 per cent" behind the Docklands project. The only training site in Melbourne is in Oakleigh. "We have kids having to get out of bed at 5am in the morning because they can only train at one facility in Melbourne," he said.

World ice hockey championships for Newcastle
Australian Special Events Magazine, 15th May 2007

It was been announced yesterday that Newcastle has won the bid to host 2008 Division II World Ice Hockey Championships. The news came through from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) General Assembly currently taking place in Moscow, where the Newcastle bid was presented by Don Rurak, National President of the Ice Hockey Australia. Newcastle received 68% of the vote ahead of its main rival Serbia. The championships will be held at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium between 6th – 14th April 2008. Six teams from around the world, will travel to Newcastle to battle it out for the World Championship title. It is anticipated that there will be approx 400 competitors and officials visiting the area for the 7 days of the championships as well as several hundred supporters. The championships are estimated to inject at least $1million into the local economy.

Newcastle's winning bid prepared by the Newcastle Visitor & Convention Bureau on behalf of Ice Hockey Australia and the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium was taken to the IIHF General Assembly by the Australian delegation. "Whilst it is ironic that a major winter sport should choose Australia for such a key international event, it speaks volumes for the credentials of the Hunter Region’s Ice Hockey community which has grown over the past few years with the explosion in the popularity of the sport. This has been led by the success of the Inski North Stars who represent the Region in the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) and are currently the AIHL Champions – for the third time in recent years.” Said Ruth Appleby, Conventions Manager at Newcastle Visitor & Convention Bureau. “It also speaks volumes for the Region’s credentials in being able to host such major sporting events” she said.

Dawn Watt from the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium (HISS) said today “Work on a major upgrade to HISS will commence almost immediately in order that it will be ready for the Championships. This will involve doubling the seating capacity to almost 1000, an upgrade of the dressing rooms, enclosing the rink in plexi-glass and the creation of additional VIP/Corporate box areas. The cost of the upgrading will be funded by IIHF grants, Government grants, sponsorships and ticket sales”.

Are plans for a major new sporting facility on thin ice?
ABC Stateline Broadcast: 11 May 2007 Reporter: Matthew Stanley, Full ABC Transcript

MATTHEW STANLEY, REPORTER: Saturday night in Melbourne's south east suburbs. The stands of the city's only ice skating rink are full for round one of the Australian Ice Hockey League. They're here to see last year's minor premiership winner, the Melbourne Ice, take on the Adelaide Avalanche. Ice hockey barely rates a mention in the sports pages. The national League is now in its fifth year. The local team's success is testament to the players' dedication under trying conditions. The rink they train and play on is small and cramped by league standards. And their one practice session each welcome begins when most of us are thinking about bed.

IAN WEBSTER, TEAM MANAGER, MELBOURNE ICE: We get on the ice at 10:15 on a Wednesday. We're grateful that we can do that but it does mean that players aren't getting home until after midnight. It's the only time we can get on the ice.

MATTHEW STANLEY: It's the same story for anyone involved in ice sports. The small rink means skills can't be practised the way they should be and finding time to practice at all is difficult. Just a couple of years ago there were four ice rinks in Victoria. There are now just two. The other is in Bendigo.

KYM WILSON, OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATING CLUB: Victoria used to be a leader in figure skating and that's because they had sessions in the morning and plenty of sessions in the evening, lots of opportunities for training. Unfortunately we don't have that now. It is reflective in what we produce at our national level.

MATTHEW STANLEY: Little wonder then that news the State Government had committed money towards a new ice sports centre at Docklands was welcomed as long overdue. But 14 months later the talk has turned to rumours the project is in danger of collapsing.

IAN WEBSTER: For the first time we had some support for something other than football, cricket and the mainstream sports. There was $10.5 million seeded to an ice facility. We were all wonderfully, wonderfully happy. That was a long time ago.

KYM WILSON: Not surprised. Not surprised. We've really been… it's one of these situations we know they've had to get the finance and it's been such a long time coming and the fact it's hasn't happened yet is I'm not surprised.

MATTHEW STANLEY: "The Icehouse" as it is already being called is planned to sit on top of a car park in a sprawling waterfront city development. The developers, ING real estate, have poured foundations capable of supporting the weight of two international sized ice rinks. But with a crucial deadline approaching there's still no investor willing to bank roll the rest of the $50 million project.

ANDREW SHELTON, ICE SPORTS AUSTRALIA: It's unique, it's different. There's no project immediately like it in the Australian market place and that of course gives people some reasons for caution.

MATTHEW STANLEY: The design planned is based on being able to build the ice rink as part of the car park extension. To do that a deal has to be in place by the end of next month. With only eight weeks to go until that deadline are you not concerned at all that there are no investors on board yet?

GREG BOYD, ING REAL ESTATE: I would be more concerned if the Ice house didn't come to waterfront city.

MATTHEW STANLEY: Missing the deadline would add millions of dollars to the cost, making it an even harder sell and ING won't rule out using the site for something else. You might want to put something else out on top of the car park. He might lose this site.

GREG BOYD: He may but we are not close… we're getting closer to that date but we certainly haven't made a decision.

MATTHEW STANLEY: The Icehouse is the brain child of former investment banker Andrew Shelton whose interest in ice sports grew from time working in the United States and Canada.

ANDREW SHELTON: Ice hockey I think is a game that Australians would respond to. It has all the characteristics that they enjoy. It's physical, athletic and extremely fast, very competitive.

MATTHEW STANLEY: He's convinced that a top class facility would prove a hit on and off the ice.

ANDREW SHELTON: It's the old chicken and egg. Do you wait until you know you have the scatters and then go build the facility?

MATTHEW STANLEY: His plan has the backing of the Winter Olympic Institute, the creation of the Australian Olympic committee charged with fostering Australian athletes in winter sports.

GEOFF HENKE, CHAIRMAN, OLYMPIC WINTER INSTITUTE: This particular facility will house figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating and ice dancing. Now there is four Olympic disciplines.

MATTHEW STANLEY: The Institute is currently a little more than a suite of officers in the back streets of Melbourne. In return for the right to display the coveted Olympic rings, it's negotiated a new home in Docklands if and when the new centre opens. Geoff Henke believes the centre would give ice sports the room they so desperately need to improve and expand.

GEOFF HENKE: Speed skating we've qualified for every Olympic Games despite the fact we don't have the right sized rink to train on. It's like going to track and field where you're going to run 100m and you're training on a 70m track.

MATTHEW STANLEY: The problem, according to those close to the project, is the untested nature of the investment. ING is spending building a high observation wheel modelled on the London Eye. By comparison, an ice rink is considered outside its guidelines.

GREG BOYD: In ING globally, we have to look to see where we allocate funds and I guess it's probably similar to a number of other institutions but it's not an approved category.

MATTHEW STANLEY: Others fear the ice house is too expensive, the vision too grand and that a design with fewer bells and whistles would have more chance of success.

IAN WEBSTER: We hope that we get a palace. It would be marvellous. We are somewhat worried if the Docklands proposal vaporises and doesn't come to fruition, we are going to be left with that middle of the doughnut, the bit that no one gets.

MATTHEW STANLEY: While he won't admit to feeling the pressure, Andrew Shelton concedes that a return on the time, effort and money he's invested to get the project this far now rests on persuading someone with deep pockets to share his vision.

ANDREW SHELTON: It involves a reliance on people feeling comfortable of the patronage into the facility. We've done an enormous amount of research to do that. It's about finding the right home and right party to bring into this project.

MATTHEW STANLEY: There's no shortage of people watching as the clock counts down.

IAN WEBSTER: If we don't get something else, ice sports in Victoria is going to slowly shrivel and die.

Rink on ice as ING gets the puck out of Docklands
Mark Pallisco and Ben Schneiders, The Age, 20th March, 2007

Plans for a $60 million, world-class national ice sports centre in Docklands are likely to be shelved because of a lack of support from the private sector. Premier Steve Bracks pledged $10 million to develop the two rinks before the 2002 election, but ING Real Estate Development Australia chief executive Greg Boyd has told Capital Gain "it is becoming less likely" that they much anticipated facility will find a home at Waterfront City. Property industry sources say it is likely the skating rink, which was to be home to Australia's Winter Olympic Institute, will be relocated or shelved. A consortium including ING Real Estate Development Australia, Ice Sports Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee's Olympic Winter Institute won the rights to build the skating rink in February last year. At the time, Ice Sports Australia director Andrew Shelton said he expected construction to start before the end of the year. The consortium used its own money to pay designers here and in Canada to draw plans. These were unveiled by then state Minister for Sport and Recreation Justin Madden in October. It was expected that the private sector would jump on board during that time: it didn't. Mr Boyd said a final decision would be required by June if the project was to get off the ground.

Insiders blame the location in the under-developed Waterfront City precinct for deterring developers from investing in the project. "Stage one (of Waterfront City) has been a complete disaster," said one source. "Until ING develops the second stage and brings a critical mass of people to the area, developers will consider it a very risky project." Another source described the situation as an "unmitigated disaster", with lots of money waiting to be lost. Meanwhile, ice hockey, speed and figure skating are suffering. Two years ago, rinks at Bayswater and Geelong shut in anticipation of the Docklands facility. It leaves just two smaller and older rinks in Victoria - at Oakleigh and Bendigo.

Proposed National Ice Sports Centre, Melbourne Docklands
From a Media Release From the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Thursday 19 October 2006:


Winter sports enthusiasts could soon be indulging their passion closer to home with the release today of designs of a proposed National Ice Sports Centre in Melbourne Docklands. On hand to inspect designs by the Centre’s developers, the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Justin Madden, said the Bracks Government had committed $10 million towards the development. “The National Ice Sports Centre will be the first of its kind in Australia, catering for a range of elite ice sport disciplines and provide a hub for recreational winter sports enthusiasts,” Mr Madden said. “It will feature two rinks with spectator seating and be equipped to host national and international ice hockey, ice skating, curling and speed skating events.”

The Consortium behind the Centre includes ING Real Estate Development, Ice Sports Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee ?xs Olympic Winter Institute. Director of Ice Sports Australia, Andrew Shelton, said the proposed designs would deliver a world-class facility for ice sports and recreation in the heart of a major new retail and entertainment precinct. “The design by Cox Architects and international ice sports specialists, Brisbin Brooke Beynon, is based on the development of successful ice rink centres in North America and Europe.” Director of Cox Architects and Planners, Patrick Ness said the whole ice sports centre experience would be just as exciting as skating on the ice. “We are creating a total winter sports atmosphere, which will give life to the long tradition of ice sports in Melbourne,” he said.

Chairman of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, Geoff Henke welcomed the milestone. “The Centre is a brilliant concept and will be a genuine first for Australia,” Mr Henke said. “As an official Olympic Training Centre, it will be a cornerstone of national excellence for winter sports in Melbourne and further success in the Olympic Winter Games.” Chief Executive Officer of ING Real Estate Development, Greg Boyd said the Centre would fit perfectly with Victoria’s diverse lifestyle. “The Ice Centre will add diversity and entertainment to Waterfront City at the Docklands and attract visitors and tourists to the precinct,” Mr Boyd said. “It will be like nothing Melbourne has ever experienced before and we have every confidence it will be a huge success.”

Mr Madden said the designs are a great start to the development of the National Centre. “We are very enthusiastic about the quality of the design work,” he said. “The development of the Centre is dependant now on the Consortium securing investment finance.” The Centre is planned to be built above a multi-deck carpark that is due to commence construction early next year.


16.16 At the time this report was prepared, the construction of a national ice sports centre had been delayed pending the developer obtaining investment finance for the project.

(b) National Ice Sports Centre

The 2004-05 budget announced funding of $9.6 million as the government’s contribution to the construction of an international standard ice sports centre. In the 200405 Budget Estimates inquiry, the Committee was advised of the project timelines which has the project scheduled to be completed ‘… some time in 2006.’ The actual timelines of this project is summarised below:

• expressions of interest – opened 16 July 2004;
• expressions of interest – closed 19 August 2004;
• evaluation of expressions of interest – completed October 2004;
• selection of preferred developer – announced 22 February 2006.

For the 2006-07 Budget Estimates inquiry, the Committee requested an update on progress with the development of the ice sports centre. The Minister advised that:

• The state government confirmed its $10 million commitment to a National Ice Sports Centre (the Centre) in the 2004-05 budget.

• A consortium including ING Real Estate Development Australia (ING REDA), Ice Sports Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee’s Olympic Winter Institute has been given the opportunity to develop the project in the Docklands’ Waterfront City precinct.

• The announcement of the consortium followed a call for Expressions of Interest from the private sector in relation to the development of the Centre, from which a preferred applicant was identified.

• The Centre will establish Victoria as the national leader in winter sports such as ice hockey, ice skating, curling and speed skating, whilst also catering for recreational skaters.

• The bulk of this $10 million will go towards supplementing the cost of providing a two rink National Ice Sports Centre in partnership with the private sector. The total cost of the Centre is estimated at between $30 million to $40 million.

• Execution of the project agreement will be subject to the developer securing finance and meeting the government’s requirements for the Centre.

The Committee noted the development of the centre is dependent on the developer securing investment finance. The Committee also noted the consortium’s expectation that construction will commence in late 2006. In response to the Committee’s request for the revised project timelines, the Minister advised:

• The development of the National Ice Sports Centre is part of the next stage of the broader Waterfront City precinct development.

• These timelines are currently being worked through with the preferred proponents.

In the government’s May 2006 response to the Committee’s recommendations in the Report on the 2005-06 Budget Estimates, the Committee was advised that:

Following confirmation of their investment finance, the developer will be able to confirm their construction timelines and the risk allocation and financial contribution can be confirmed.

Accordingly, the Committee again reiterates its previous recommendation in the Report on the 2005-06 Budget Estimates that: In the 2004-05 budget, the government announced funding of $9.6 million for the construction of a national ice sports centre. The construction of this project is yet to commence. The Committee was advised that while a consortium for the development of the project has been selected, the execution of the project agreement is subject to the developer obtaining investment finance for the project. The government is currently working through the timelines for the development of the ice sports centre.

Recommendation 94: In future announcements on the national ice sports centre, the Department for Victorian Communities outline: (a) construction timelines; (b) the allocation of risks; and (c) the state’s financial commitment to the project.

Sods turned, pods coming
Herald Sun, Jen Kelly, 12 July 2006

MELBOURNE'S giant $120m ferris wheel is on its way after the first sod was turned at its Docklands site yesterday. But the delay-plagued wheel now won't be completed before late 2008 or early 2009, its developer admitted yesterday. The company's new boss revealed the cost had soared to about $120 million, double the $60 million consistently claimed by the firm for more than a year. ING Real Estate's new general manager, Greg Boyd, said the Southern Cross Observation Wheel would be finished in 2008 only if contracts could be awarded in the next couple of months. A 30-minute ride in one of 21 air-conditioned, glass-enclosed pods, with views across Melbourne, will cost about $25.

Site work began yesterday on the second stage of Waterfront City, a $1 billion, 19ha development at Docklands that includes restaurants, shops, housing and the giant wheel. But work on site for the wheel is unlikely to begin until early next year: the construction contract is expected to be awarded by Christmas at the latest. The first of the passenger pods was completed months ago in a factory in Osaka, Japan. It is hoped the wheel will become Melbourne's equivalent to the popular London Eye. "It's going to be fantastic," Mr Boyd said. Waterfront City information centre manager Aliya Jeka said tourists who saw the model of the wheel were usually impressed. "I can't wait to go on it."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006, Bruce Atkinson, Shadow Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, Workcover, Sport & Recreation.

Reports today that the Bracks Government will support an ice skating centre in Docklands is long overdue considering it was one of Steve Bracks’ 1999 election promises. In 1999 Labor pledged $10 million towards a national ice skating centre that would feature two international sized rinks and would be used for events and training for ice sports as well as recreational skaters (policy attached). Victorians have waited six years for the Bracks Government to get moving on this policy which it again rehashed in 2002. When I asked Labor’s Sport Minister Justin Madden in Parliament in May last year when the centre will be built and how much the government would contribute, he responded “we are looking forward to making very positive announcements soon in relation to that” (Hansard, 19 May 2005). The Liberal Party welcomes news that the government is finally progressing with this project but we are concerned it will face the same fate as all other Bracks Government projects – it will be mismanaged, over time and/or over budget.

The Herald Sun today revealed that after Labor rehashed it’s 2002 promise to build the centre, it failed to brief rink operators, developers, financiers, designers and builders until March last year. This is a clear indication that this ice skating centre was not a priority for the Bracks Government and it has been forced to get its act together because there is an election coming up. Justin Madden has signaled that he will continue to sit back and fail to push this project with his lazy statement “so it's now up to the private sector to make this work” (Herald Sun, 22.02.06). I’ve got news for Justin Madden – it’s his job to make this centre, a Bracks Government election promise, work. The Liberal Party believes this centre will be a great addition to Melbourne’s great sports assets and will be an excellent training and events venue for professional skaters. Recreational skaters will also enjoy the new facility. Justin Madden has had six years to come up with a plan for this centre. He must now tell Victorians when building will start, when it will finish and how much this facility will cost.

Melbourne Ice Sports Centre Consortium Announced
From a Media Release From the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Minister for Sport and Recreation, Justin Madden today announced that a consortium including ING Real Estate Development Australia (ING REDA), Ice Sports Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee’s Olympic Winter Institute was to be given the opportunity to develop an international standard ice-sports centre in Docklands’ Waterfront City precinct. “The National Ice Sports Centre will fill the gap in ice-sports facilities in Melbourne and will establish Victoria as the national leader in winter sports,” Mr Madden said.

The Government made a commitment of $10m towards a new ice sports centre to be developed, owned and operated by the private sector. Today’s announcement follows a public expressions of interest process. “We are very excited about this project and we’re looking forward to confirmation from the developer of private sector backing, with the development of the centre contingent upon the preferred developer securing investment finance,” Mr Madden said. Mr Madden said Waterfront City in Docklands, being developed by ING REDA as a retail and entertainment precinct, was a perfect fit for the ice-sports centre.

The centre will be Australia’s only world-class ice-sports venue. It will feature two rinks with spectator seating and will be equipped to host national and international ice hockey, ice skating, curling and speed skating events. It will also be available to the public for recreational skating. “I have asked my Department to monitor the developer’s progress in bringing the proposal together, and to report back to me. We have now been through the selection process and have agreed on a site and developer, so it’s now up to the private sector to make this work.” Mr Madden said.

Andrew Shelton, Director of Ice Sports Australia Pty Ltd, said: “Ice Sports Australia is delighted to have this opportunity to progress the development of the project, together with ING REDA and the Olympic Winter Institute. Detailed planning and design have already commenced. Construction is expected to begin later this year.”

Geoff Henke, Chairman of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, who is in Torino with the Australian Olympic team, welcomed the initiative. “This is the largest and best credentialed team that Australia has sent to the Winter Olympics. Look at the talent we already have without a venue of this calibre available for use. Imagine our capabilities when Australian ice sport athletes can access a venue of this standard. I think our dominance in the pool might soon spread to a new sporting sector.”

Mark Broomfield, Managing Director of ING REDA said: “This latest project reaffirms our intention to create so much more for Melbourne than just another mixed use development; Waterfront City is a destination in its own right. The cutting-edge centre will become part of our wider recreational and lifestyle offer; it will be yet another iconic addition not only to Melbourne’s Docklands, but to the City of Melbourne,” he said.

Hansard, 10 Aug 2005

Madden Goes Cold on Ice Skating Centre Promise
Monday, 8 August 2005 by Bruce Atkinson

The Bracks Government has gone cold on its 1999 and 2002 election promise of a new $10 million national ice sports centre at the Docklands. Labor’s failure to implement its promise (policy attached) is hampering the development of speed skating, figure skating, curling and ice hockey in Victoria. Melbourne now has only one ice rink in Centre Road, Oakleigh South which is only a three quarter size rink. I visited the centre over the weekend. Despite being called the Olympic Ice Skating Rink, the centre is well short of Olympics standard and cannot be used for national or international events. When I asked Sports Minister Justin Madden in May why Labor had broken its election promise, he said the Bracks Government was still committed to it, would build it and will be making “some very significant announcements in the not-too-distant future.” (Hansard, 19 May 2005) Given Labor promised this centre almost six years ago, Victorians won’t be holding their breath. Victorian athletes in figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey are disadvantaged to competitors from other states, particularly New South Wales and Queensland, because they must train and compete at the state level in a smaller rink. National league ice hockey games are also adversely affected by the inadequate facilities currently available in Victoria. Melbourne Ice, the Victorian team, has difficulty finding time for regular training sessions and plays at a disadvantage to interstate teams with larger rinks and more contemporary facilities. In a situation that evokes images of the Cool Runnings movie, curling enthusiasts are forced to find expanses of linoleum for their practice sessions as the quality of the ice at Oakleigh South is unsatisfactory for training, let alone competition. The owners of the Oakleigh South complex are not to blame for the parlous state of ice sports in Victoria. This southern suburbs rink has provided an ice sports facility since the 1970’s and is unable to meet the demands of competitive sports teams and the public for social ice skating. The Bracks Government promised to develop a National Ice Centre with two international size rinks but there has been no progress and little consultation with the various sporting bodies associated with ice sports in Victoria. Justin Madden has had six years to deliver Labor’s promise - he must now provide details on when the Bracks Government will build this project. Media contact: Bruce Atkinson 0403 057 722

Madden signals start for National Ice Sports Centre
From the Minister for the Commonwealth Games, Minister for Sport + Recreation, Friday, July 16, 2004

Another major step to establish a National Ice Sports Centre in Melbourne was taken today when the Bracks Government called for expressions of interest from developers. The Minister for the Commonwealth Games, Sport and Recreation, Justin Madden, said that while a central Melbourne location was preferred, locations across wider Metropolitan Melbourne would be considered. “There is evidence of growing interest from the private sector and local government to partner the Victorian Government in creating a new national ice skating centre,” Mr Madden said. While the proposed Centre will be developed, owned and operated by the private sector, the Bracks Government has committed up to $10 million to help underpin the project. “The aim is for this facility to establish Victoria as the national leader in sports such as ice hockey, figure skating, curling and speed skating,” Mr Madden said.

Concept plans for the venue include two international-standard ice surfaces, seating for up to 3,000 spectators and dining, administration and entertainment areas. “As well as catering for elite-level training and ice sports competition events, it must appeal to people of all ages and abilities for everyday recreation use in order to be viable,” Mr Madden said. “I would encourage interested people to attend the Market Briefing later this month. “Once we review the credentials and ideas put forward by interested groups, the plan is to ask a shortlist of them to submit a formal proposal in stage two of the tender process later this year.” The expression of interest phase closes on August 19.

Pre-Budget Comment
From: 'The Age', May 4, 2004, By Darren Gray, Dan Silkstone

Sports such as ice hockey and figure skating have been calling for a winter sports complex for years, pointing out that the city does not have an ice sports centre to compete with complexes in Sydney and Brisbane. Docklands has long been mooted as a site and remains in the running. But it is believed the Government has not yet made a decision on the location. The size of the commitment is not known, but in last year's budget, the Government spent $400,000 on planning for a "national ice skating centre" and predicted its eventual commitment would be $10 million.

In 2001, developer Andrew Sheldon proposed a $55 million complex to be situated between the Docklands stadium and the World Trade Centre on the banks of the Yarra. Vodafone Arena has also been mentioned in the past as a potential location, with a $12 million project believed to have been considered in 2002 by Sports Minister Justin Madden. Shortly before it lost office, the Kennett government ordered a feasibility study into a new ice sports complex. The study was released by the Bracks Government in 2001 and included the $55 million proposal, to be known as the Melbourne Ice House. The intention was for the majority of the cost to be paid by private enterprise.


The State Budget outlines record infrastructure spending of $2.9 billion in 2004-05, Treasurer John Brumby said today. Mr Brumby said the Bracks Government was committed to delivering modern infrastructure to boost growth, investment and jobs across Victoria. “The Bracks Government is spending close to $10 billion on vital infrastructure over the next four years – better schools, hospitals, police stations and roads,” Mr Brumby said. Mr Brumby said key major infrastructure projects funded in the 2004-05 Budget include the new Melbourne Convention Centre and a new National Ice Sports Centre. “The Government is committing a further $9.6 million to a new ice sports facility, in addition to the $400,000 already allocated, to further cement Victoria’s reputation as the sporting capital of Australia and the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

The National Ice Sports Centre will provide a training and competition base for ice sports including ice skating, speed skating, ice dancing, curling and ice hockey. “It will also create recreational facilities for young people and families, as part of the Bracks Government’s commitment to build an active and healthy Victoria.” Planning for the Centre has already begun, with research being conducted to gauge private sector interest in a partnership with the Victorian Government. The total value of the project will not be known until this process is completed. Mr Brumby said the 2004-05 Budget set aside $367 million for the construction of a new 5000 seat Melbourne Convention Centre to make Victoria a destination of choice in the global conference market. “The new Convention Centre will be delivered as a Partnerships Victoria project and will reinforce Victoria’s leadership in major events and attract new investment and people to the State,” he said.

Mr Brumby said the Bracks Government had significantly increased investment in infrastructure to boost economic growth through more efficient transport and communication links, and improve the quality of life of all Victorians. “The Bracks Government is making Victoria an even better place to live, work and do business,” he said. Major infrastructure initiatives in the 2004-05 Budget include:
· Major improvements to key outer suburban and provincial Victorian roads under a $552.7 million funding boost;
· A record $335 million capital boost to the health and aged care system;
· A major school facilities upgrade of $341.8 million over the next four years; and
· More than $20 million towards the building of 19 new police stations across Victoria.

Mr Brumby said the 2004-05 Budget also provided funding for the Port of Melbourne infrastructure initiatives announced in the major economic statement Victoria: Leading the Way, including:
· Deepening the channel to the Port of Melbourne – administration of the project will be streamlined to ensure completion by 2007 and $14.9 million allocated for the acceleration and completion of detailed design studies for the project; and
· Improving access to the Port – detailed design development for the grade separation of Footscray Road and the realignment of the rail track into and within the Port.

Mr Brumby said the $10 billion infrastructure boost over the next four years also included funding for ongoing major projects such as:
· The $206 million Australian Synchrotron;
· The $101 million Showgrounds Redevelopment;
· The $376 million Austin Hospital Redevelopment;
· The $197 million Royal Women’s Hospital Redevelopment;
· The $617 million Fast Rail Project; and
· The $700 million Spencer Street Station Redevelopment.

“The Bracks Government is delivering an ambitious economic and service delivery agenda and is investing responsibly to secure Victoria’s future,” Mr Brumby said.

BDP wins Melbourne's Waterfront City BDP wins masterplan to transform Melbourne's docklands
BDP (Building Design Partnership) website, international architectural practice based in England and Ireland, 23 Jan 2003

BDP has been successful in winning the bid to design Aus$500m mixed use masterplan in the Melbourne Docklands. To be known as Waterfront City the project is led by developer ING and designed by BDP in collaboration with the Australian architectural firm Hassell. The developer-led competition started six months ago with the ING team as one of five bidders and these were reduced to three, then two finalists - ING and the team of MAB (local developers). The site is the last and largest of the waterfront sites in Melbourne to be developed and is intended to house primarily entertainment, retail and residential uses. The collaboration between BDP and Hassell worked very well and necessitated a number of working visits to Melbourne, involving presentations, by the BDP team (Peter Coleman and Richard Rees). A key factor in the choice of the winning design was the experience of the latest European mixed use planning and urban design thinking brought to the design by the BDP team.

The winning scheme is based on a simple concept of two streets linking ‘festival retail’ on the waterfront to an entertainment area deep in the site. In between there is a district of 50,000 m2 of ‘Brand Direct’ retail (the Australian equivalent of high quality factory outlets) with over 400 residential units over, forming shopping streets on two levels. The waterfront consists of a major square with marina and ferry facilities fronting it. A key building is the ‘Victoria Showcase’ a facility similar in principle to London’s ‘Vinopolis’ but dealing with all the produce from the region. The entertainment component contains a puppet theatre, cinemas, bowling and a possible observation wheel. Parking is provided on a single level and in decked parking buildings that are clad in offices. There is also a bulky goods area, a hotel, commercial offices and a fire station provided in the masterplan. The development is intended to be largely completed by the 2006 Commonwealth Games. BDP will design several of the key buildings in the overall masterplan with Hassell as their executive architect. Hassell will design the remaining buildings.

Hansard, 5 July 2002 Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, p. 526-7

Mr HOLDING — I share my colleague David Davis’s concerns about openness, transparency and accountability. My attention has been drawn to a statement made this morning by the Leader of the Opposition. He announced that if the opposition were elected to government it would have $55 million in pledged private sector funds for the development of an ice-skating rink in the Docklands precinct. I would be very concerned about that, given that it is obvious that the pledging of those funds has not been the result of any open, transparent and accountable tender process. I seek an assurance from you that if the present government were to consider a proposal to develop a winter Olympic ice sports facility at the Docklands, or anywhere else for that matter, it would only proceed following a proper and open tender process. I would be seeking an assurance from you that the present government would conduct such an open tender process and that it would ensure that proper practices of public accountability would take place before any such project was to proceed.

Mr BATCHELOR — In its administration of the Docklands project this government resolves who gets access to these assets by an open tender process. Expressions of interests are called for, short lists are undertaken and then individual consortia compete against one another for the right to develop a particular area. During our term of government we have concluded a number of these. By involving these decisions and making them through a competitive tender process we are able to ensure that you get appropriately designed and properly functioning facilities that meet the high standards that are set for the Docklands. They have required a higher standard, but interestingly they also require a developer contribution, if I can use that phrase, where the trunk infrastructure of the Docklands area has to be paid in part by contributions by the developers or the successful tenderers. Irrespective of when a development takes place, whether it is early on in the life of the Docklands project or later on, they are all expected to contribute their share of the overall trunk infrastructure costs, and this lowers the burden to the taxpayer. I referred earlier on in my overview to the benefit of the returns to the state from private-sector investment and the ratio of private-sector investment to government investment. It is much, much higher in the Docklands and elsewhere, but you would only maintain that benefit, and you can only maintain probity and successful and proper outcomes, if you go through a proper tender process. At the end of the tender process, even if there is only one person left, you still have to go through an open and competitive process. I was appalled to think that the Leader of the Opposition would have said that, presumably after having had representations made to him by a group of developers who sought an assurance that they would get privileged access to this asset. We know there are people around who have a proposal to develop an ice-skating facility at the Docklands. Whether or not that is a good idea as a general concept — —

Mr DAVIS — So you do not support it?

Mr BATCHELOR — Irrespective of whether their proposal is good or not, it must go — —

Mr DAVIS — You are not opposed to it, though?

Mr BATCHELOR — It must be tested by the market. You just cannot have the political process predetermine the tender process.

Mr DAVIS — You are not opposed to it, though?

Mr BATCHELOR — It is the sort of mistake that the Kennett government made in the past. They got themselves and the state of Victoria into a lot of trouble. It was expensive, and I thought they would have learnt the lessons from that, but clearly they have not — and they do not deserve the right to be put back into government.

Mr HOLDING — I am very pleased to receive that assurance, Minister

From Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 26 Mar 2002

Forever skating on thin ice
Andrew Herrick, March 1 2002, "The Age". Andrew Herrick is a Melbourne writer and skating enthusiast.

Frank Stangel, 80, takes to the ice. Frank Stangel remembers skating with his parents on the frozen river Raba in western Hungary on Christmas day in 1926. He was three years old. Later, when he lived in Budapest, he raced beside his teenage friends on winter nights, through drifts of snowflakes turned golden by the boulevarde lamps. Budapest’s outdoor icerink was filled with gleeful families enjoying life in the final peaceful days of pre-war Europe. "It was like flying, but with your feet on the ground," Stangel recalls wistfully.

Sustained by such memories in his 80th year, Stangel still skates every Saturday morning at Melbourne’s Olympic Ice Skating Centre in South Oakleigh. He is Victoria’s, and possibly Oceania’s, oldest figure-skater. Remarkably for his age, he still executes aerial waltz-jumps for the many avid young skaters he inspires. Though his childhood memories continue to nourish his passion for skating, like many other Victorian skaters, he shakes his head ruefully at the standard of local ice-skating venues. "And not just compared to Europe," he says, "but also to everywhere else in Australia."

Melbourne once boasted rinks in Moorabbin, Footscray and Dandenong, along with the venerable St Moritz on St Kilda Esplanade. The city’s Glacierium, a recreational icon situated on the present Southbank site until the late 1950s, was popular with US servicemen dur-ing World War II and is still fondly remembered by older Victorians. Sadly, since those glory days, opportunities for recreational and competitive ice-sports in Victoria have literally melted away. The conversion of the Myer Music Bowl stage into a winter ice-rink during the 1990s provided the centre of the city with a small but delightful semi-out-door skating venue, and a tourist draw-card. With its closure three years ago when the Bowl underwent renovation, Melbourne lost a recreational venue in a part of town otherwise depopulated during the cooler months. There were plans for another city rink. Crown Casino’s original tender to the Victorian Government included a winter ice-rink on its Southbank forecourt. But Crown reneged on the project last year, and forfeited $2.3 million to the government as a result.

Victoria has two regional ice-skating rinks in converted factories in Bendigo and Geelong, and a second suburban rink in Ringwood. This run-down centre, threatened by freeway expansion, does have the advantage of being large enough to stage ice hockey. But local ice-sports centres are a source of frustration, according to Victorian Ice Hockey Association President Rod Johns. "Their fairly average standard is the main reason the sport doesn’t grow here," he says. The Ringwood venue’s lack of spectator facilities discourages adequate sponsorship for amateur hockey. The problem is reversed at Melbourne’s only alternative ice-sports venue, Oakleigh’s "Olympic" rink, where 500 spectators are able to view ice-sports competition, but on an arena of less than Olympic dimensions. Despite this, the VIHA’s seven ice hockey clubs have 700 active members, including a women’s team ranked 28th in the world — higher than our national men’s team, which next month will travel to South Africa for second-division international competition. Meanwhile, Australia hasn’t fielded an ice hockey team in any A-Grade Olympic event since Squaw Valley in 1960.

Victorian figure and speed-skaters are equally discouraged, and regularly return from competition in Queensland and New South Wales in envy of the quality of those states’ ice-sports venues. Australia’s national peak body for ice sports, Brisbane-based Ice Skating Australia, has publicly said that Victoria will not attract national competitive events until adequate local centres exist here. It’s no coincidence that gold-medal- winning speed-skater Steven Bradbury, along with figure-skaters Anthony Liu and Stephanie Zhang — who represented Australia at the Olympic Winter Games in Utah, are all based in Queensland. Brisbane boasts four state-of-the-art Olympic-standard ice-rinks. Queensland hosted two world junior figure-skating championships and ice-sports events for last year’s Goodwill Games.

Sydney also has six high-quality suburban rinks. Its Macquarie Centre houses a purpose-built rink inside a major shopping complex. Opened in 1984, the centre provided a successful model for the rest of Australia’s modern ice-sports arenas — architecturally attractive spaces flooded with natural light, that also have engineering and energy efficiencies that reduce overheads, resulting in public entry prices about half the cost of Victorian venues. Sydney’s ice-rinks are in its high growth newer suburbs, and thus are hugely popular as well as commercially attractive. They offer vital recreational opportunities for an otherwise sedentary mall-mired youth sector, and attract visitors from Asia, where ice-sports are currently booming.

The recent construction of world-class centres in Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, ironi-cally leaves temperate Melbourne an ice-sport backwater by comparison. Yet this city’s two dilapidated rinks persistently teem with committed skaters who are forced to jostle for the ice-time necessary to emulate the athletic grace demonstrated in Olympic figure-skating coverage from Utah. Victoria’s stalwart band of curling enthusiasts are based at the Oakleigh rink, despite its poor ice-surface (courtesy of a clapped-out ice-grooming machine). Time for ice sports in Victoria is so heavily rationed that during public sessions figure-skaters spin among darting hockey players while speed-skaters dodge tottering beginners. This overcrowding has worsened since the Olympic Winter Games. It’s a chaotic, galling and potentially hazardous scenario that wouldn’t be tolerated in interstate or overseas venues, and it’s a situation overdue for change.

In its last months of office, the Kennett government commissioned a feasibility study into establishing an international-standard ice-sports venue in Victoria. The Labor Government released the report by recreational planner Kenneth Marriott in January 2001. The report cited joint proposals from Ballarat Council and the YMCA, and Maryibynong Council and Victoria University, as well as the conversion of the Glasshouse sports and aquatic centre in Batman Avenue into an ice arena. The most significant proposal detailed in the report, from Melbourne developer Andrew Sheldon, is an ice-sports complex in the Docklands precinct between Colonial Stadium and the World Trade Centre. The $55 million complex would house the headquarters of the Australian Winter Sports Institute, off-season training facilities for athletes, a gymnasium, shops and restaurants, and two Olympic-standard ice arenas.

Though the complex itself would be private-sector financed, Sheldon says the inner-city location is only financially viable as a sports-recreation venue if it attracts $5 to $10million in support, in the form of crown land, from the Victorian Government. Despite acknowledgment by Sports Minister Simon Madden of Victoria’s lack of ice-sports centres, the government will not commit to providing any support until after the Commonwealth Games, which are more than four years away. "Steven Bradbury trains in Brisbane. That’s a nonsense," Sheldon says. "We have to grab the opportunity (to build the complex) now."

Another die-hard at Melbourne’s Oakleigh rink, Ron Ames, was in Australia’s 1960 Olympic ice hockey team. Ames is sceptical about talk of an international-standard rink in Melbourne. "We’ve been talking about it for 50 years," he says. "It will never happen." Such disillusionment is common among Victoria’s ice-sports enthusiasts. Many are hoping that Australia’s success at Salt Lake City will provide an impetus for positive change. Victoria’s future Olympians deserve more than just talk and distant promises. As the snow settles in Utah, Victoria’s ice-sports participants’ will continue to grind their teeth in frustration — a sound curiously similar to that made by breaking ice.

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