Anywhere from six to eight of the 22 ice rinks in the Netherlands could be forced to stay closed this winter amid surging energy prices. Tens of thousands of people take to various skating sports every winter, but if the rinks do not get relief soon, many skating enthusiasts will have to forget about lacing up this season.
The Royal Dutch Skating Association (KNSB) is raising an alarm about the possible closures alongside other unions. “Ice skating clubs are completely dependent on the artificial ice rinks in winter. When they close, their 40,000 members and the more than 200,000 other weekly skaters outside the association will have nowhere else to go,” KNSB director Herman de Haan told NH Nieuws.
Ice skating associations are worried about the possible closure of the skating rink De Westfries in Hoorn. The rink has sent an urgent letter to the municipality, stating it risks closing because of the unusually high energy bills it faces this year, according to NH Nieuws.
Energy prices would put an additional burden of 400,000 euros on the ice skating rink if it remained open, which it cannot pay. This is concerning to the associations who are depending on the rink for their members to practice several times a week for events, according to NH Nieuws.
“We have just set up a new marathon team in Hoorn,” said Gerrit Bakker, an organizer of marathon skating in Hoorn. “I had that sponsor on the phone today, he was sick to death [about] if he puts in a lot of money and the ice rink closes.”
The chairman of the Westfriesche Kunstrij Club (WKC) said the association has nowhere else to skate besides De Westfries. An ice hockey association also needs the rink to hold activities for young people, and for training purposes. “The ice rink means everything to us, it is the heart of our sport,” said the association’s chairman Jeroen Klappe to NH Nieuws.
The ice skating rink is owned by the municipality, which received the urgent letter from the rink’s operator. But it is unclear whether the municipality will step in to help with costs. “At the moment it is impossible to say where the conversation will lead,” said Alderman Dick Bennis (Sports and Recreation).
Marathon skating organizer Bakker said he is skeptical about whether the municipality will help, but would like to see it take action. “It amazes me that the ice rink is confronted with this,” Bakker said.
Overall, the associations remain “optimistic” and are hoping for the best, they told NH Nieuws. “We hope that it will eventually open.”
Although the KNSB sees increased sustainability as one solution, solar panels will barely make a dent in ice rinks’ winter energy consumption, said Jakko Jan Leeuwangh of operator Optisport. “In the summer that has its value because the sun is full on it, but in the winter it has almost no influence on the costs. Then you have to think of a few percent of the total consumption.”
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