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An artist’s impression of what could be (Image: Getty Images, design by The Spinoff)
An artist’s impression of what could be (Image: Getty Images, design by The Spinoff)

SocietyApril 21, 2024

Hear me out: It’s embarrassing that Wellington doesn’t have an ice rink 

An artist’s impression of what could be (Image: Getty Images, design by The Spinoff)
An artist’s impression of what could be (Image: Getty Images, design by The Spinoff)

Wellington’s lack of ice rinks undermines our credibility as a ‘capital’, much less a ‘city’, writes ice enthusiast Fox Meyer. 

When I moved to Aotearoa to study, I had several universities to choose from. I ignored all their academic merit and simply googled “best ice rink in New Zealand”. Google told me “Dunedin”, so I moved to Dunedin. It really was that simple – and Google was right. Dunedin has the best ice. 

Wellington beckoned to me for the next five years. My friends had already moved, and waited for me here. Jobs were more abundant. It was an objectively better place to live. But without an ice rink, I just couldn’t justify it. So my partner moved up here without me, and we endured two years of long distance because I refused to live in a “city” that doesn’t have an ice rink. Recently, I begrudgingly made the move. 

This may sound entitled. But as a North American, I believe I am entitled to an ice rink, and if my time here has taught me anything, it’s that I am entitled to my entitlements.

Before you say anything, yes, I know there’s one at Brewtown. I’m not sure when you last looked at a map, but Brewtown is not in Wellington. It’s in Upper Hutt. If I was complaining that we didn’t have a hospital, would you say “it’s OK, there’s one in Upper Hutt”? No, you wouldn’t. 

Also, Brewtown does not have a proper ice rink. It’s what I’d call an “ice skating facility”. They both have ice much in the same way cow paddocks and golf courses both have grass. They’re trying their best, and I appreciate their passion, but beggars can, in fact, be choosers. And I choose an ice rink that doesn’t have to share a building with a trampoline park. 

This is also why I won’t accept the seasonal, miniature, puddle-covered excuses for ice rinks that towns pull out of the cupboard every winter. There are only three types of people that these cater to: people on Tinder dates, pickpockets, and those who don’t know any better. 

Ice discos are the ultimate first date (Photo: Fox Meyer)

It’s embarrassing that this is the best we have to offer. That being said, every winter when that thing is wheeled out to Queens Wharf, it is absolutely rammed. Clearly, Wellingtonians have an appetite for skating – so give the people what they want. We can do better, and we deserve better. 

We need a proper ice rink. Regulation-sized. The real deal. And as baffling as it is that we don’t already have one, my frustration is compounded by the fact that we’ve actually gone backwards on this.

Long ago, in ancient times (the 70s), there was Glide Rink in Kilbirnie. That closed, was turned into a roller rink, and closed again. But back in the halcyon days of 2001, then mayoral candidate Kerry Prendergast made a promise: that Wellingtonians could have their ice and skate it, too. 

Her proposed ice rink was to be built at the old Winter Show Building near Newtown, and the council contributed $50,000 to the resource consent costs and a further $70,000 in annual rent costs. We were this close to greatness.

The deal involved building a bowling alley as well as the rink, so when a bigger bowling facility was opened at the Reading Cinemas building, the project was shuttered. The great irony being that nowadays the cinema is sitting there completely abandoned, meaning we didn’t have to put the project on ice, after all. 

The author and his partner ride a Zamboni (Photo: Supplied)

So now we’re here, conspicuously rink-less, apparently with no sense of shame. How can we call ourselves a city if we don’t have this most basic of amenities? For the sake of all that is holy, even Gore has an ice rink! Are we really content playing second fiddle to Gore?

Clearly not. There’s a whole Facebook page full of people (273 of them!) who care about this urgent matter, called “Build a damn ice skating rink in Wellington New Zealand!”. This name is, of course, to differentiate us from Wellington, Ontario, which, despite having fewer than 2,000 people, still manages to maintain an ice rink

If you’re not convinced, consider the costs versus rewards: power and rent are basically the only overheads outside of construction. And the payoff is monumental: think of all the first dates to be had, all the new clubs that could form, and all the ACC payouts for sprains and concussions. Plus, I hear that if you support the rink, they might even let you ride the Zamboni.

To make this happen, I have a few suggestions. The first would be to go all in: don’t even think about building another paltry half-sized rink. A half-sized rink indicates a populace with commitment issues, and it’s worse than no rink at all. If you’re not going to do this right, don’t do it at all. 

Second: Link it up to a hot pools facility. You can use the heat generated by refrigeration to power the pools, netting you another income stream. Sexy, right?

Justin Daigle of the West Auckland Admirals in the NZ Ice Hockey League (Photo: Chen Huang)

Third: Support an ice hockey team. Auckland has two, and Dunedin and Christchurch are in the ranks as well. Queenstown is pretty dominant because they get all the rich, fit North Americans, but a considerable amount of players from those areas have had to move to ice-less Wellington. I’m sure they’d love to represent the capital on an ice rink that takes more than four strides to cross. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re an angsty pre-teen with limited recreational options, a family unit looking for a good outing, or you just want to fantasise about the Zamboni driver: there’s something at the ice rink for everyone. But not right now. Right now there’s nothing at the ice rink, for no one. And that’s embarrassing. 

Keep going!