The face of SKATE Tunbridge Wells could change this year − if recommendations by the Council are made. The SKATE season could be cut down and more attractions added to the event – including a Ferris wheel, a carousel and other children’s rides.
On March 8, the Cabinet Advisory Board for Communities and Economic Development met to decide the future of the rink. A report by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) recommended that the festive event be ‘pared down’ by two weeks and to run only from December 1 to January 1, instead of starting in November. In addition, it was also recommended that extra attractions be added. A final decision will be made by Cabinet on March 23.
The meeting with the Board comes as the five-year deal with the ice rink, lighting, security, and concessions are ‘all up for renewal’. There are also questions around funds for the much-needed replacement of the ‘shabby’ marquees and the cost of skates, at around £32,000.
Last year’s 2022/23 event made a loss due to rising costs for fuel and electricity, and the extra labour costs associated with antisocial behaviour in the park.
Dawn Gabriel, Operations Manager at the Assembly Hall Theatre, told the Advisory Board: “This is an event in the centre of town [that] attracts a lot of young adults, and last year we had more anti-social behaviour than we had previously.
“We had to employ SIA security because the managers were spending an awful lot of time dealing with anti-social behaviour, not just on the rink but in and around the park.”
The Board also considered increasing the ticket prices to address the impact the cost-of-living crisis has had on fuel and electricity costs, as well as on tenders and staff contracts. However, as Ms Gabriel told councillors: “We will raise ticket prices but there is a ceiling to how much you can raise them and still attract people.”
Other options considered by the Board included contracting out the ice rink (which could cost the council £475,000), providing the same event as last year, or not running the event at all.
The much-loved Christmas event has attracted over 400,000 visitors since it opened 12 years ago, with the 43,000 visitors to the rink last year benefitting the town and the local economy.