The History of Ryde Arena 

The 25 Year History of Ryde Arena

 1990

In May 1990 planning permission was granted and work started on the five million pound regeneration project of Ryde sea front which was to include an ice rink. The original design for Ryde Arena was a full size 60m x 30m  ice pad, however CL Gaul found themselves in financial difficultly early on in the build and the ice pad size was revised to 44m x 22m. The orientation of the building was also changed and the bar, which was originally facing the Solent, was rotated towards Ryde Pier. It is a common misconception that these early design changes to Ryde Arena prevented the Wightlink Raiders for competing in the English Premier League, however this is untrue.         

 1991

On May 20th, 1991 Ryde Arena, a £5 million ice complex opened its doors for the first time. The Ice Rink was originally run by Robert Field and Partners and their parent company CL Gaul who ran Victor and Gilberts Ice Shows with a £2 million investment by Medina Borough Council. 

In September 1991 C.L. Gaul went into receivership. Unable to find a buyer to protect their £2 million investment, Medina Borough Council took over Ryde Arena.

 1992

The Wightlink Raiders hockey team formed fairly early on and by the end of 1992 already had a strong fan base

 1993

Hockey fans began to campaign for a larger ice pad to meet league regulations forming RACE Ryde Arena Campaign for the Extension. The rink was now being run by Civic Leisure

 1995

Wightlink Supporters celebrated after being told by the Council that their campaign was successful and they would be getting their rink extension.

The Isle of Wight County Press —Friday February 10, 1995
Photo courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press
The Isle of Wight County Press —
Friday March 3, 1995
Photo courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press

 1998

 1999

Wight Leisure, now running the rink considered a rebuild by a Canadian firm Nova Sports Management but ultimately turned this down.

The Isle of Wight Council approved a £1.3 million rebuilding of the rink, but ruled out an extension.

In September of that year, the Council agree to give Planet Ice a 125 year lease in exchange for £600,000 with an obligation to run the facility as an ice rink for 15 years and to carry out £800,000 of improvements. They also agreed to take on the Wightlink Raiders. Planet Ice's spokesperson told fans that they were seriously considering an extension to the facility. One councillor opposed the deal pointing out that after 15 years there was no obligation to run the facility as an ice rink and the Council would be getting no rent but as Planet Ice did not run anything but ice rinks the idea that this could pose a future problem was considered unlikely.

2001

Planet Ice officially takes on the 125 year lease for Ryde Arena. 

2011 - 2013

During this time Planet Ice goes into administration. Bankruptcy law and restructuring is very complicated and Planet Ice had a corporate structure which included a large number of related companies but documents on Companies House website appear to show that as part of this process the nationwide assets of Planet Ice, including Ryde Arena, are first sold for £167,000 to a company called Leofric and then a company registered in the Seychelles. Mountaintop Capitol Group becomes the primary creditor by taking on the greater portion of these with a £140,000 promissory note. On the 6 December the 125 year leasehold of the Ryde Arena land and building is transferred to MOF III Portfolio 1 (GP) Limited and MOF III Portfolio 1 Nominee Limited. The creation of a sublease for the building appears to be related to the restructuring that took place at the time of the bankruptcy.

From around this time onward, users and visitors to the Island begin to complain about the embarrassing state of the Ice rink. Lack of investment in the building is seen to create an increasingly run down atmosphere unlikely to attract tourists.

2014

On 1 December 2014 the worst fears of the lone dissenting councillor fifteen years earlier come true when the the lease is sold for £1,000,000 to the AEW UK Core Property Fund.

2015

Ryde Arena appears in the December 2014 AEW UK Core Property Fund Investor Report. 
Isle of Wight county press article
Photo courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press

On the16th of February Planet Ice announces that it is no longer able to trade as the rink is unprofitable and will be closing the rink on the 25th of March. 

Ryde Arena Trust Ltd is formed to save the rink. After a moving campaign they take over the sublease from Planet Ice in April under the terms by which Planet Ice had been operating the rink. AEW becomes their landlord.  

21 November: The roof of the rink is damaged in a storm and the rink is closed for extensive repairs to the roof and reception, bar and cafe areas. The Christmas production is cancelled.

2016

On the 9th of February the requirement that Ryde Arena be run as an ice rink expires.

 

In February the ice pad part of the rink is opened to the teams and skating coaches while building work is in progress on other areas. In the spring Ryde Arena Trust Ltd are made aware that AEW accepted a cash settlement in lieu of repairs to the reception, cafe and bar area and that they will not be able to use these areas. Still hoping to open to the public by July, new racks for the skates are hastily built by staff and a new reception area is created rink-side.

In July one of the chillers fails. Ryde Town Council make a generous grant to help cover the costs of a replacement. A spokesperson for Ryde Arena Trust Ltd later says that one of their greatest regrets is the loss to our cash strapped local council. 

 

In August the rink reopens to the public without the old reception area, cafe or bar. A dispute over the amount of rent due which has been unresolved for months begins to be spoken of openly. A £75,000 grand from Sport England is not taken up as a result of the uncertainty caused by this situation. 

 

The details of this dispute are not public so it is not possible to confirm suggestions that Ryde Arena Trust Ltd. believed the lease AEW had with the Isle of Wight Council (the freeholder) specified that since AEW was required to be insured against loss of rent (for up to three years) that this should have covered the rent during the time the building was closed for repairs or that further their own lease with AEW expressly provided for a reduction in rent when parts of the premises were unavailable to them as tenants as a considerable part of the building was after the storm. We know that AEW told the press that £200,000 was due, which would appear to be the full rent.

 

6 October 2016 the doors of the rink were locked by bailiffs repossessing Ryde Arena for non-payment of rent.

12 October: a "link around the rink" protest is held by rink users and members of the local community still hoping for a resolution of the dispute

A meeting is arranged by Island MP Andrew Turner between the Ryde Arena Community Action Group and AEWs Asset Manager Rachel McIsaac but Mrs McIsaac cancels the meeting without explanation days before it was due to go ahead.

Hopes are dashed later the month when the chillers are turned off  and the ice removed with a bulldozer

January: In recognition of the importance of the Asset to our community, Ryde Arena is made an Asset of Community Value by the Isle of Wight Council

Photo courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press
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We would like to thank Wightlink for their continued support, Ryde Town Council for their generous grant, Ryde Rotary Club and Ryde Slide for their donations and all those helping us to try to save Ryde Arena for our community.