Summer Ice Skating Rink for Tahunanui
Nelson is on the way to getting its first ice skating rink, complete with Christmas tree and New York Central Park theme. Christchurch events company Douglas Webber Group has confirmed it will install a $240,000 temporary ice rink and $1.4 million worth of portable infrastructure at the Tahunanui Beach domain over Christmas and New Year.
Managing director Craig Douglas, a former Nelsonian, said the company had a choice of where to take the rink and following on from the success of installing one in Sydney's Bondi Beach, it wanted a beach or waterfront venue. "When we looked around New Zealand it was really only Nelson or Queenstown. When I approached the city council it responded with open arms and offered to do what it could to make it work.
"Queenstown said: `Let's look at it and then work out why it won't work'," Mr Douglas said.
Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio who also heads the council's newly reshaped economic development agency liaison group, said it was great news for Nelson. He said there had been talk on and off over the years about creating a rink in Nelson in winter to generate more off-peak tourism interest in the region. The rink to be set up over summer could be a "great test" for something more permanent in winter, Mr Miccio said.
"Who knows where this could lead? It's great news and it's great that as a summer destination we can keep reinventing ourselves like this," Mr Miccio said.
The temporary ice rink, which requires a building and resource consent, will measure 35 by 15 metres. It will take three days to build and freeze the required 45,000 litres of water. It will hold a maximum of 200 skaters at any one time.
Mr Douglas said he first approached the council about 18 months ago and has been working with it since then. "The resource consent is not complicated. For us, the bigger logistic is getting the ground dead flat."
Mr Douglas said the 550-square-metre rink will have only a 3mm tolerance across the entire area. He said bringing the Winter Wonderland-themed ice rink to Nelson and keeping it frozen at temperatures of -14 degrees Celsius would be a big challenge.
"The idea of putting an ice rink into the hub of New Zealand's largest summer holiday destination where temperatures can reach up to 32 degrees Celsius will not be easy. "The energy needed to freeze 550 cubic metres of ice is parallel to running a small city block," Mr Douglas said.
However, it won't be the largest project the business had undertaken. The rink is part of the $4m NHL specification ice rink the company imported from the Netherlands to host the three-game ice hockey series between the United States and Canada last year, which attracted more than 25,000 spectators.
Mr Douglas expected to attract 30,000 people to the rink in Nelson over the holiday period. He said visitors could expect a full "winter wonderland" theme including a five-metre Christmas tree centred in the middle of the rink, vendors of hot and cold food, stalls and even Santa, all set under a sea of 5000 fairy lights. Nelson will be the first place to which the company would bring its special "snow-blowing machine", meaning it would be "winter in summer every night in Nelson".
"I don't believe anything like this has been done before in Nelson. It will break new ground – ice near the beach will be quite cool," Mr Douglas said. He expected it would appeal to the large base of holidaymakers in Nelson at the time, as well as members of the local population who had never tried ice skating.
Mr Douglas, who grew up in Nelson's Emano St and went to Nayland College before quitting school at 15, is behind what is now one of the country's largest extreme sport management companies.
Nelson's Winter Wonderland will open daily from December 15 this year to January 20, from 9am to 10pm and will cost $15 for children and $20 for adults, with family passes available from $50. There will be no session times and no time limits on skating.