'Top leisure firms' show interest in running ice rink in Derby's Duckworth Square

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

A number of top leisure firms have come forward to run the proposed £10 million ice rink in the city’s abandoned Duckworth Square, Derby City Council has revealed.

The authority launched a Europe-wide search to find a suitable operator to run a 500-capacity indoor international-standard ice-rink, which would be used for casual and competition skating, as well as ice hockey teams.

The plans also include a 70-station gym and an exercise studio.

Duckworth Square has been earmarked for a £10m ice-rink by land owners Derby City Council

Duckworth Square has been earmarked for a £10m ice-rink by land owners Derby City Council

The council says a mix of public sector, trusts and private businesses with a proven track record of running ice rinks have shown an interest in operating the site.

Councillor Martin Rawson, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for regeneration and economy, said the high-profile interest showed confidence in Derby’s economy.

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He said: “A number of submissions have been received from companies with good track records of operating leisure facilities and we now look forward to taking the procurement process to the next stage.

“It is very pleasing to see the confidence and interest that are being expressed in Derby’s economy by these bidders, who are all operating at the highest level in the leisure industry.

Councillor Martin Rawson at the Duckworth Square site, where an ice-rink arena could be built

Councillor Martin Rawson at the Duckworth Square site

“We have a great offering in the city centre and were named high street of the year last year. I think all of this is getting noticed on the national radar and big businesses are wanting to part of the improvements that are going on.”

The council expects a shortlist of applicants to be completed by the end of the year. A final decision on the preferred operator will be taken to cabinet by the summer of 2018 and the project is hoped to be completed by 2020-21.

The criteria for awarding the contract will be based on a range of factors including cost, operational, technical, and commercial considerations.

Rosco’s bar can be seen on the first floor of Duckworth Square, Derby, in this 1987 photograph

Duckworth Square, Derby, in 1987

The Labour-run authority said the ice rink must be self-financing, with no operational subsidy from the council, and that it must be able to generate adequate income to repay any borrowing required.

A team of consultants, hired by the council, said the Becketwell area of the city was suited to the ice rink proposals.

The council has secured a £4 million grant to regenerate the area from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership - a private sector-led partnership which promotes economic growth across Derby and Nottingham.

Duckworth Square is one of Derby’s biggest eyesores and went into decline after the Duckworth Square Shopping Centre closed.

The private sector owners made several unsuccessful attempts to regenerate the area but there were underlying structural issues which led to the council stepping in.

In 2014, the authority started a programme to regenerate the wider area which involved the purchase of Duckworth Square, the nearby former Debenhams building and five other properties.