Speed skaters, figure skaters, curlers and hockey players have bandied together in opposition to the decision to keep their ice rink closed until next year.

Members of ice sport clubs who use the ice at the Auchenharvie Leisure Centre in Stevenston were shocked to receive an email from the centre owners, KA Leisure, last Friday.

Kirsty Massie, the media officer for North Ayrshire Ice Hockey Club, whose son plays ice hockey said: “It came out of nowhere.

“Scottish Ice Hockey are looking to restart the season in October, if we’re not back on the ice until January then we won’t be in it.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Kirsty Massie's son Flynn misses being on the ice.Kirsty Massie's son Flynn misses being on the ice.

In an email to the ice clubs, KA Leisure said that having reviewed the available guidance it had decided no to operate the ice rink for the remainder of the year, citing the ‘substantial cost’ of operating while meeting physical distancing requirements.

Graeme Watson, from Saltcoats, has played ice hockey since he was 13.

The 31-year-old is part of a group of adult men who meet up at rink to train and play the sport.

He said: “A big part of it is the social aspect. It’s going to have a big impact on their mental health, not just on adult leagues, on junior players as well.

“How can you sit in a beer garden, less than a metre, without a mask, but you can’t play hockey?”

Debbie Middleton is a mother to three passionate figure skaters: Megan, 9, loves doing spins and jumps on the ice, her sister Lauren, 14, has hypermobility syndrome and skating helps keep her fit and her body moving, their  brother Isaac, 15, is autistic and the being on the ice makes him feel free.

Debbie said that if the rink is closed until January it will severly impact on her kids’ training, competition prospects as well as depriving of somethin that makes them happy.

She said: “We’re a complicated family but the rink means everything to us.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Isaac, Lauren and Megan love the ice rink.Isaac, Lauren and Megan love the ice rink.

Councillor John Sweeney, one of KA Leisure’s trustee directors, said: “I have received considerable negative feedback from members of the public and various representatives of clubs associated with the ice rink at Auchenharvie.

“I fully appreciate the anger and frustration as the communication and interaction with ice rink clubs most certainly could have been much better.”

KA Leisure is a not-for-profit charitable organisation responsible for managing leisure facilities across North Ayrshire which, Cllr Sweeney said, is run for the benefit of local communities.

He said: “The decision was certainly made in good faith as a short term disruption to ensure long term sustainability.

“We have based this short term disruption on the Scottish Governments route map on COVID-19, guidance from Public Health Scotland, Sports Scotland and other sports governing bodies. Due to the poor engagement I have offered to meet with club members and parents as a matter of urgency to discuss concerns.”

A petition calling for the rink reopen has over 6,000 signatures. You can sign it here.