ONE of Scotland’s top sportsmen has warned he may have to leave Moray unless the fate of the region’s only ice rink is secured.
Paralympics hero Gregor Ewan said the hundreds of curlers, skaters and hockey players who regularly use the Elgin facilities were being kept in the dark over their future.
Moray Council confirmed yesterday that talks would be held in July over the rink – which could face the axe unless hundreds of thousands of pounds can be found to replace its aging ice plant system.
But Mr Ewan, who won a curling bronze medal for Britain at this year’s Sochi games, said the continuing uncertainty was threatening his training schedule for future competitions.
He said: “I moved from Dufftown to Elgin two years ago specifically so I could be near the leisure centre.
“If nothing happens soon I’m going to have to move to either Inverness or Aberdeen in order to carry on competing.”
The Moray Leisure Centre rink ice rink is threatened with potential closure at the end of the year when the gas used to keep it frozen is outlawed by the EU.
Two solutions have been mooted.
An alternative gas could be used at a cost of about £50,000. However, this substance might also be banned within the next five years.
Alternatively, the system could be completely replaced – at a cost about £350,000.
The failure to reach any clear decision has angered Mr Ewan, who trains three times a week at the centre, and fellow curling bronze medallist Jim Gault, who lives in Lossiemouth.
He echoed his teammate’s frustrations last night.
“We’re hoping to compete in the world championship in Finland next year, as well as at the 2018 games,” he said.
“We and everybody else want to know what’s happening.”
Sports Scotland has agreed in principle to pay about half of the £350,000 bill, but the rest of the money would have to be funded by Moray Council.
The local authority already gives an annual subsidy of about £600,000 to Moray Leisure Ltd, the trust which runs the centre.
Council bosses urged the trust to contact Ice 4 All – a group of curlers, skaters and hockey players who use the rink and are hoping to take on the running of the rink – last month.
The group believes the ice rink part of the leisure centre could be run at a profit.
However, Bill Nicol, one of its leading members, said it had received no communication from Moray Leisure Ltd.
The curler from Forres said: “We need to know as soon as possible. It’s got to be either a yes or a no – a ‘maybe’ is no use to man or beast.
“The money from Sports Scotland is only available until the end of the year – the very next day after it will be gone.
“Sports Scotland is not going to say ‘poor Moray’. That pot of cash will go towards funding something else, somewhere else.”
The future of the rink has been further complicated by a Moray Council review into its leisure facilities across the region, which is already running almost a month late.
Drew Baillie, chairman of the Moray Leisure Ltd trust, said: “We are geared up and ready to implement the cheaper £50,000 option should the council decide in its leisure review that an ice rink should remain in Moray.
“That hopefully gives us time to reopen the rink before the new curling season in September. But we appreciate that the council is under financial restraints.”
A council spokesman confirmed a meeting has been scheduled for July 2, when the future of the ice rink will be discussed.