Tuesday 29 November 2022

Ice rink owners call for government help to pay soaring energy bills

Photo: Depositphotos.com

The Dutch outdoor skating season is about to start but the sector is facing major concerns about the cost of keeping the rinks frozen.

Ice rink owners say they will need millions of euros in additional funding to keep the tracks open past the end of the year because of soaring energy costs.

Dennis van Rijswijk, chairman of rink owners association VKN, told broadcaster NOS the sector requires between €5 million and €8 million to keep afloat. ‘Without action, rinks will have to close in January,’ he said. ‘Normally, 8% to 10% of our costs are down to energy but that has now gone up to over 50%.’

Ice rink De Uithof in The Hague, for example, has an energy contract which varies by the hour. ‘In a normal year we spend €500,000 on energy, but this year it will be €1.8 million,’ director Eugène de la Croix said.

The rink is working to become more energy efficient, he said. ‘We have solar panels, a heat pump, we’ve stopped with summer skating and ice go-karting. But the costs keep on rising.’

Subsidies

The Netherlands’ 22 outdoor artificial rinks are subsidised by local authorities because they are deemed to fulfil a social role.

Seven things you need to know about skating in the Netherlands

Sports minister Conny Helder told NOS that she too is worried by the situation. ‘I am busy looking at the overall picture and how we can help,’ she said.

However, economist Michiel de Nooij, who specialises in cost benefit analyses, said the government should ask how responsible it is to subsidise an ‘energy intensive sport while poor families are trying to keep warm’.

‘If you compensate everyone who asks, then energy saving measures will be reduced,’ he said. ‘And that is what we need right now. Money does not solve the problem, it just delays it.’

Swimming pool owners also say they have been hit by soaring energy costs.

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