This week we waved off Parents in Sport Week (2nd – 8th October), which celebrated and recognised the key role parents have to play in their children’s involvement in sport.
As part of Parents in Sport Week we wanted to recognise the ice skating parents in our organisation, and all of the amazing work they do for their children to enjoy their sport.
Take the parents of Grimsby Ice Rink, they have fought for the past year to ensure ice skating remained accessible to their children.
In December 2016 the North-East Lincolnshire Council (NELC) voted to close Lincolnshire’s only ice rink, which was bitterly disappointing news for the local ice skating community.
But the parents of Grimsby Ice Rink formulated a plan to convince their local authority to keep the rink open, writing a business strategy and rallying support for the cause.
The news hit around the Christmas and New Year period. Seven parents spent the festive season developing a business plan to keep the rink open.
Lead by Jo Routh, also a mum to a local skater, the Grimsby Ice Rink parents also began working tirelessly to raise money and awareness.
Over the months that followed, the group opened a crowdfunding page and ran several events, including a quiz night and two ice discos.
They managed to raise a staggering £5000 through the crowdfunding page and a further £5000 in donations and fundraising events.
Jo Routh, who helped front the campaign, said: “We had about a month to produce a business plan when we heard the rink was due to shut down.
“At that stage, it really was a last-ditch attempt to save it. Once we’d completed it, we sent a copy to every councillor in our borough in the hope that they would support our proposal.
“We had raised substantial funds and support to back our plan, and as a result NELC gave us the chance to meet with a Scrutiny Panel back in February.
“The panel studied our plan in depth. Eventually it was suggested, through the Community Asset Transfer route, that we actually take the facility on and operate it ourselves – this is not what we had expected.”
In March 2017 the NELC announced at its budget meeting that they would continue to fund the rink for a further six months.
This was in order to give the group at Grimsby Ice Rink the opportunity to pursue the Community Transfer Route and continue raising the funds they needed.
But the group still needed to confirm their plan’s viability, and spent the next six months raising more money, speaking to influential and experienced individuals and rewriting elements of their proposal.
On the 2nd of August 2017, the group appeared in Council Chambers. Jo addressed councillors to put forward their plan and their ambition to take the rink on under private ownership.
Jo continued: “Standing and addressing all of our local councillors in chambers was a very nerve-racking moment for me.
“But all of them unanimously agreed to the Community Asset Transfer. We reached our goal and signed the licence on the 31st of August.
“It’s been a core group of parents at the forefront of the whole project, but we also couldn’t have done it without all of the other supportive parents and users of the rink.
“They have turned out in force at protests and fundraisers, donating their own money and working hard to promote our cause far and wide.
“Over the past month we’ve been preparing the rink for re-open, and they have spent hours scrubbing, cleaning and repainting.”
Grimsby Ice Rink celebrated a grand reopening on the weekend of the 30th September – 2nd of October, running a special timetable of reduced price events for all ages.
Jo added: “It was a huge success and I personally found it rather emotional. I got involved alongside other parents because of my children. My son is nine and has played Ice Hockey for four years now. My daughter is six and has figure skated since she was two.
“Grimsby has very few facilities and my children, like many others that skate at our rink, simply don’t want to do any other sport.
“The parents of Grimsby Ice Rink are, I believe, are truly some of the most passionate and supportive ice parents in the country. Without them, Grimsby Ice Rink would now be closed.”
This group of tenacious volunteers are amazing examples of how far parents will go to ensure their children’s involvement in sport.
Richard Newborn was one of the parents to jump in and help the project. Richard said: “I have a 9-year-old daughter who figure skates and plays for the under 11’s Ice Hockey Team and a 15-year-old step son who plays Hockey for the under 18’s.
“The ice rink became a big part of our lives as the kids started skating in their free time, even when they weren’t training. We were at the rink so much that even my partner and I started taking lessons.
“When we found out the rink was going to close, I decided I could not just stand back and let this happen. Both the kids had worked too hard in their chosen sports for me not to get involved.
“The help and support from users of the rink, local business and the entire community was overwhelming. It’s amazing what a group of people can do when they are driven to achieve.
“Of course, it has been lots of hard work with many highs and lows. One of the lowest points for me was when we had been given the keys to the rink. This should have been a happy time, but when we stepped inside the rink it was cold, dark and abandoned.
“It was a sad and lonely place to begin with, but then volunteers started to turn up. The place became a hive of activity with people cleaning, scrubbing and bringing the rink back to life. I have to admit this was quite emotional for myself.
“I have made some great friendships while working away. Looking to the future, I feel with such strong community sprit behind it the rink will only go from strength to strength. I might even learn to skate properly!”
Fellow parent and volunteer Sarah Lamyman added: “I initially became involved in the rink as Jo (Routh) is a friend and neighbour, and my two eldest sons, 6-year-old Jack and 8-year-old Oscar, Figure Skate with her daughter. My youngest, Stanley, aged 4, enjoys the tot sessions and tries hard to copy his older brothers.
“Early on I was very sceptical, as the rink had been under threat before and I think that we all hoped that the council would still find the money to keep it open.
“When the decision was made the shut the rink down, I cannot express how impressed I was at how quickly a group of near-strangers came together to save it. Parents, skaters, clubs and coaches all began working together to hatch a plan just days before Christmas.
“Over the years I have seen many services cut due to lack of funding, but when it is something your children are passionate about it seems difficult to stand back and watch it slip away.
“My boys were so ecstatic that we managed to save the rink. They had joined us on protests, fundraisers, and even gave press interviews. The look of delight on their faces when we had finally got the keys was a joy to see.
“They put their trust in us to fight for them and as a parent I'm thrilled - and relieved - that we didn't let them down. I now hope that they will continue to enjoy many happy hours at the ice rink.”