Sunderland ice rink scrapped for 2022 amid cost of living crisis - but city centre chiefs promise string of Christmas events
This year’s festive plans for Sunderland city centre will not include a return for the popular ice rink due to financial reasons linked to the cost of living crisis, according to business chiefs.
Bosses from Sunderland’s Business Improvement District (BID) have said “a whole range of things” are being planned for the city centre over the festive period this year.
However the latest meeting of the city council’s economic prosperity scrutiny committee heard this will not involve the return of the popular ice rink to Keel Square in 2022.
It is the latest event to go from the calendar, after council chiefs said the Sunderland Airshow will not return for 2023.
The skating rink has been a popular festive feature in Sunderland’s events calendar for a number of years, and it made a return in 2021 after missing 2020 due to the covid pandemic.
Summer 2022 also saw a seasonal take on the activity when a roller rink was installed in the city centre.
Plans for more public space in the city to accommodate events, including an ice rink, were approved in September 2022. But there will be no staking this year.
Sharon Appleby, chief executive of Sunderland BID, said: “The main reason is actually from a budget point of view and I think the cost of living, people will not be able to afford to pay for the skate.
“Then if they don’t pay for the skate it then costs the BID around £100,000 to bring that.
“For me that’s not a good enough use of the money, that amount of money for that short space of time, to not necessarily impact on enough people.”
Ms Appleby stressed there would be a lot of activities planned around the city centre to be announced in the coming weeks however, including the return of Santa’s Grotto.
She added: “The Reindeer Dash is coming back, we’re working with Mackie’s Corner on some stuff, we’ve got cinemas.
“Everything’s around the Bridges this year, the grotto opens there, we’re having a food and drink market with some of the creative and cultural types of people on the 26th of November in Sunniside.
“Then there’s just a range of things that will happen over the course of the run up to Christmas.”
There is also the city’s Christmas Lights switch on, which will take place on November 17 and feature Black Cats legend Kevin Phillips.
Business and council chiefs also discussed plans in the city centre for showcasing the FIFA World Cup, with a campaign to be in place to highlight which venues will be screening games.
Stephen Savage, council assistant director of regulatory services, said it would not have been financially viable to host any large city centre events such as those around a big screen.
He said: “Particularly in winter, a private enterprise might take a risk in the summer, and it’s all dependent on how far England gets through the competition as to whether you’re going to get the money back.
“Basically, it’s a massive risk.
“It takes the food out of the mouths of local bars who during this period will do quite well”.
The comments all came at the meeting at Sunderland City Hall on Tuesday November 8.