Plans for a £40 million development of the Leisure Plaza have been approved, which will see Megabowl close down and leave the city’s ice rink out of use for at least a year.
The plans have been described as ‘a huge and comprehensive refurbishment’ by Abbeygate Developments, although it will mean the closure of Planet Ice for between 12 to 14 months.
It will also mean the city’s ice hockey teams will be forced to play their home matches at alternative venues while work is carried out. MK Lightning will temporally move to Coventry, but the destination of other clubs and sports is not yet certain, with Peterborough another likely destination.
Lightning chairman Vito Rausa and John Neville, group managing director of Planet Ice, told a forum of representatives from ice-using groups on Thursday night that the decision to go ahead with the refurbishment was out of their hands, but that they believed it was vital for the long-term future of the facility.
Abbeygate Developments managing director Clive Faine told the Citizen that the refurbishment, which will begin some time between May and July, will bring a state-of-the-art ice and leisure facility to Milton Keynes.
He said he could not 100 per cent guarantee that the development will happen, but insisted he was extremely confident that it would.
“We’ve been trying to do this for about eight years now, and this time we really think it will happen,” he said.
“We just can’t categorically say it will 100 per cent happen yet because things still need to be done. It’s been a struggle. But we are very, very confident that we have finally managed to do it.
“This will give Milton Keynes a fantastic ice facility for the future. It will be one of the best in the country – certainly the best in the south east. The project will cost in the region of £40 million.
“This is a huge, comprehensive refurbishment. It’s not just a £50 lick of paint job. It’s going to be a fantastic facility and it’s very exciting. Milton Keynes Council has been very supportive.
“The ice rink will still be operated by Planet Ice but we anticipate that ice users will have to find an alternative venue for 12 to 14 months while the work is done.”
The refurbishment of the Leisure Plaza will see some of the existing building structure remain, but a new entrance to the ice rink will be built on Avebury Boulevard, and the seating capacity will be increased to around 2,500. However, some details are still to be confirmed.
“We absolutely understand that there will be uncertainty about the refurbishment in the minds of not just our own supporters, but all the other rink users too,” said Rausa, whose Lightning side will have just three more home games in the city before moving to Coventry for the start of next season.
“But the end result will be a first class facility, and well worth the wait. It’s an exciting time for ice hockey in Milton Keynes and we’ll do everything we can to keep Lightning supporters up to date with what’s going on.”