Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

New Lee Valley Ice Centre almost finished and opening this year

The interior will be completed "over the coming months" and the centre will open "later this year"

Hero for New Lee Valley Ice Centre almost finished and opening this year
A "topping out" ceremony at the ice centre today (credit: Steve Bainbridge Photography)
By Victoria Munro 30 June 2022

The main structure of the new Lee Valley Ice Centre was completed today, after almost a year and a £1million cash injection from the council.The main structure of the new Lee Valley Ice Centre was completed today, after almost a year and a £1million cash injection from the council.

The £30million facility, nearly double the size of the previous centre, will be the first of its kind in Southeast England and boast two Olympic-sized ice rinks, alongside a gym, dance studio and community spaces. The £30million facility, nearly double the size of the previous centre, will be the first of its kind in Southeast England and boast two Olympic-sized ice rinks, alongside a gym, dance studio and community spaces. 

Though the rebuild was fiercely opposed by environmental groups for encroaching on marsh land, Waltham Forest councillors agreed the plans in October 2020, after hearing the old centre was too small and “worn out” after three decades of use. Though the rebuild was fiercely opposed by environmental groups for encroaching on marsh land, Waltham Forest councillors agreed the plans in October 2020, after hearing the old centre was too small and “worn out” after three decades of use. 

Earlier today, a “topping out” ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the main building, marked by the signing of a commemorative plaque. Earlier today, a “topping out” ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the main building, marked by the signing of a commemorative plaque. 

(credit: Steve Bainbridge Photography)(credit: Steve Bainbridge Photography)

Dannii Goldie, one of the centre’s long-standing coaches, said: “The ice centre has been huge a part of my life since 1984, when I was one of the first people on the ice, skating at the Opening Gala. Dannii Goldie, one of the centre’s long-standing coaches, said: “The ice centre has been huge a part of my life since 1984, when I was one of the first people on the ice, skating at the Opening Gala. 

“Since then, my training has taken me to numerous national and international ice skating championships and now to coaching the next generation of budding ice skaters. “Since then, my training has taken me to numerous national and international ice skating championships and now to coaching the next generation of budding ice skaters. 

“A lot of my skaters are women and young girls and we know that females are often less likely to take part in sport. I’m excited about the opportunities the new Lee Valley Ice Centre will bring and can’t wait to be part of encouraging more people to get active.”“A lot of my skaters are women and young girls and we know that females are often less likely to take part in sport. I’m excited about the opportunities the new Lee Valley Ice Centre will bring and can’t wait to be part of encouraging more people to get active.”

The building is owned and run by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), whose chief executive Shaun Dawson told the Echo they have made “incredible progress”.The building is owned and run by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), whose chief executive Shaun Dawson told the Echo they have made “incredible progress”.

He added: “Our ambition is for an inspirational venue bringing world class facilities to communities in east London and across the region, aiding physical and mental wellbeing.He added: “Our ambition is for an inspirational venue bringing world class facilities to communities in east London and across the region, aiding physical and mental wellbeing.

“The much loved old centre had reached the end of its operational life and could no longer cope with the high demand. But it lives on: we reused 95% of the concrete – 950 tonnes - from the old centre for the foundations of this exciting new building.“The much loved old centre had reached the end of its operational life and could no longer cope with the high demand. But it lives on: we reused 95% of the concrete – 950 tonnes - from the old centre for the foundations of this exciting new building.

“We see it as a new community hub with programmes for schools, under-represented groups and a host of community organisations. We want this to be a place for everyone to enjoy - from committed skaters to people who meet up in the cafe before exploring the fantastic surrounding green spaces.”“We see it as a new community hub with programmes for schools, under-represented groups and a host of community organisations. We want this to be a place for everyone to enjoy - from committed skaters to people who meet up in the cafe before exploring the fantastic surrounding green spaces.”

The original plan presented to the council in 2020 (credit: LVRPA)The original plan presented to the council in 2020 (credit: LVRPA)

The previous centre opened in 1984 and was used by an average of 279,000 people every year by the time it closed for redevelopment. The LVRPA and the council hope the new, expanded centre will attract over half a million people each year.The previous centre opened in 1984 and was used by an average of 279,000 people every year by the time it closed for redevelopment. The LVRPA and the council hope the new, expanded centre will attract over half a million people each year.

In May last year, council leaders agreed to give LVRPA a £1million grant - split over five years - as they were "struggling to cover the peak debt during the construction phase, meaning the project may not go ahead".In May last year, council leaders agreed to give LVRPA a £1million grant - split over five years - as they were "struggling to cover the peak debt during the construction phase, meaning the project may not go ahead".

In return for the financial assistance, LVRPA will provide a 10-year programme of community benefits through the ice centre, including programmes for targeted crime prevention, mental health and wellbeing and biodiversity awareness. In return for the financial assistance, LVRPA will provide a 10-year programme of community benefits through the ice centre, including programmes for targeted crime prevention, mental health and wellbeing and biodiversity awareness.

Furthermore, the ice centre will offer work apprenticeships, tickets to local schools for a range of sports events and weekly sessions on the ice for under-represented groups.Furthermore, the ice centre will offer work apprenticeships, tickets to local schools for a range of sports events and weekly sessions on the ice for under-represented groups.

Councillor Ahsan Khan, co-deputy leader of Waltham Forest, said: “We’re so proud to have Lee Valley Ice Centre in Waltham Forest and excited about the role the new centre will play in enhancing social cohesion.Councillor Ahsan Khan, co-deputy leader of Waltham Forest, said: “We’re so proud to have Lee Valley Ice Centre in Waltham Forest and excited about the role the new centre will play in enhancing social cohesion.

“Our £1m 10-year package will deliver a range of benefits, from a targeted crime prevention programme to a mental health and wellbeing programme.”“Our £1m 10-year package will deliver a range of benefits, from a targeted crime prevention programme to a mental health and wellbeing programme.”

The new centre is expected to boost the local economy by £1.5m every year and create 45 new jobs. However, previously, objectors to the rebuild warned it could become a “white elephant” if it didn’t pull in the promised visitors.The new centre is expected to boost the local economy by £1.5m every year and create 45 new jobs. However, previously, objectors to the rebuild warned it could become a “white elephant” if it didn’t pull in the promised visitors.

At the planning meeting where the project was approved in 2020, Abigail Woodman from campaign group Save Lea Marshes told councillors: “It will look like a massive warehouse, especially from the marshes. Is this what you want for our precious green space?”At the planning meeting where the project was approved in 2020, Abigail Woodman from campaign group Save Lea Marshes told councillors: “It will look like a massive warehouse, especially from the marshes. Is this what you want for our precious green space?”

The LVRPA successfully argued there were “very special circumstances” justifying their plan to expand the centre onto the legally protected land of Leyton Marshes.The LVRPA successfully argued there were “very special circumstances” justifying their plan to expand the centre onto the legally protected land of Leyton Marshes.

They also promise to plant an approximately football pitch-sized wildflower meadow around the site and more than 120 native trees, including rare black poplars. They also promise to plant an approximately football pitch-sized wildflower meadow around the site and more than 120 native trees, including rare black poplars. 

Work is still needed to complete the interior of the building, which is expected to re-open to the public “later this year”.Work is still needed to complete the interior of the building, which is expected to re-open to the public “later this year”.

A previous version of this article stated the £1million cash injection was agreed during a nearly two-year construction period. Construction began last August, meaning the grant was agreed prior to an almost one-year construction period. A previous version of this article stated the £1million cash injection was agreed during a nearly two-year construction period. Construction began last August, meaning the grant was agreed prior to an almost one-year construction period.