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By Richard Evans – The Advertiser

ICE skaters in Southern Australia can look forward to the biggest ice sports arena in the southern hemisphere if a $35 million project in northern Adelaide gets the go-ahead.

Ice Rinks Adelaide, a consortium fronted by Cruachan investments and backed by heavyweight investors the Southern Cross Group, is planning to build two Olympic size ice rinks side-by-side in Playford within the next two years.

Cruachan director Stephen Campbell said the Playford Arena project will create 100 jobs during construction, and 70 fulltime and ongoing jobs upon completion.

He expects it to bring in up to $7 million annually by attracting world championship ice hockey and figure skating events.

“The City of Playford council is backing it, it will be built to international standards,” he said.

“We will also build a 21 metre high rock climbing wall. Rock climbing was announced last month as an Olympic sport for Tokyo and there has been a big upsurge in interest in the last two years.”

One of the 60 by 30 metre rinks will be for recreational skaters and the other will be the preserve of ice sports which is suffering badly from the outdated Thebarton ice arena which is in danger of being shut down by its owner, David Lee, if cosmetic updates of up to $3 million are not carried out soon.

The future of ice sports in South Australia is under the spotlight as never before, said Mr Campbell, and cannot hope to survive without a fresh facility and approach.

“There is not enough ice time for ice sports to develop with just one facility here. C grade ice hockey teams can’t train during winter because there is not enough time, they have to do it in summer which is out of season,” he said.

“There are simply not enough hours in the day to train on the ice.”

The new venue will be on a 11,700 sqm unused site on the southern corner of the Main North Road and Philip Highway intersection that the City of Playford will sell to the development group, Mr Campbell said.

The multi-purpose venue will also include a 450-seat restaurant overlooking the ice rinks and rock climbing wall plus a dance studio, children’s play area and “winter wonderland”.

“I have spent time investigating similar venues in North America and Europe, every square metre of space will be used for more than one purpose, including the lobby which can be transformed in to a function room,” Mr Campbell said.

The ice hockey arena will be surrounded by 3200 seats over two tiers and 13 rows high.

“An arena cannot survive as a stand alone venue, it has to have different sources,” said Mr Campbell.

“We would like to start building later this year and have it ready for early 2018 to coincide with the February Winter Olympics in South Korea and capitalise on the interest that generates.”