By Hindustan Times

Constructed at a cost of over Rs. 100 crore, the ice skating rink here – the only international-sized facility in the country – is in a state of disuse since its inauguration six years ago. Though it began functioning in 2011, the facility has been shut, thanks to the high maintenance cost which the Uttarakhand government unable to bear.

The facility houses an Olympic-sized rink with a seating capacity of over 2,500. After its launch with the South Asian Winter Games in January 2011, the other event hosted by it was the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia in March 2012, and two local ice skating and training events.

Shut since then, sources said the state government could not afford the expenditure required for keeping the arena functional – over Rs. 30,000 daily on electricity, in addition to maintenance of high-cost machines, roping in technical experts, trained staff and other operational costs.

In 2015, the union sports ministry had assured Parliament that it would help restart the rink but that is yet to happen.

“As the rink is not operational, Indian ice hockey and skating players are forced to train abroad (for short duration’s at higher costs) or at commercial rinks (in Gurgaon and Mumbai) which are not of international size,” Shiv Painuly, president of the Ice Skating Association of Uttarakhand, told Hindustan Times.

He said the state has six international and 45 national-level awards in ice skating “without any facility to train”. “Imagine how our medal count would soar with athletes getting to practice here.”

Experts say had it been maintained, the arena would have not only provided a much-needed platform to Indian ice sports athletes, and would have attracted a large number of domestic and international tourists.

“With maintenance and effective publicity, the state-of-the-art rink would have put the state on the global map by attracting lovers of ice hockey and skating as well as tourists from all over the world,” said Arvind Gupta, secretary, Association of Roller Skating, Uttarakhand.

Painuly, who is also the chairperson of the Infrastructure Development Committee-Ice Rink of the Ice Skating Association of India, said the panel had approached the state government to restart operations. “Besides making urgent efforts, the state government should also pursue the matter with the Central government to save the asset from getting wasted,” he said.

When contacted, Neeraj Gupta, chief operating officer of the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex Society (a society under the Uttarakhand government which was given the mandate to manage the rink), said efforts were being made to revive the rink on a public-private partnership mode. “We had invited bids from private players for running the facility earlier this year, but only a single bid was received. We’ll be calling for tenders again so that the rink can be made functional,” Gupta told HT.