Twitter users have been asking whether the £3,000 paid by Reigate on Ice to use Priory Park was enough, with the ground still in a poor state.
The ice-rink and other attractions, run by the Matthews Organisation, were located in the park from 30 November to 3 January.
Restoration of the ground where the equipment stood has in fact now started, with re-seeding due in the next few weeks. The Matthews Organisation meets the cost of this, while Reigate & Banstead sets the timing.
On the (separate) hire fee, residents have been querying the fact that £3,000 works out lower than the £750 daily rate shown on the council’s website for such events.
But according to Mark Jolley, Reigate & Banstead’s greenspaces manager, the daily rates are guidance only, and were not in place when the £3,000 figure was agreed. He said:
“Officers were keen to diversify the range of events in the park, especially as there were very few in winter: hence this hire fee was negotiated with the Matthews Organisation as it lowered the commercial risk for them.
Now the operation is established our intention is to increase the hire fee from this year onwards.”
We asked the Matthews Organisation about the profitability of the event. Tommy Matthews said running costs had been high since first hosting the ice rink in 2013:
“The first year we made a very large substantial loss due to weather and location in the park etc.
The second year we broke even but never earned any personal money or took a wage.
Year 3 we took a small sum, as well as Year 4.
Year 5 [Christmas 2017/18] is down on the previous year due to the fact of more ice rinks opening around us, and also the weather: so this year we will only be taking a small salary as the funds are not available.”
Looking ahead to 2018/19, he said:
“Hopefully we’ll have less expense this year and try and recuperate some earnings that we have lost out on in the past, as Reigate on Ice takes at least five months of hard work and time to organise and run, and we as a family are very hands-on.”
Mr Matthews added that they’re looking at not opening on school days this year, as those make a “substantial loss”.
He emphasised that, although some councils don’t charge for parks, he was grateful for the fee level set by Reigate & Banstead as it enabled the event to run, although it would probably rise this year.
Mr Matthews said that as well as employing 20 college students, the event had brought visitors into Reigate, with the free firework evening attracting an estimated 8,000 people.
Jes Chandler, chairman of Reigate Business Guild, commented:
“We like the fact that that Reigate on Ice offers another attraction within the town.
This does attract people from outside of the normal catchment area who may take the time to visit the retail and leisure offerings within the town centre.
I would not think this has a significant impact on footfall but it at least offers something different in terms of festive entertainment, and an alternative activity for both young and old.”
He added that reinstatement of the ground was important to maintain public support for the event.
Last summer, the Matthews Organisation also created the donkey derby in the park, after the Community Festival didn’t go ahead, and funded the lavender feature.