WORLD champion curling captain Bruce Mouat has said the energy price hike is destroying momentum sparked in the sport following its recent success in the Winter Olympics.

The Olympic silver medallist spoke to The National following news Ayr ice rink is set to close due to surging energy prices at the end of September.

A petition against the move is closing in on 10,000 signatures, as those involved in curling, figure skating and ice hockey clubs the rink is home to fight to try and turn things around.

Mouat – who led Scotland to victory in the World Championships earlier this year - said he was saddened by the news, which follows the closure of Braehead ice rink.

The Renfrewshire facility shut in 2019 due to declining user numbers.

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The Scottish Ice Rinks Association is predicting a couple more ice rinks in a similar position to Ayr could also follow.

Mouat told The National the trend of ice rinks struggling was making him concerned about the future of a sport Scotland has found so much success in.

“It is a bit worrying,” Mouat said.

“We’ve been having quite a lot of success in recent years with the men and through the women winning Olympic gold and you would think that would boost our uptake of the sport and, as much as it did over the few months post the Olympics, the energy price hike has completely destroyed that momentum that we built.

“I know that a lot of the ice rinks were seeing a lot of people coming into the sport.

“It’s sad to see ice rinks not even be able to open their doors to let people try ice sports.”

He added: “We [Scotland] did invent the sport and we’ve had a lot of success in it so it would be sad to see that dwindle away.

“A lot of the curlers that still curl are pretty dedicated to continuing that legacy. It would be awful to see all the ice rinks shut.”

Ayr ice rink was built in Limekiln Road in 1972 and is home to dozens of curling clubs as well as Kyle Figure Skating Club, Ayr Figure Skating Club and Ayr Bruins Junior Ice Hockey.

Andrew Kerr, a director at owners Ayrshire Curlers Ltd, said the company's energy bills are set to rocket 110% in October to more than £300,000 a year and the firm has been left with no choice but to pull the plug on the facility.

The petition states the closure of the rink could have a “devastating” impact on the area’s children and adults.

The National: Bruce Mouat (centre) and the Team GB men's curling team won silver at the Winter Olympics 2022Bruce Mouat (centre) and the Team GB men's curling team won silver at the Winter Olympics 2022 (Image: PA)

Mouat said curlers may face having to travel as far as Hamilton and Stranraer to continue playing the sport.

He said: “I knew they [Ayr] were struggling but I didn’t know to what extent and it was a bit of a surprise to hear the figures they were coming out with.

“It’s disappointing because that’s another 500 members that could potentially not have an ice rink to go to or have to travel quite extensive distances to curl and that’s not what we need.

“We need people to have access to these facilities to enjoy the experience and the social side of the game.”

Mouat, who started curling when he was seven, said the social side of the sport is the reason he is now enjoying a successful elite career.

He added: “The social side of the sport is the big thing I love. That’s why I continued to do it throughout my teens because I found friends and I constantly wanted to spend time with them.

“There’s a massive elite side to the sport and that’s my career now but the reason I loved the sport to start with is because of the social side of it.

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“We’re going to have to work hard over the next few years to make sure that ice rinks are able to become sustainable. Getting members to hold gatherings in the bars and restaurants as well as get together on the ice is pretty vital for these places to stay open.”

Kerr said the only way he could see the Ayr ice rink being saved was if South Ayrshire Council was to step in, adding that discussions are ongoing.

He said: “We have always operated more or less as a not-for-profit company, although we do have shareholders.

“We don’t make huge profits every year, we aim to break even, show a small surplus, which is then reinvested. We just go from year to year on that basis and that’s been fine and it would continue to be fine but for the hike in energy charges.

“We’re getting a lot of stick but there’s nothing we can do. If we continue we go bust and we can’t let that happen.

“We can see the edge of the cliff but we’d rather deal with it now on a voluntary basis.”

Asked whether anything could be done to save the facility, he said: “Not unless the council steps in. We’ve been telling the council this was coming.

“We were led to believe they were going to build a new rink and that has not materialised. The trouble is no one has any money.”

On the future of the sport, Kerr added: “It’s a major concern to Scottish Curling. If you lose the ice rinks, you take away the pathway for success.”

A council spokesman said: “In light of Ayr Curling Club’s decision to close Ayr ice rink, we have written to their board to offer support.

“We have been in discussions with the club for a number of months in relation to their potential future delivery model. Most recently, we have offered to provide full support through our Economy and Regeneration team which will include a full review of the ice rink’s business plan, and carry out an energy audit to establish feasibility of energy savings and new energy sources. 

“We will also work with their board to consider potential changes to the legal structure of the organisation. The council are keen to provide assistance to ensure that the board are able to focus on future growth and long-term sustainability for all users of the ice rink.

“The board have confirmed they are willing to explore all avenues to help keep the ice rink open and we are now progressing at pace with appropriate council officers working on this.”