Frosty reception for Newry Winter “Blunderland”

December 9, 2013

By Christine Keighery

The opening of the highly anticipated Newry on Ice Winter Wonderland attraction, muted to attract over 100,000 visitors to the city during its month long stay at Albert Basin, was overshadowed by pricing rows and opening delays which prompted many to brand the Christmas project a complete “non-event.”

Excitement had been building about the arrival of the 1.5million initiative which was billed to be a Winter Wonderland themed extravaganza promising a host of features including a Big Wheel, Santa’s workshop, an ice bar, drive in movie, crazy golf, and the main attraction – Newry’s first Ice Skating Rink.

That excitement was somewhat dampened last week when the hefty pricetag of 46.50 for a family of four to skate for one hour on the new ice rink was revealed, prompting fury from parents and would-be customers who took to the Newry on Ice Facebook page to vent their anger at what were described as “rip-off” prices. Many threatened to boycott the entire event and called on Newry and Mourne District Council to intervene in the pricing structure.

Comparisons were also made to similar ice skating facilities in Dundalk, Belfast and Dundonald where the cost is half this.

As the online uproar developed, the Examiner contacted Newry on Ice organisers for an explanation. We were quoted a new lower price for tickets and when pressed to respond to claims that the reduced prices were as a direct result of Newry and Mourne Council’s intervention, the spokesperson confusingly claimed she was unsure where the 46.50 price had originated from so could not comment on it.

She continued,

“We obviously value what all of our customers and potential customers have to say, and like any other business, customer feedback helps you to improve your products or services.

“Putting an event of this scale on is a massive undertaking with colossal costs involved and our Ice Skating rink is real ice which is more costly than an artificial surface.

“Newry and Mourne District Council have been incredibly supportive in every way possible and we have really enjoyed working with them on this project.

“The response we have received locally on this project has been overwhelming and I think the people of Newry and Mourne are excited to have this event.”

Pricing woes aside, the ambitious project was officially launched last Thursday and the city looked forward to the grand opening of Newry’s first ever Winter Wonderland last Saturday morning at 10am.

Potential customers were left hugely disappointed though when a message appeared on the event’s Facebook page at 12.30pm on Saturday advising that the opening had been postponed until Sunday, due to “adverse weather conditions.”

The last minute announcement was heavily criticised by disappointed parents, many of whom were already making their way to the much publicised event. Questions also arose as to how Tuesday’s stormy weather could possibly have affected opening preparations some four days later. Despite the flurry of online complaints and queries, the event managment made no further comment on Saturday.

As enthusiastic crowds flocked to the Albert Basin on Sunday, hopes were high that the first ever attraction of its kind the city has ever seen could live up to expectations and provide the magical Winter Wonderland experience that Newry people have looked forward to for so long.