Latvia's ice rinks consider closing due to energy bills

Tough times are ahead for Latvian hockey. As electricity and gas prices rise, some rinks will have to be closed because the bills have already increased three times compared to the end of last season. So far, less than a month before the start of the hockey season, there is no solution, Latvian Television reported on August 10.

How hard hockey will suffer is currently difficult to predict, just like the bills received by Latvian ice rinks on Tuesday for July. They are nearly double as high, for example, at Volvo's ice hall in June, gas and electricity costs were €60,000, and €100,000 in July.

The head of the Ice Rinks Association, Ēriks Miļuns, told Latvian Television that the halls under the control of local governments are also uncertain because it is cheaper to keep the hall closed. 

“There is a question about Ogre, a big question was for the Inbox and Ozo rinks, for the Kurbads rinks, as well as for us [Volvo]” Miļuns said. “It may happen at the end of August or September that some five or six halls are closed immediately.”

Amateur athletes will suffer, but most importantly, children whose share in Latvian hockey was already shrinking in the past season. In Sweden, for example, Latvian representation increased three times last year compared to the previous season in various Junior leagues.

Ice hockey has also been adversely affected by Covid years when children were unable to practice and chose to go abroad or changed their sports. Roberts Pļāvējs, secretary-general of the Latvian Hockey Federation, said that the Covid had not gone anywhere but new challenges were arising. The worst-case scenario would be that even more children migrate to other countries, said Pļāvējs.

In order for hockey to continue to develop, the federation and the Ice Rink Association indicate that it should not be sustained without State aid. The Ministry of Economy noted that support has been approved for households at the moment, but the government will decide on companies next week. No assistance from the International Hockey Federation is expected because it has no such fund and aims to pay public or private rink bills.

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