There's an article on page A10 of today's Dominion Post (not online, but confirmed on the council's website) announcing that the ice-skating rink planned for Hutchinson Rd south of Te Whaea will not go ahead. While the developer (Wellington Indoor Sports) had already been threatening to pull out due to delays with the lease, apparently the final straw was the arrival of The Lanes. That sounds a bit odd, but the ice rink was suposed to have been subsidised by a 20-lane bowling alley, and it seems that Wellington's not big enough for two of them.
The council is still looking for alternative sites and investors, though, which is not surprising given that it was one of the mayor's pet projects. I was always a bit unimpressed by the original project, which despite some attractive environmental features from Aonui architects was firmly based upon a suburban model: a big, low box surrounded by carparks. This aerial photo shows the original site with the approximate size of an international standard ice hockey rink (61m x 30m) for comparison. There's certainly a lot of space there for a rink, bowling alley, cafe and a lot of cars, which no doubt endeared it to our car-loving mayor. Unfortunately, it's a long way from pretty much anything else (unless the dance and drama students feel like branching out into ice dancing), ensuring that those carparks would be necessary.
What if ice skating went the way of bowling, and moved to an inner-city site as some are suggesting? Here's how the same-sized rink would fit into the empty Wakefield St site next to The Lanes: very snugly. It might be too tight to work, but otherwise the location has a lot of advantages: it's next to a lot of existing entertainment venues (Courtenay Central, The Lanes, Te Papa and the waterfront) and is half a block from the Golden Mile with its bus stops (and in a parallel universe, light rail). A single-storey box would be a waste of the site, but of course it could be incorporated as the ground floor of a multi-storey development, which might provide the income neccesary to subsidise the rink. If the site is too small, or Reading still want it for an arthouse cinema complex, then maybe the block just north of there (with its jumble of decrepit warehouses and car yards) would work just as well.
If we're talking about incorporating it into the ground floor of a bigger building (which I think we should), then how about the new BNZ building at Harbour Quays? I still haven't been able to find any plans or renderings for that, despite asking the architects and developers, but the footprint is clearly going to be enormous. Here's a mockup that shows a rink in context, together with the approximate footprint of the part of Shed 1 that's currently used for indoor sport. At a guess, I'd say that even allowing for atria through the building, there's still room for an ice rink, two indoor sports courts, and some retail or hospitality tenancies (such as a sports bar/cafe and a convenience store).
This location isn't in such an entertainment hub, but it's certainly well-placed for public transport, and if the indoor stadium goes ahead north of here (confirmation of the final site is still weeks away) it'll soon be a sporting mecca. The indoor stadium is too far from the CBD to be much use for lunchtime sports, but this end of Harbour Quays would be much better for that purpose, especially given the drift north of the working population. It would need a very high stud for the ground floor, and at least partially transparent walls to keep the edges active, but it should be physically possible.
Of course, this may be far too late given that site work has already started on the BNZ building. But if the council is going to follow the recommendations of the Kemp Report (which it commissioned) and ensure that Harbour Quays offers a mixture of uses, then this would be a great start.