It is the ice rink where Eve Muirhead’s illustrious career first began, and was used as one of training rinks for the curling hero’s Olympic gold medal-winning team prior to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

But now concerns have been raised that the “curling capital” of Scotland could be left without a rink with the news that Perth’s Dewars Centre could be set to close later this year.

It comes after a councillor revealed that the leisure and conference centre and Perth Leisure Pool are facing the threat of closure, with soaring energy costs cited as a major factor.

Dewars Centre, which opened in 1990, is renowned for its state-of-the-art curling rink with Olympic-standard ice, and regularly holds national and international competitions within its eight-rink hall, attracting players from all over the world

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Just last month, the centre played host to the Scottish Curling Mixed Doubles Championship, the national curling championship for mixed doubles in Scotland that sees the winners proceed to represent Scotland at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.

It is operated by Live Active Leisure, which runs sports and leisure facilities across Perth and Kinross, and which counts Eve Muirhead as part of its volunteer board of directors.

Despite being home to fewer than 50,000 people, Perth has made a big mark on the curling world. 

Local farmer Chuck Hay skippered Scotland to their first-ever world curling title in 1967, in front of a crowd of 2,000 at Perth ice rink, before David Smith repeated the feat by leading Scotland to victory at the 1991 World Men’s Curling Championship in Winnipeg, Canada.

The Herald: Dewars Centre in PerthDewars Centre in Perth (Image: Perth & Kinross Council)

Muirhead then flew the flag for Perth on the global stage as she won every major title and amassed 11 separate gold medals, six silver and four bronze since she started her career at the World Junior Curling Championships in 2007.

Vincent Bryson, interim CEO of Scottish Curling, said the governing body “wholeheartedly supports” any route where Perth Curling, which is based at Dewars Centre, can continue there.

He said: “We would of course love to see curling in Perth continue but we also acknowledge the difficulty of the situation Perth & Kinross and Live Active Leisure find themselves in as we all do during this unprecedented cost of living crisis.

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“The legacy of curling in Perth is of course unique, and as a curling powerhouse in Scotland, Perth has played a critical role in gathering international medals, but also in offering an entry point for so many people as they began their curling journeys at Dewars.

“We wholeheartedly support any route where Perth Curling can continue at Dewars and look forward to the opportunity to consult with P&K council on any developments of future infrastructure to benefit the sport and to celebrate the legacy of the sport within P&K.”

It is understood the proposal to close Dewars Centre was made during a briefing to councillors prior to a meeting last week where they agreed the 2023/24 budget meeting for Perth and Kinross Council.

The Herald: Olympic curling champion Eve Muirhead began her career at the ice rinkOlympic curling champion Eve Muirhead began her career at the ice rink

Live Active Leisure’s chairman David Maclehose has since confirmed that the leisure provider “is having to consider difficult choices from a wide range of savings proposals”. 

The board of directors will meet on March 16 to decide the way forward.

He said: “We acknowledge and welcome the decision made by Perth & Kinross Council to withdraw the proposed 4% reduction to the Company’s Contract Fee and provide £110K of additional funding support.  Whilst this decision will undoubtedly assist the Company with its financial challenges it unfortunately does not remove them entirely.Like many organisations, we are managing a range of significant pressures, including reduced customer income, rising inflation, high energy costs, and the impact of long-term public finance constraints. 

“The venues that we manage and operate are high demand users of energy and therefore the energy cost increases over the last 18 months alone, have had a big impact financially.  

“In response to these challenges, and to ensure that we can operate on a sustainable basis, the company is having to consider difficult choices from a wide range of savings proposals. 

“The company’s board of directors will meet on March 16 to finalise the approach it will take. Further updates will be provided after this date. In the meantime, we will continue to work with Perth & Kinross Council to ensure that there is a joined-up approach to tacking these challenges.”