Sun, sea and sand have traditionally been the ingredients attracting tourists to Grand Cayman. Now an entrepreneur wants to add an unlikely fourth element to the mix – ice.
A $30 million project is in the works to build a 4,000-seat ice arena on the Seven Mile Beach strip that developers say would play host to a daily ice show, as well as monthly concerts from “A-list” bands.
Tim Best, the chief operating officer of a new company called Cayman Ice Palace, believes the novel concept could work, despite the territory’s relatively low population and high cost of living – including some of the world’s highest electricity bills.
He believes Caymanians will soon become converts to ice hockey and figure skating, while Canadian expatriates will provide a core market for recreational and spectator sports.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the government had received a “good presentation” on the project and was supportive of the venture.
Mr. Best, who has been involved with ice arenas in Texas in the U.S. and owned a bar in London, Ontario, said the aim was to build a multipurpose facility that could also host trade shows and would feature a restaurant and laser tag. A presentation at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman last month pitched corporate membership packages to island residents.
Mr. Best, who was back on island earlier this month with his wife Anne Marie DeCicco-Best, the former mayor of London, Ontario, said he and business partner John Yip-Chuck have recruited local architect John Doak to work on the designs.
He said the funding is already in place and a piece of land has been acquired close to Cost U Less, between West Bay Road and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway. He believes the facility could be built and operational by early 2016. It is hoped that an afternoon ice show – described as a cross between Cirque du Soleil and Disney on Ice – will be a major source of ongoing revenue.
“We believe people will book this months ahead when they book their cruise ship vacation, and they may even choose a cruise that stops here because of this show,” said Mr. Best.
He acknowledged that electricity costs would be an issue, but said the cost could be mitigated in part by the building design and potentially using geothermal or solar energy.
He said the concept for an ice venue in Cayman that could potentially host major events and ice hockey tournaments and camps came from his partner Mr. Yip-Chuck.
“He was reading articles on some guys here that transplanted from Canada and the U.S. that would get together and play hockey in these tournaments because they didn’t want to lose their identity. There had to be a way to support it and that is where the ice show idea came in,” Mr. Best said.
He said the ice show would be staffed by professionals who came and went on a rotating basis, like a “traveling theater group.” Concept designs have been drawn up, but no firm plans have been submitted to the Central Planning Authority at this stage.
Ms. DeCicco-Best said the developers had visited Cayman on several occasions to do “due diligence” in terms of compliance with regulations and assessing the market. She said everything they planned to do would meet an unfulfilled need in the territory, including a need for conference space.
Mr. Best, who has played and coached hockey at various levels, said the aim is to teach every child in Cayman to skate, and to grow ice sports locally.
“Cayman has athletes, like everywhere else. When there is ice in Cayman, there will be figure skaters and ice hockey players,” he said.
A brochure handed out to Cayman residents at the presentation at the Ritz-Carlton in September highlights various membership packages on offer. It describes Mr. Yip-Chuck as the CEO of Cayman Ice Palace, saying he is a “senior businessman with almost two decades spent at the top of Canada’s publishing industry.”