Turtle-shaped ice rink planned to help revitalize George Town

An ice-stadium with a roof made entirely of solar panels in the shape of a turtle shell is being backed by government as the first key project in the planned revitalization of George Town. 

The concept of a 6,300-seat stadium, exhibition center and National Hockey League-sized ice-rink in the Caribbean was first floated by Canadian entrepreneur Tim Best for a site on West Bay Road last year. 

Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts announced on Thursday that the project would now be located on the George Town waterfront and would be a central plank in the redevelopment of the capital. 

He said it was a “wonderful idea” that would attract visitors to George Town on a daily basis and be capable of hosting hockey games, basketball and boxing matches, as well as a Cirque de Soleil-style ice show, featuring Olympic and world champion skaters. 

Details of how the privately funded project will be financed and an analysis of the likely demand for such a facility in Cayman have yet to be revealed and a planning application has yet to be made to the Central Planning Authority. Mr. Best, of Canadian company Hard Set Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement on Thursday that detailed plans and a time line for construction would be revealed in the next 30 days. 

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received so far from the Cayman Islands Government on this exciting project,” he said. “The George Town entertainment district, anchored by the Cayman Ice Palace, has the potential to contribute to the country’s future by diversifying Cayman’s tourism product and improving the island’s livability.” 

Mr. Tibbetts suggested the project would be a “huge” game-changer for George Town.  

Speaking to Chamber members at the Wharf last week, during a lunch briefing on the revitalization of the capital, he said the unusual project was the first big private-sector development. 

“While we know that nothing is real until it becomes real, the government has every confidence that this will become a reality,” he said. 

“Cayman will then become separate and apart from any other country in the Caribbean. I dare say this will be a unique project unlike any other in the region – we are happy that the investors and the developers of this project have chosen the Cayman Islands to be its home,” he added. 

A striking feature of the rough design, which Mr. Tibbetts exhibited to Chamber members, is a 160,000-square-foot solar panel roof, which he said would resemble the shell of a Cayman green sea turtle. 

Ice-Rink

Chamber members were shown slides of how the ice rink may look.

Ice-Design

An artist’s impression of the exterior of the ‘Cayman Ice Palace.’

Overhead-View

An artist’s impression of an aerial view of the development shows the turtle-like structure on the George Town waterfront.
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  1. A huge game changer for George Town – a central plank in the redevelopment of the Capital ? This has got to be one of the most ridiculous ideas proposed by any CI government in the last 40 years.

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  2. Unbelievable that this pipe-dream is still on the griddle for entertainment in Grand Cayman! Who will pay to watch ice-capades with a turtle shaped solar roof? Surely not cruise passengers who have ice-rinks at home and who only take the tenders into George Town to buy whatever they can for the least amount of money. And as for local people, surely they would prefer to watch ice-skating events – hockey, figure skating, curling, whatever activities take place on ice – on their great big flat screen TVs in their air-conditioned living-rooms. This idea of the ice-rink reminds one of the other ideas that have risen and sunken into the mists of memory – the ferris wheel that could roll off its base during a cat 5 hurricane, and the other bright ideas entrepreneurs from the Cayman Islands and abroad have brought to us to line their pockets with lucre. Face it, folks, an ice-rink isn’t the answer to revitalizing George Town. The only ice-rink in the Caribbean? Are the creators looking for a Caribbean Olympics in the Cayman Islands? The costs of maintaining a solid ice-rink (no matter the shape of its solar roof) in the tropics (95 plus degrees in Cayman summers) would be prohibitive. Sorry to pop the bubble, but a word to the wise is sufficient. Fuggedabout it.

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  3. I believe that this is a perfectly viable project. I hardly think it likely that investors are going to spend all this time, money and effort coming up with the plans for a business that is not going to be financially sustainable. For the Government to be publicly championing the venture it must mean that they have confidence in it happening.

    We all know (and complain) that George Town needs revitalisation, so I’m glad that Mr Best has come up with these plans to inject some life into our capital town. I don’t see anyone else coming up with solutions.

    It’s also nice to see consideration for our heritage being taken into account in the architecture with the turtle shaped roof.

    I say well done, and good luck.

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  4. Why so much emphasis on this ? What happened to the IronWood development where the deal with road at now. What’s the deal with the dump, the Cruise port, the Airport you know things that people care about..I think the PPM is looking for something anything to call their own..

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  5. ?Sooner or later an incredible stadium like this was going to be built somewhere in the Caribbean. I think it’s great that the developers choose Cayman. They say plans and the groundbreaking announcement is only 30 days away. Why don”t we give them a chance?

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  6. An improvement to the down town core of George Town is long over due. Not only for the local people but for the visiting tourist product as well.
    Why is it when a group of investors who want to invest in Cayman come calling there is nothing but negative comments?
    This is the first truly viable multi-purpose venue that could actually provide a place for "other" activities.
    I am sure many more people would attend major functions such as trade shows, Miss Cayman pageants, music concerts, etc. if they were not held in dirty outdated venues that can be unbearably uncomfortable.
    The dump, cruise port, airport are other projects which have nothing to do with this project.
    As for David Williams comments…people can an do make mistakes in their lifetime (one only has to look into the local political arena), are we to hold that against them forever?
    Not very Christian coming from a highly religious island is it!!!
    Perhaps people should try looking at things outside the box instead of with blinders on!!!

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  7. Shannon, I was very careful to ensure that my link didn”t actually refer to the full details of Mr Best”s 2011 run in with the Canadian authorities. However, as you raised the subject there is a lot more on the internet if people look.

    As for your other comments, there”s an old saying – If something looks too good to be true it probably is. The cost is was quoted in the Canadian press as 30million – where is that money coming from?

    There are already several perfectly viable venues for the events you mention – do we really need this?

    Too many questions remain unanswered.

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  8. David, I imagine the money is coming from the same place that most developments get their money from, and that is a group of investors who have looked at the project, evaluated its chance of financial success and decided to invest their money in it.

    I think we all need to have a bit more belief in our islands and those who want to make them better, "too good to be true" do we honestly think that we don”t deserve a multi-purpose stadium or a redeveloped George Town?

    Whilst we”re on the subject of negativity, Nan Socolow, as I recall, you were the person who suggested the idea of the proposed Ferris Wheel cartwheeling around the island akin to some comedy sketch. I would be very interested in your structural engineering background, (because what you propose is, I”m afraid, in the realms of fantasy and Hollywood) but please don”t start posting your views as if they were fact. We all have a right to express our opinions, but to present them as fact is misleading.

    "the ferris wheel that could roll off its base during a cat 5 hurricane"

    "One good strong Cat 3 or 4 hurricane and the wheel will go careening off its pins and pedestal, out of its uberlandscaped garden in the shape of Grand Cayman, and rolling through George Town and the surrounding burbs and deliver as much havoc as Ivan (and Paloma) did"

    I agree with Steve, why don”t we give these guys a chance and see what happens.

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  9. I somewhat agree with David in that it may be too good to be true. Concerts, tradeshows, hockey and basketball games…wow!

    Why don”t we, who are not privy to the finaces or business plan, not be so quick to criticize. Like Shannon said, an improvement to the core is long overdue. So why not give the developers a chance to give us something that is, as David said, ”too good to be true”.

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  10. Please let me explain the turtle shape ice rink, it’s a risk that Government need to be very careful with, would you let a investor come in on your property and develop it on his or her terms ? This is what happens with every smart developer, they always gets more out than they put in. Do we have conference centers on the Island ? How many ice rinks has this man built in the Caribbean ? DO we have over abundance of fresh water on Grand Cayman ? You cannot make ice from salt water .

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  11. Why all the negativity ? Let me offer an explanation.

    It comes from experience, we have all seen these things come and go. Big talk, Big news, plenty of political pandering and photoshoots with developers yet nothing comes out of most of them. Compare all the things that were put on the table to how many actually materialized. This is why so many people have a negative "I’ll believe it when I see it attitude". And if it is started it best be completed by the next election when priorities change to match what the next administration wants.

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  12. I give my support to this project because it will be to revitalize George Town. Come on now people don’t be selfish, its the CAPITAL and it is slowly dying for the same reasons because every body wants all the business and money in their own back yard.

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  13. Please publish the dumbest ideas in the world on April 1st.only not to confuse people about sanity of its leaders. Remember oil refinery plan?
    Waterfront ice rink on a tiny Caribbean!!!! island that doesn’t even have room for sidewalks or parking? Whoa! Build it on the top of that stinking dump, plenty of room there.

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  14. Michael Davis I have to support your thoughts here again, because it is true. People need to watch this political pandering from politicians who want to get re elected. Most times nothing comes out of most of them. So I am going to make it my business to write down all the political pandering promises that are being made, so I will have something to question them about in 2017, just to hear the usual We don’t have the money. I would suggest that all the want to be new politicians and all the old want to still be politicians and all the used to be politicians make sure that your intentions are good; We will certainly ask for a manifesto, if you cannot give one then why should I and I man and mi team family and friends vote for you.

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  15. Whilst I agree that George Town needs to be revitalized, I also agree with people who say this project won’t be the one that accomplishes that goal.

    A solar paneled roof is a wonderful idea, however unless this facility is going to have a generating capacity that enables it to be independent of CUC- how much use is that roof going to be? CUC has already reduced the number of kilowatt hours that can be sold back to the grid and the amount of credit on a customer’s bill for same.

    Next up: providing a multi-purpose venue for diverse sports and entertainment. The overheads associated with maintaining an ice rink year round are already quite high, now ask yourself how much top tier athletes, Disney on Ice or any other program would require to make the idea of playing to a crowd of thousands palatable? They are used to hundreds of thousands. Even if you could extend your reach with a PPV deal on our local TV networks/ cable providers. I still can’t see the required revenue coming in.

    With regards to attracting visitors to the capital I question the parking facilities and nearby food and drink vendors availability. Traditionally venues such as King’s Sports Center or the Lion’s Center have massive gridlock and people line the roadsides and park on roundabouts for Miss Teen, Miss Cayman or a Charles Whittaker match. Indeed most people avoid those areas and the associated congestion. How does traffic and overcrowding help revitalize the capital?

    Lastly: Plenty of wealthy investors have lost big bucks on well pitched sales ideas, some are even willing to make a small loss to enable them to park their money here and gain residency.

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  16. As an old time bookkeeper I was accustomed to feasibility studies on new projects.In my experience in Cayman these do not exist as demonstrated by the Turtle Farm expansion promulgated by the last Minister of Finance. And we all know who that was!
    It seems that the ice rink concept shares a common feature with the Turtle Farm, that of a Turtle Shell. May I suggest to those looking at this project, that they seek a professional feasibility study to ensure that this project is not a shell game. Alternatively the Government should seek an opinion from our dedicated and well respected Auditor General.

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  17. GT certainly needs revitalization…but at what and whose expense? Hopefully, this idea does not end up like the reality of operating the Turtle Farm – bleeding thousands of dollars each day to the detriment of Caymanians.

    I find it rather silly that there will be an investment in something that tourists are trying to escape from in their homelands in North America and Europe – ice (snow). Unless, this rink will cater to mostly the 50k + residents on island, in which case, the question arises – "is this feasible?" Maybe I could sell the Cayman government some SAND..and they would buy-in too. After all, everything flies with them. smh lol

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  18. This is the most ridiculous idea I”ve heard in a long time – thanks for the laugh.

    To those that think this is a viable development to revitalize George Town, there have to be so many more economical ideas out there.

    The government is in debt up to their eyeballs, they can”t manage their own money.

    We need more green space in town, not more buildings that will end up being abandoned.

    What part of Cayman’s history are you tearing down? So the roof alone is 160,000 square feet…where in GT has that much room free to build?

    Truman Bodden is a 3,000 capacity stadium. They are proposing double that with the ice rink. What will happen with parking?

    It’s a new idea that’s for sure but it’s definitely not sustainable and will surely turn into an eyesore when it’s lost the novelty.

    Invest in the Cayman culture…people come here for island life and are being smacked in the face with the same thing they get on every other Caribbean Island. They have ice rinks at home…how is that going to increase tourism? Concerts? Not likely. Cirque de Soleil? Be serious. Hockey tournaments…maybe but don’t forget all the equipment that goes into maintaining ice. We can’t even manage to maintain our own garbage trucks, police cars, etc.

    The only thing they have right with this proposal is the solar energy.

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