Panari Nairobi has reopened its ice rink after two years, the only one in East Africa, hoping to woo ice-skating lovers and increase business to the establishment that has recorded low numbers over the past two years.
Tourism and Wildlife secretary Najib Balala said the reopening of the rink will be a boost to ice-skating games, after Ice Lions, Kenya's only ice hockey team, hit global headlines two years ago.
The buzz around the Ice Lions was global because the closure of Panari ice rink forced Tasha Otieno, Faith Wambui and Alexcy Wambui, the team members to train on pavements.
“After two years of restrictions, we are roaring and ready to hit the road to recovery and revival, ” Mr Balala said at the reopening of The Solar Ice Rink.
This reopening comes at a time when ice skating is showing great potential and now the hockey team can resume training and pursue its Olympic dreams at the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.
“As I reopen the Panari Ice Rink, I would like to pose a challenge to the Kenya Ice Lions to reunite and roar out loud. Let us dream big, Ice Lions, even dare to imagine our membership in the International Ice Hockey Federation. Let us inspire the next generation of ice-cool world-beaters who are home-grown. I look forward to a breakthrough akin to Jamaica's famous Bobsleigh team of 1988. Let us put pioneering facilities such as this ice rink into good use and encourage domestic sports tourism. If roller skates and skateboards have found their way into the lexicon of our fun-loving youngsters, the rink too can find a home,” said Mr Balala.
The rink that measures 15,000 square feet was opened in 2005 on the second floor of the hotel complex located on Nairobi's Mombasa Road. It can accommodate 200 skaters.
Devendra Asher, the General Manager Panari Hotels and Resorts said before the pandemic, the ice rink hosted approximately 450 skaters every weekend including families and school children making for good revenue.
They charge between Sh800 to Sh1,000 per season.
"The reopening of the rink is a great milestone for us because it is our unique selling point being one of its kind in East and Central Africa. We trust that the Easter festivities will mark the return of our good fortune," he said.