Nearly a decade on from the closure of Ryde Arena, members of the Isle of Wight's ice skating community insist their "passion and spark" is more alive than ever and they will not give up the fight.

Days after it was announced Isle of Wight Distillery has pulled out of plans to turn the building into an attraction, Ryde's mayor, councillors, skaters and ex-employees gathered outside the "eyesore" to renew their calls for action.

Cllr Michael Lilley — of Ryde Community Development Trust and who will represent the Liberal Democrats in Isle of Wight East at the next general election — told the County Press the building has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.

"There's a hole in the roof and it's a swimming pool inside [from the rain]", he said.

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"Unless some serious work is done on it, it will erode further and it will become impossible for anyone to take it over."

He claims the lack of maintenance is why the distillery pulled out and there are currently no other interested buyers.

The freehold is owned by the council but, since 2014, the lease has been in the hands of AEW.

The investment firm said it will continue to maintain the condition of the property in accordance with its leasehold obligations while it works on future plans for the building.

Isle of Wight County Press: From left: Steve and Carol Taverner, Cllr Michael Lilley, Matt Russell, Jim Matthews, Ryde mayor Richard May and Robbie Jones.From left: Steve and Carol Taverner, Cllr Michael Lilley, Matt Russell, Jim Matthews, Ryde mayor Richard May and Robbie Jones. (Image: IWCP)

But Ryde mayor Richard May said there was "no evidence" to suggest AEW have any serious intent to maintain the building and he called on the Isle of Wight Council to "step forward".

"When you come into Ryde, the first thing you see is a derelict building and it is not sustainable", he said.

The council has previously tried to take AEW to court — to try to get the building back — but the arbitration proceedings came to an end in 2021, with no agreement reached.

As well as ice skating, in its heyday the rink was also used for ice hockey, concerts and other events.

Jim Matthews, who started working there in 1991 and says he was the last one out  when it shut in 2016, called the building's current state "a crying shame", while Matt Russell, a former figure skating coach, said part of him "feels a little bit lost".

Ice dancers, Steve and Carol Taverner, who competed in national and international competitions, called it "a tragic waste of what should be an excellent resource."

For Ryde Community Development Trust, Robbie Jones said "there's more of a drive now more than ever" to continue the fight.

He said the trust intends to pull the community and stakeholders together.

Cllr Lilley said a public meeting to look at the next steps is in the process of being organised "in the next few weeks."