A SPIEGELTENT and ice rink will be set up in St Andrew Square under plans to turn the city centre park into the centrepiece of this year’s Christmas festival.
Organisers have axed an earlier proposal to relocate the traditional ice rink from Princes Street Gardens to outside The Dome on George Street following an angry backlash from traders to the proposal.
The Evening News has learned Edinburgh firm Unique Events and London-based outfit Underbelly, which are jointly running the winter festival for the first time, are now in final discussions to erect the skating attraction in nearby St Andrew Square.
The Paradiso Spiegeltent and bar, modelled on the crowd-pulling attraction going up in George Street for next month’s Festival Fringe, will also be shifted next to the rink.
A new circus-cabaret extravaganza called Limbo, which has been wowing audiences on London’s South Bank, will put on evening performances out of St Andrew Square. Tickets for Limbo and the Hogmanay street party go on sale tomorrow.
And a towering 200ft theme park attraction known as The Star Flyer will also be part of the six-week festival from November to January, although a final site for the attraction is still to be confirmed.
The blueprint was outlined in a presentation made at an Edinburgh Tourism Action Group conference on Tuesday.
Unique Events spokeswoman Frances Sutton confirmed organisers had shelved earlier plans to put the ice rink on George Street.
She said: “The plan is it goes into St Andrew Square, but that’s not yet confirmed.”
A majority of traders had previously voiced fears that shutting off part of George Street to house some of the festival’s main events would hurt their takings. A survey by Essential Edinburgh showed two-thirds of businesses were opposed to the move.
George Hotel regional general manager David Welch said: “I am delighted the ice rink has got a new home in St Andrew Square and that this will increase footfall to George Street for the retailers, the bars and the restaurants.
“I’m also happy that the principal use for George Street is maintained as a fabulous street. St Andrew Square is a contained area and should be easily policed.”
Ronnie Urquhart, chief executive of George Street-based County Properties Group, said “democracy had prevailed”.
He said: “The retailers have been suffering a bit, so it’s good news that customers can get to them.”
Unique Events and Underbelly had promised a “totally re-imagined programme” after winning the rights to run the festival back in February.
Essential Edinburgh chief executive Andy Neal said: “All of the great things that were proposed look as if they will be able to be sited in appropriate places in the centre of Edinburgh.”