What a fuss: from the day that Councillor Van Kaathoven presented her sports vision (with an emphasis on urban sports among other things, remember?), it’s all been about one thing: the proposed closure of the ice rink.

The fact that Van Kaathoven presented it as an option up for debate was hardly noticed. And understandably so: the councillor’s choice is never an option. Van Kaathoven had to have known that, actually, no, she did know that. But no one could have anticipated the storm of protests which blew through the city. Those directly affected, that is the users of the ice rink, made themselves heard for the first time, and the group of objectors soon grew into a social stronghold. This all culminated yesterday – Wednesday 27 May – in a letter with a little bit about everything that Eindhoven has to offer in business activity and knowledge.

It goes without saying that lovers of ice-skating are pleased with the unexpectedly strong support for their objections. Because, let’s be honest, based on the economic reality of the declining number of visitors and the growing municipal funding, Van Kaathoven did have a point when she said that something had to give. The skaters saw the storm coming.

The ice rink debate highlights the strength of the Eindhoven community

But if this issue has made anything clear it’s that this is about much more than just the closure of the ice rink. With hindsight you might say that Van Kaathoven and her officials should have better tested the water in the Eindhoven community before coming up with the closure plan. But that’s water under the bridge. Much more importantly, and in spite of all the fuss, the ice rink debate has shown the strength of the Eindhoven community.

The way in which a negative issue so easily – and so powerfully – brought the city together to generate a creative energy gives us great hope for the future. It’s just as important to remove the source of our dissatisfaction as it is to nurture our cohesive energy, so that, together, we can find a way to use this strength in the future for reasons other than protesting.

The big lesson: make real use of the strength of the Triple Helix

The big lesson for the council is to make much more active use of the strength of the Triple Helix – the cooperation between knowledge institutes, businesses and local authorities of which the city is so proud. The fact that it needed a negative ice rink debate was a shame, but at the end of the day, it’s a blessing in disguise.

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