Friends of an 81-year-old ice rink are preparing to say an emotional farewell as their beloved arena plays host to its final pirouettes.

The Streatham Ice Arena will open its doors for the last time on Sunday, following Lambeth Council’s decision to replace it with multi-million pound ice skating and leisure centre complex.

The ice rink, which opened in 1931, has been the established home of several local ice hockey and figure skating teams.

In 1934, it saw the first performance of three international compulsory dances - the Viennese Waltz, Blues and Rocker Foxtrot for the National Ice Skating Association, while in the 1960s, it was visited by the Queen Mother and north London rockers The Kinks.

Olympic figure skating champion Jeanette Altwegg trained at the arena during the 1950s, followed by world Ice Dance Champion Diane Towler and her dance partner Bernard Ford in the 1960s.

Mrs Towler, 64, who has since become a senior coach at the rink, said it would be “devastating” if it was not replaced.

She said: “It is heart-wrenching, the whole thing is so sad. I have been in Streatham for a long time. I’ve been teaching for years there and my children have grown up there. It has been a major part of my life.

“We used to come over to Streatham when we were amateurs. It was a fantastic place - it was the talk of skaters all over the world.

“It would be devastating if they do not rebuild a rink in Streatham. There would not be anything for people in south London to use. I hope we get a nice new rink and I hope they stick to the plan.”

Her daughter, Candice Towler-Green, 27, also a former British junior national champion, is organising the rink’s farewell gala.

“It is an amazing place but we have got to look towards the future,” she said. “I can just remember it being really packed on a Saturday and a Sunday. Everyone was having a good time watching ice hockey games and there was a bar too.

“My mum was pregnant with me when she was teaching. I have been there my whole life, for the last 27 years.”

A temporary ice rink on the site of the old Pope’s Road car park in Brixton will open on Monday, until work is finally completed on the Streatham Hub development in 2013.

Commenting on the Hub plans, Ms Towler-Green said: “If we get what they are saying, it will be great. It will be really good facilities.

“But I will believe it when I see it. There was an ice rink in Richmond and instead of rebuilding it they replaced it with a block of flats.”

Speaking ahead of their final game at the arena, Streatham Redskins head coach Barry Spours said: “It’s going to be an emotional game and we really want to sign off with a win against Milton Keynes to say goodbye to the place.

“I started skating on the ice rink back in the late 1970s, so for me – personally – I have a lot of memories playing at Streatham after playing all the way through the junior club here and making my first appearance for the Redskins at 16-years-old.

“It will be difficult for me to say goodbye to the place, but you’ve got to move with the times and the new facilities look really exciting.”

Short history of the rink

26 February 1931: 3000 people attend the opening of Streatham Ice Arena, with a local newspaper carrying the headline “Don’t go to Switzerland; Come to Streatham”.

1935: Parts of the British romantic comedy ‘Car of Dreams’ starring John Mills are filmed at the rink.

1939-1946: The arena is closed during World War Two and used as a food storage centre.

1951: The ice surface is reduced to make room for 800 extra seats.

1962: The rink is taken over by Mecca, who spend £100,000 on improvements.

1980: £1million is spent refurbishing the arena following problems with the ice-making machinery.

1990: Arena sold to Law Estates.

2001: Tesco buys the site in preparation for the multi-million pound Streatham Hub development, which will include an ice rink, a leisure centre, 250 homes and a Tesco store.

December 2011: Arena is closed and a temporary ice rink is opened in Pope’s Road, Brixton.