Ron van Gestel: 'Tilburg is by far the ice hockey capital of the Netherlands'

| Sanne Leenders

For the sports month of November we speak with hockey fanatic Ron van Gestel. In his case, the sport has been running through his veins since he can remember it. Grown up next to the old Pelican in Tilburg, it was inevitable that he became attached from an early age to the game that Tilburg Trappers still plays at a high level today. The Netherlands became too small for these stars and Ron sought with them both the sporting and national boundaries. 

Ron van Gestel is the man who has been with IJsportclub Tilburg Trappers for over 50 years. As a little boy of 4 years old he already started on the ice to skate and have fun. Later, around the age of 9, the first small competitions were added. His whole youth Ron was here in his spare time. He even played in a number of national teams. After a short break Ron ended up in the second team. Later on, Vriendenclub de Early Birds was founded, where he has been on the ice with twice a week until now. Tilburg Trappers is really my club.'

Self-made man

If you see what Ron has done, you wouldn't say he wasn't a study guy.  As former president of Tilburg Trappers he says: 'Tilburg Trappers went through an enormous growth. One year after the other we became champions. At one point we even knew in September that we would play the final in March against Heereveen. So the competition for us was a bit gone.' That was the moment that Tilburg Trappers was introduced within the German Oberliga and that had a very positive effect. The flow came back, people with a heart for ice hockey found their club again and Tilburg Trappers flashed over the ice with 3 championship titles as a result. 'From a sporting point of view, that's a real highlight of my career.' This summer, Ron put an end to his 8-year career as chairman of the club. But his creative thoughts never stop.

'The worker from Tilburg loves to see the sport, because there is a lot of fighting for every meter. That fits in with the culture of Tilburg'

In addition to his 100% commitment to Tilburg Trappers, Ron participates in many other great initiatives, such as the Festival van het Levenslied, Hap Stap Festival, Carnaval Stichting Tilburg, Stichting Tilburgse Linten, and he has his own pride: All Star Trading B.V. (which is just a small selection from the range of success stories). Last year Ron received the Silver Legend, awarded by the municipality of Tilburg. Ron received this award for his work as chairman for Tilburg Trappers and his many other volunteer activities for the city. 'I enjoy it when all kinds of people get mixed up. Such as at the Levenslied Festival, where we offer people a free festival in cooperation with the municipality, the business community and the catering entrepreneurs of the Piusplein - Paleisring. Or take a look at Hap Stap Festival, where people with a small scholarship can also experience a fun afternoon or evening. I really like to do that.' 

Dreams for the future

According to Ron, Tilburg is by far the ice hockey capital of the Netherlands. 'We are the only club in the Netherlands that plays in the German league. We have surpassed the Netherlands in terms of level, budget and organisation.' The blue-yellow blood is deep and there are plenty of dreams for the future. 'Every sports club has the ambition to become bigger. Anything the city can contribute to that is of course great. Tilburg Trappers would like to have the track rebuilt, so that in the end not 3,000 people fit in, but 5,000. Now there's still a bar that stops it from growing sportily.' Ron also wants to see a multifunctional job where other events can take place, for example in collaboration with Theaters Tilburg and Poppodium 013. Plenty of possibilities!

'So much has happened in Tilburg, but I'm still missing the real attraction'

Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Brussels has the Atomium, Amsterdam the 9 streets... and Tilburg? Ron doesn't know the answer yet. 'If I have to tell my friends from outside the city why they have to come to Tilburg, then I'm missing something that can still be filled in. So it's a real attraction. That could be a very special building or a permanent fair like Tivoli in Stockholm. What has been built in recent years in the railway zone and Piushaven is beautiful, but I'm still missing a big general attraction. With a big attraction we can bring more tourists to Tilburg. So we have to start thinking out of the box with ideas to extend the Piushaven to the city centre, build a multifunctional sports and music centre or build a monorail from the Central Station to the Efteling and the Beekse Bergen. Some plans are there now, I say: really do it! I think that since King Day 2017 (when King Willem-Alexander and Maxima paid a visit) the Tilburg has become much more proud of its own city and that's very good. Back then there was still a lot in development and now there is more to be done, but as a proud ambitious Jug I still miss the cherry(s) on the cake.'


Unfiltered opinion of the people of Tilburg

Within this section we give creative Tilburgers a stage. A Ticket to... the expression of their unfiltered opinion about the city. Are you curious who also has something to say about Tilburg other than Ron van Gestel? Then you should definitely read these interviews: