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There's nothing like outdoor skating
A project of CELOS
posted January 19, 2017
Since last Saturday we have received many reports of "perfect ice" on Grenadier Pond. It's unlikely to be perfect in this run of warmer weather, but today the official ice sign is still yellow.
Three rinks are closed for renovation, one new rink in Scarborough (McCowan District Park) is still under construction, and one (College Park) is decommissioned, with a new rink scheduled for construction in 2018/2019.
Find your outdoor rink
What makes rinks run well? See our animation.
City Skating programs
Information gathered from Toronto.ca
For drop-in hockey and shinny times, see this schedule (shows arenas as well as outdoor rinks): drop in hockey and shinny.
For pleasure skating, see this schedule (shows arenas as well as outdoor rinks): leisure skating.
For women's shinny see this scheduleWomen's Shinny
Cityrinks Lists of Interest
Scarborough Civic Rink in 2018?
Knock out a wall, add some windows, snacks, and loaner skates.
The empty market building could be used for skate lending.
Each could be done for between $5000 and $30,000. But sadly, city hall wouldn't consider our report. The councillors message was effectively "go away." So for now we'll have to stop trying to help make rinks better. But we'll still document what rink users say, and what we see on rink visits.
From: CUPE Local 79 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: February 10, 2016 at 6:46:21 PM EST
To: Local 79 members
Subject: Bargaining update: Raise the stakes - Take your breaks!
Reply-To: CUPE Local 79 <email@example.com>
CTV News: "Skating Ban to be lifted at High Park's Grenadier Pond"
"For city hall, $200,000 for rinks is a stretch." Globe column by Marcus Gee. Some excerpts:
Comment from CityRinks: There is a fourth option: do some better housekeeping of the outdoor rinks program.
(1) Open the rinks as soon as the sun is low and people are excited about winter (mid-November).
(2) Turn the rinks into more hospitable places, so that they’ll get maximum use during the skating season. That includes keeping the change rooms and washrooms open on all the stat holidays, and having more skate rentals. Staff can move the focus from rule-enforcement to fostering people’s enjoyment of skating, of the outdoors, and of wintertime neighbourhood sociability.
(2) Then close the rinks when the sun gets too high for good ice, fuel costs go through the roof, and attendance drops off anyway (early March).
Globe editorial "Skating rinks are an essential service."
Globe: "Toronto moves toward making more outdoor rinks available." Excerpts:
Globe: "Last-minute donation needed to extend Toronto's skating season." Excerpts:
The Star: editorial "Toronto should find money to keep its outdoor ice rinks open."
The Star: "Corporate donors keeping 12 rinks open"
The Star: "Eleven Outdoor rinks will remain open until March 16"
The Star -- Councillor Sarah Doucette will ask staff for a report
The Star - a story about writer Richard Sanger's yearly adventures on Grenadier Pond
CBC story and poll about skating on the pond.
National Post editorial about skating on Grenadier Pond
"Get out there and skate" by Peter Kuitenbrouwer.
Star editorial about skating and tobogganing
What is shinny hockey? A little film clip from Campbell Rink.
Our rinks are community rinks. All members of the community are welcome to skate, play hockey, or meet their friends here. Rink staff would be pleased to answer any questions you may have about the programs and policies.
Please observe the following rules so that everyone can enjoy the rink:
In case of a serious disagreement between rink staff and a rink user about any of these rules, the staff may ask the rink user to leave the rink until the matter is discussed with the Recreation Supervisor. If the rink user refuses the staff's request to leave the rink, a letter of trespass may result.
posted November 12, 2013
City of Toronto website links
Helmets have lost some of their luster in both the medical and the sports media. It turns out that they have some important limitations in preventing concussions -- which is really their main purpose, as far as many skaters are concerned. The City of Toronto has hung on to its 9-year-old mandatory helmet policy, requiring all shinny hockey player to put on head armour. Little kids under 6 are also required to wear ONLY CSA-certified hockey helmets -- for pleasure-skating. Hockey helmets are designed to absorb impacts from pucks, sticks, and body-checking.
CELOS, the Centre for Local Research into Public Space (the sponsor of this website) has ollected quite a bit of material on all sides of the helmet question.
A Rink Safety Story
The approach of mandating hockey helmets for little kids effectively blocks families from using the rinks if they don't want to buy another set of helmets in addition to the bike (or trike!) helmets most kids already have.
Read this rink user's story
Noncompliance by shinny hockey players continues to rise citywide. The city's inability to enforce its own policy should be a flag to rinks management.
It's time to revisit the helmet rules, but with a different procedure than the last time. Instead of a staff decision made at a closed meeting at City Hall, the city should welcome wide-ranging rink-user input. Read our latest letter from Kelvin Seow, City Manager for PFR, and the latest letters to and from Jim Hart, General Manager for the PFR, City of Toronto.
Click on correspondence for everything we've received from city management through the years.
Problems with the City's Helmet Policy
City Rinks Special Edition on Helmets
Additional Web links
Toronto has more outdoor compressor-cooled rinks than any city in the world - 52. But our civic knowledge of the physics of ice maintenance hasn't kept pace with our collective rink wealth. Many people seem to find it amazing, even shocking, that outdoor rinks can be skateable when the air temperature is above freezing, as high as 11 or even 15 - during the low-sun months.
What's the surprise? Collectively, as taxpayers, we spend about $500 a day at each rink to fuel the compressors that cool the rink pad. The rink compressors vary between 100 and 200 horsepower each. You can hear their noise through the compressor-room doors at the sides of the buildings. These compressors push a brine (salt water) or glycol solution through a big tank of cooling ammonia, and then out into the extensive grid of PVC pipes underneath the concrete floor of the rink. The cold liquid brings the entire big concrete slab to well below freezing, so any water that's put on the surface of the rink pads sets up as ice right away. The brine liquid in the pipe grid circulates back into a large pipe in the "header trench" right next to the building, underneath where everybody stands when the zamboni is doing ice maintenance. From there the brine gets pushed back into the compressor room, where it passes through the freezing-cold ammonia tank, and out again into the pipes under the concrete, and so on.
The only serious match for this powerful cooling system is the sun. In the months on either side of the December 21 winter solstice, the sun is very weak. It doesn't get to spend very much time above the horizon, and that suits the compressors just fine. By March, though, the sun is getting much higher in the sky, and the compressors labour to keep the ice frozen at minus 4.
Even on a sunny day at the end of February, when the air temperature is minus 8, the ice gets really mushy near the reflective boards, and a bit soft in the middle. The compressors are losing ground as the sun prepares to bring on spring and summer. But on a low-sun Monday in November at 11 degrees, a thin film of water forms on top of solid ice, and the shinny hockey and pleasure-skating are brilliant.
It's not only rink users whose rink literacy is in some need of upgrading. The city's rink staff are also confused. In our travels around the city's outdoor rinks, we have heard some zamboni drivers say in low-sun November that they can't make ice because the temperature is above zero. Over the years, the city's Parks management has blamed a multitude of ice-making sins on the temperature, global warming, etc. Convenient - but most of the time, not true. The compressor-cooled rinks can do their job, and having all those rinks can take some of the sting out of the dark months of winter for Torontonians. But if the zamboni staff tell you that their zamboni sinks into the mush in early March, you'd better believe them -- or just take a look yourself.
Here's an interesting history of mechanically-cooled ice rinks, written in 2004 by Ted Martin, then the general manager, Ontario Operations, with Cimco Refrigeration in Toronto.
Rink information log
Rink-related injury claims against the City of Toronto, 2010 to 2014
A History of Toronto's outdoor ice rinks, by Jutta Mason
Many of Toronto's 52 compressor-cooled municipal outdoor rinks are bare-bones sports facilities, but some are also important wintertime social spaces for their neighbourhoods. People expect to meet acquaintances there, to chat and catch up on news as well as skating together. Double-pad rinks are more likely to have this function, since pleasure-skating is anytime there, not only in restricted time slots. A few single-pad rinks have also become social spaces, either because of a particular location in a neighbourhood or because of programs (such as a weekly community supper) that maximize the friendship possibilities of the rink.
Double-pad rinks that are also neighbourhood social spaces (to widely varying degrees): Rennie, High Park, Dufferin, Wallace, Harry Gairey, Otter Creek, North Toronto Memorial, Hodgson, Ramsden, Dieppe, Greenwood.
Harbourfront's Natrel Rink (not municipal) is both an entertainment venue and a social space where friends often arrange to meet.
The wintertime social meeting-up function of rinks needs to be better recognized, and fostered, than it is at present.
The science is there, the history is there (pre-amalgamation), professionals say it can be done, Harbourfront is doing it, even volunteers have done it. This list supplies the fundamentals of ice making.
Contact cityrinks.ca at firstname.lastname@example.org to :
Contact the City of Toronto