For better use and better management. The UNOFFICIAL Website of Toronto's Outdoor Skating Rinks
Abbreviations: City Councillor Paula Fletcher PF; Parks Forestry and Recreation PFR; PFR General Manager Janie Romoff JR; PFR Capital Projects manager Mike Schreiner MS; City Councillor Joe Mihevc JM; City Councillor Ana Bailao AB; City Councillor Josh Colle JC; Recreation Director Howie Dayton HD.
Paula Fletcher: …Looking at making rinks a more friendly, customer-service-related operation…is that something that rink staff could have other duties added on?
General manager Janie Romoff: we have a fairly limited staff complement when it comes to rink supervision…and with over 500 recreation locations operating at the same time…quite often it’s part-time staff that are doing those duties…it’s something we can look at, we want staff to be as friendly as possible, that’s a goal of ours, we can look if there’s any room for additional responsibilities
PF: But a for-profit operation, that’s not something we encourage…But if Tim Horton’s wanted a franchise, we would probably say no.
PF: But if someone wanted to sell hot chocolate on a Saturday afternoon, and staff would help with that, we could look at that.
JR: If we’re talking about concessions, that’s a citywide formal…
PF: What we’re talking about is much smaller, volunteer-based. Now that we’re talking about that, if there’s some interest in having community members build things, in a rink, or renovate something – we work off an RFP, and a tender, it’s got to be up to a certain code, we can’t just say, well okay, we’re going to just renovate that room.
JR: [introducing PFR capital projects manager Mike Schreiner]
MS: We do have collective agreements in the city. We have to be very careful. We have worked with community groups to allow them to do volunteer-type construction, but it’s generally small-scale, depending on what the scenario is. But what’s the fine line depends on what the job is. 10 or 15 thousand. It’s the safety issue. Minor, very minor.
JM: I think what the CELOS people are saying, and Councillor Bailao hit the nail on the head when she said, move from caretaking to animation.
JR: Important to remember that we have a limited amount of resources in terms of staffing.
JM: How does this happen? Is there a departmental prioritization, saying this is where we want to go, or is it up to the councillor or the community or all three?
JR: In general, we have a standard level of staffing at all of our outdoor rinks across the city…quite often when these kinds of issues come up they’re in collaboration with “friends of” groups, and there’s a number of examples across the city where that happens.
AB: With regards to the partnerships, in some places they have formal arrangements, right? In other ones less formal?
JR: That’s correct.
AB: So it could be helpful if we have the relationship defined between the non-profit and the city. It could also help us with our labour partners, issues that might arise with collective agreements and so on, correct?
JR: Correct…if there’s an easy way to do things, if it’s not contrary to any agreements or other stipulations, then we can do those things on our own. If it goes past the….then that’s where we have to pursue some kind of formal agreement.
JC: Which kind of staff have any kind of purview over outdoor rinks, is it all parks staff?
JR: All the city rinks with the exception of some of the civic centres, for example Nathan Phillips Square, North York Civic Centre, and Scarborough Civic Centre, would be staffed under PF and R. If there’s a community centre beside the rink we’ll try and staff it…in the most efficient way so we don’t have separate people coming in to do those things.
JC: In my experience the staff of outdoor rinks seems to be solely teenage kids. Are there other people?
Recreation Director Howie Dayton: We have coordinators of rinks so there are other people who have oversight and more experience, and who have perhaps oversight over a cluster, and we have community recreation programmers who oversee the whole operation.
JC: [raises the issue of shortage of child-and-parent shinny times on the schedules, would like to allow his three kids to skate more.]
HD: The principle is to schedule it so that there’s no such thing as kids only able to skate during school hours. We’re going to take a look this year to see whether we can do some kind of user assessment.
JC: Are there improvements that are kind of staff-driven, or does the push fall to the councillors?
MS: generally the discussion has come up through the local councillor, probably through their discussions with stakeholders, and we did a process to find a solution…
JC: Could I find a staff document that’s aspirational, that says, "here are the changes we’d like to make to these fourteen outdoor rinks, with price tags and costs – if the community and councillor don’t want to push for it, fair enough, but here’s what we could or would do?"
JR: There’s no document like that, but now that we’re doing the facilities master plan we can figure out how we would deal with the outdoor rinks when the state of good repair work comes up. I should add that the more robust those facilities become, there are operating costs that go along with that.
PF: we have a motion…
JM: …this is really just to refer this report to staff for future planning. I think there’s a lot of leveraging that can be done, a lot of ideas that didn’t come forward. This conversation was about moving from a caretaker role of these facilities to a facilitative role of these facilities. When we use Section 37 money and we use it, that we get some community life out of the deal. Right now I feel that it’s a little bit short. When staff are hired in my ward, I feel like they’re watching the place but it would be nice if they had a more facilitative approach to things and they got something going.
AB: I would like to see the role of the caretaker and the animator really explored, I think that it’s not the only thing but it is an important one and I think particularly on the other side is the partnerships. Lots of people in the city talk about Dufferin Grove, Dufferin Grove, and I always say, I wish I had the support in council to extend the Dufferin Grove model across the city, but that would cost millions of dollars, and we can’t increase the Parks budget by that much. So these partnerships, getting our parks better used by some of our non-profit organizations, with a clear relationship, a clear division. In Ward 18 we’ve been very successful in being innovative – like I said, the container project, to fifteen years ago at Dufferin Grove. I think there has been some growing pains in the last few years, but I think we’ve seen that the services are there. There were things that we needed to deal with that were in contravention of our local agreements, the labour agreements and so on and we had to take care of all that. But I think that the programs are there, they’re expanding into other parks. It’s important that we’re having this conversation, about the customer service that’s provided. How do we enhance that experience through the skate lending and through music, maybe crafts, maybe food, and there’s so much that can be done, it really depends from community to community.
JC: this report and the discussion shows that there just could be so much more. We’re providing an excellent service but there could be so much more. It’s an asset we have in our city that we’re not fully using our leveraging and I think that it’s important to continue this conversation so that we do take advantage of these assets and we spend a lot of money on them. We need to do something and I look forward to these reports. PF: I do believe that where there is community interest it’s easier to build those kinds of programs. Sometimes there’s rinks that don’t actually have a lot of people skating on them from those neighbourhoods….One of the things I think is important, wherever we can we should put in a skate trail…Jutta talked about shinny. That is hockey, then there’s the permit times for hockey, and then there’s no time, you have to be very careful, can I get over there for my one hour of pleasure-skating. When we have a skate trail, it is pleasure-skating all the time. You can’t believe what it looks like to see all those little kids out with their parents, learning to skate with their little push-carts.
I want to clarify something on the record and that’s the characterization of the redevelopment of Greenwood Rink as somehow leaving the community out of that process. They were very involved in that process, so much so that after they saw that film, they made their own film that said “we are involved, this what we have done, we love this rink. Quite frankly, it’s one of the busiest rinks in the city. So I don’t mind, we can have crafts there, and we can have food there, but I really do think that my community put a tremendous effort in. If somebody didn’t get the idea they want, you can’t say that thee wasn’t a process. Let me just be clear about that, it was a very good process, it was very local, all the people that wanted a natural outdoor rink, I’m glad that they went and built an outdoor rink, that’s fantastic, we love natural outdoor rinks. But there’s not just one kind of rink.