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[screen shot of the city's outdoor rinks map]Toronto has more compressor-cooled outdoor rinks than any other city in the world: 51 rinks plus at least 3 more not run by the city. Most of these rinks have buildings attached to them as well.
[screen shot of cityrinks home page] The 2016 rink report that we sent to you two weeks ago is based on thirteen years of visiting these rinks and describing them on our "cityrinks.ca" website.
[screen shot of CELOS home page] Our group is called the Centre for Local Research into Public Space, with the acronym: CELOS. We're a small charitable research organization that was formed in 2001, arising out of our work at Dufferin Grove Park.
[Slide email#5 roof shot of Dufferin] The city's outdoor ice rinks are a great wintertime civic resource, [slide: email #5, donut shot, email #3 Campbell parents, email #8 Wallace outdoor crowds] but they can be so much better, even without increasing the approximately $6 million budget per season. Nine years ago we presented a [slide showing our report cards: http://www.cityrinks.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n=MelLastmanRink.ReportCard2] rink report to the Parks Committee with some of the same suggestions as this time. But we couldn't really get the councillors' attention. [screen shot of April 10 2007] They referred our report to the general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, and then it was never on the agenda again. Now we want to see if the Community Development and Recreation Committee will consider the easy fixes we propose in [slide showing summary list of the rink report] this 2016 version.
Our summary outlines six problem areas, basically connected to underused rinks [four slides i.e. Glen Long bars, Cedarvale, Monarch, Sherbourne], unreliable communication about ice conditions, through 311 and the municipal outdoor rinks web page [311 screen shot, website red exclamation mark], unscientific timing of the rink season [Kew mush, Harry Gairey, Uku], uncertain costs [screen shot of cover of 2007 report http://publiccommons.ca/public/uploads/FullCostingReview-Dec12-07FINAL.pdf], and underemployed staff [back to rink report summary slide].
The remedies are often "lighter, quicker, cheaper," as the Project for Public Spaces formula goes (Jane Jacobs agreed), using what's already there, and encouraging staff to work with rink users to try things. This has been going on for a while already at Dufferin [throughout this section: two Wallace photos in #8, Wallace skate shelf photo in #19, kids chess in slide #1, eating counter in #2, Andrea and kids in #3, Wallace, and Campbell] [the three slides from #9]. Recreation management, rink staff and rink friends, with some help from councillors over the years, gradually [two bottom photos from #1] converted bare-bones rink change areas into comfortable social spaces with snack bars and skate lending. The rinks became much more family-friendly and drop-in-friendly. Shinny-hockey increased and changed its colour. And so the rinks became surprisingly diverse neighbourhood gathering places. At Dufferin Rink the whole makeover cost $51,000, most of it through fund-raising. The changes also brought in income. More recently, as we say in our report, management has thrown up new barriers to this kind of creativity. Although this caused income to go down, [skate lineup in #7] cheap skate loans at Dufferin Rink at $2 each time were still bringing in about $5000 a month this past rink season.
[slide showing 311 screen shot] Another example of "lighter, quicker,cheaper" is the way some rinks have solved 311's [slide showing 311 red warning sign] unreliable communication problem, reporting on weather-related ice conditions. [phone picture] At those places where there's still a phone line, skaters can call in to their local rink and the staff -- who are there anyway -- can use the phone to give absolutely accurate local information.
Toronto could and should become known as the compressor-cooled outdoor ice rink capital of the world. But that requires a new focus on what works for skaters. Here are some examples of changes that can be made to existing rinks, that won't cost much and can be undone easily if something doesn't work. Civic rinks are a good way to start: Mel Lastman Rink [slide] has a building all ready for skate lending. Scarborough Civic Rink [slide] has a new renovation that can quickly be made more welcoming, with skate lending and a snack bar. A slight change in the plans for the new College Park Rink [slide] can add skate lending and room for friendly socializing.
Many neighbourhood rink buildings are just as easy to improve -- Giovanni Caboto Rink [slide] is just one example.
Rink improvements can best be made with the active, creative involvement of rink staff working in partnership with their local communities. We suggest it's time to put a toe in the water: [slide of report summary with an enlarged or highlighted #6] could a new kind of local, joint outdoor rink board be tried at a few rinks where community involvement is strong? I hope your committee will consider this as an opportunity whose time has come, and will consider our report as a starting point.