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Of a random sample of outdoor rinks visited on the holiday, the city's web information was wrong for five rinks and right for four. Happily, all the wrong listings said the rinks were closed when they were actually open. Unhappily, one of the right listings said that the rink was unsupervised -- and that meant there was no change room and no washroom access -- on one of the main holidays of the year!
The pleasure-skating side is now reopened and in good shape. The city's rink web page says the rink is closed but it's not -- there are two rink guards comfortably settled in the office and they tell me the rink building will be open until 4 pm, and even after the building doors are locked, the rink will stay accessible. One of the mothers watching the parent child shinny game says that she saw on the schedule that the rink was closed, but she didn't believe it. She hunted for a phone number and found one through Google. When she called it, the rink guard told her the rink was open -- so they came down.
The city's website showed a blank for New Year's Day, which would normally mean everything was closed, but actually everything was open and there were three staff -- two rink guard sand a zamboni driver.The staff said there had been the usual New Year's Eve skating party last night (New Year's Eve) and therefore the rink was open until 10. That didn't appear on the city's web schedule either. The staff said there was a big crowd.
The city's website had a blank on New Year's Day, for High Park rink. That would normally mean it was closed, but it wasn't -- both the ice surface and the change rooms/washrooms were open. The staff said the rink had been left open all night from New Year's Eve, on purpose. The staff were assigned from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. Then the change room would be locked but the ice would stay open for the rest of the night again.
The city's website listed this rink as open on New Year's Day from 10 until 10, and indeed it was.
On the city's website schedule, Ramsden was blank for New Year's Day. That would ordinarily have meant the rink was closed completely, but it was open. There were lots of skaters and the change room building was open and full of people as well. Jimmie, the zamboni driver, said that they opened at 9 and started right off with a neighbourhood shinny game. Long-time rink advocate Gar Mahood was one of the players.
The city's website had a blank on New Year's Day, for Kew rink. That would normally mean it was closed, but it wasn't -- both the ice surface and the change rooms/washrooms were open. There was no supervision, and the staff office was locked. About a dozen people were on the rink, some pleasure-skating, some playing hockey. Much like the rinks in the est end -- friendly and accommodating. The bulletin board sign (and the city's website) said the rink was also closed on Boxing Day but hopefully it wasn't closed then either. Why close the rinks on the main holidays of the year?
There were plenty of people at the rink on New Year's Day, mostly families with kids. A very cheerful scene, and a big difference from last New Year's Day when the building was closed. This year every bench in the rink change room was full, even the benches in the giant women's washroom. People had to line up to get in and out of the door but nobody seemed impatient -- there were lots of neighbourly "happy New Year!" greetings.
Last year on New Year's day the rink building was locked, but this year at noon you could tell right away that it wasn't -- the parking lot was full of cars and people were parking in the overflow area. A cheerful scene inside the change room -- filled with people changing into skates, talking to their kids, and calling out "happy New Year!" And even as we were leaving, more people were pouring in.
The city schedule said Christie would be open but unsupervised. In Toronto/East York administrative region, that is code for "change rooms and washrooms closed." And the posting was correct. As is so often the case at this rink, the rink change room was locked. On this busy holiday, a line of people had to sit on the ground to change from shoes to skates and back again. No washroom access either. Many other city rinks were fully open on New Year's Day -- why not Christie? The cost of putting in a minimum-wage building staff is very low.
Rinks that are open on New Year's Day (including changeroom and washrooms): Harry Gairey (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), Campbell (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.), Dieppe (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Dufferin (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.), Greenwood (9 a.m. to 10 p.m.), Nathan Phillips (9 a.m. to 10 p.m.), Ramsden (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Scarborough Civic (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), Trinity (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.), Wallace (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.).
Some rinks are listed as blank, which is supposed to mean no access to the rink at all on New Year's Day, on the city's website: Broadlands, Glen Long, High Park, Irving Chapley, Kew, Lambton-Kingsway, Monarch, North Toronto, Otter Creek, Sir Adam Beck, Sunnydale, Martingrove, West Mall, Westway, Giovanni Caboto, Rennie, Kew.
But some of that is just wrong information.
1. Until 2 a.m. at Harbourfront's Natrel Rink
2. At Dufferin Rink, which is open until 12.30, with skate rentals until 11.45 pm and a campfire with hot chocolate from 8.30 to countdown.
3. At unfenced pleasure-skating pads or trails that the city can't lock up: Harry Gairey, Paul Quarrington, Greenwood, Dieppe, Ryerson Rink, Rennie, Colonel Sam Smith, Joseph Bannon, Ledbury, Mel Lastman, Pleasantview, and Albert Campbell.
4. At Nathan Phillips Square, until 10, or later if you have your own skates and people aren't standing on the rink to watch the concert: Nathan Phillips Square New Year's Eve dancing and skating.
The temperature went up to 16 and sunny on Dec.24. There was a lot of water on top of the ice. Staff put up "rinks closed" signs at every rink in the city. In the afternoon, skaters were told that it might be three days before the ice would be skateable again. Radio and TV news showed watery rinks and said the same. The city's website had a big red exclamation mark: "all rinks closed."
But in fact, by 7 pm. Christmas eve many of the rinks were solid again. Harbourfront's webcam showed skaters by 8 pm. Dufferin Rink was opened without permission, and Christmas Eve skaters said the ice was just fine.
The next day, City Hall and four other rinks opened (one illegally), the rest stayed locked. Harbourfront, of course, was open.
With all that panic talk, no wonder that even the unfenced rinks were empty. What is it -- about pipes under the concrete, powerful compressors, chillers, ammonia tanks, low midwinter sun -- that people can't understand? And that includes even the rink staff. The fact is, on Dec.25, under a cloudy sky, at 9 celsius, our rinks can have good ice -- here's why.