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The ice surface was a bit choppy when we arrived, but an hour in, the zamboni came around and smoothed things out. The rink was quite crowded on a Sunday afternoon, not Nathan Phillips Square crowded, but lots of kids and families, youngsters skating the wrong direction on the skate trail, causing a bit of chaos.
The change room area had a lovely Christmas atmosphere with decorations, but the upstairs area was closed off which was a shame as I think people would really like to enjoy the lovely old brick building. It could benefit from a snack bar or drink vending machine of some sort.
The warming fire attracted many weary skaters, but was as was mentioned before, most of the heat dissipates into the air, so the warming effect was more psychological than anything else. Perhaps they could build a hut around it to keep the heat in, so that parents who were watching children would be able to stay warm. That said, this is really one of the nicest skating experiences in Toronto, (save the skate trails in the forest which surround the GTA). Even though the skating trail is quite short, to skate amongst the trees close to Lake Ontario surrounded by a giant park is quite a treat and was well worth the hour-long ride on the TTC. I imagine if you visit during the week you might have the trail mostly to yourself!
Rink diaries from earlier years:
On a pleasant not-too-cold Saturday, there was a little fire in the fire structure, but no one was trying to warm themselves -- it's out of the way and besides, it's too well-protected to offer much warmth. The two rink guards, friendly and courteous, said that they had been told nothing about strollers now being allowed on the ice (see this post). Nor had they been told about the "placemaking" event going on all weekend at West Mall rink, just to the north. There were some posters on the bulletin board, though. But the bulletin board was packed with other posters and signs, and the West Mall notice would have been easy to overlook. If the rink guards at one rink were told to let people know about rink events at other rinks nearby, that would be some easy publicity....
The rink has been marked as open until yesterday and then it was listed as "snow removal in progress" (with over 25 cm of snow). At 11 a.m. it was again listed as open.
From Dale Howey: Funny they only seem to run the campfire on weekends even though the crowds have been there all week. One thing I noticed is that there is some event space upstairs in the change room building. You can see the tables stacked against the wall. It would be perfect for a birthday skating party but I have never seen the access to upstairs open or any sign of action in the food kiosk. A mystery.
I saw a staffer heading over towards a parent with a stroller and then noticed the parent and stroller in the change room a short time later so assume they were kicked off. There were no rink guards on the ice most of the time so there was more an issue of tots playing bumper cars with the skate aids than with the stroller.
From Dale Howey: Around 2pm the rink was closed for a few hours. The ice conditions were very bad. I think part of the problem is the surrounding land is not covered in snow and acts as a heat sink adding to the warmth of the sun. If the trees were taller and snow on the ground it may have been better. It was made worse by skaters going off the ice and tracking mud back onto the ice and this held even more heat from the sun.
From Dale Howey: Lots of families at the rink today with holiday music and a fire adding to the atmosphere. Rink conditions were good and snowflakes in the air also added to the winter Wonderland feel. The only thing missing was a warm drink and snack! I see an entrepreneurial opportunity there.
This rink opened yesterday and was open this morning, but at 4 pm it was listed as closed, no reason given.
The rec supervisor wrote back (scroll down for the earlier email thread):
No response from the rec supervisor, about what the rules are for students who want to do a skating day with their Nature Club. Follow-up from Jutta (cityrinks.ca):
I'm looking forward to your clarifications, thanks in advance.
At noon, on a warm day with the sun just coming out, there was no one skating. The building was open, as were the washrooms, but there were no staff anywhere either. There are signs "staff only" and "upstairs closed to the public" that could give skaters the idea that they're not particularly welcome. Outside, the ice had a few small puddles but seemed fine otherwise. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot but those are evidently Humber College people, not skaters.
Email from the rec supervisor, about the staff's push-back when the Humber College Nature Club provided skates and coffee, snacks, for Humber students:
Response to the supervisor, from CityRinks: I hope that you were thrilled to find such initiative from youth at the college, especially on weekday afternoons when Col.Sam Smith tends to have few skaters.
The students told me that they had no idea who to contact. Should they have contacted you beforehand? Is your contact info up somewhere at the rink?
From Jutta Mason: After Parks and Rec and the city councillor turned down an offer to get a free rental skate collection for this rink from CELOS (last September), we were surprised to find out that skates were being lent out on both Tuesday and Thursday of this week. When I went to see today, it was +6 and cloudy, with good ice, and there were students from Humber College signing up to borrow skates. I asked two young women just getting on the ice if they had ever skated before, and they laughed. "No -- we're from Jamaica!" But they were ready to try it.
There was a sign beside the change room door, offering rental skates, and inside there were more students chatting, drinking free coffee or hot chocolate, and getting their skates on. Skate loans were free too. It turned out that the get-together was put on by a Humber College club called the Nature Club.
Cousins Layna and Olivia, both Humber College students, are the co-founders of the Nature Club, which does outings of various kinds. They were able to borrow 40 pairs of skates from the Brickworks rink, which is closed for renovations. With help from Brickworks staff, they sharpened them all, brought them over by car, and put on two skating afternoons for Humber College -- which is neighbour to the rink.
Apparently city staff were not happy when the Nature Club showed up complete with skates and coffee on Tuesday. The staff felt they should have applied for a permit to be there. But we think that instead of criticizing this initiative, city staff should celebrate it and learn from it.
From Geri Dempsey, Tuesday, 430.pm:
Not an easy place to find, but after a snowy meander through the Humber Campus, there was the rink. I passed a few signs along the way that advertised free skate loans and hot drinks for the Humber students Nature Club on Tuesday and Thursday. There were at least a dozen people on the ice when I arrived, students and families alike. The rink house was covered in cladding on one side and the upstairs was out of bounds once inside, but it felt welcoming and bright.
From skater Dale Howey: This morning, despite ideal skating conditions there were only a few families and other skaters there. Tons of parking spaces. The fire pit was burning. There was a decorated tree in the change room. Renovations continue and an employee confirmed that a kitchen is being installed but that it will not operate as a concession stand. Rather it could be used by groups hosting group activities.
No signs saying when the rink will open. Ice seems a bit thin but maybe okay. It looks like the renovated change room is much smaller than before, and the stairway to the mezzanine says it's not for public access.
A letter was sent to the city councillor, offering a donation of a complete skate loan collection for this rink.
* people love to borrow skates: newcomers, school classes, kids and youth who grew out of their skates
* we have 110 pairs of skates, 20 hockey sticks, 20 helmets to donate
* this kind of program has been done by city staff for 12 years at Dufferin Rink, 9 years at Wallace and Campbell -- lots of experienced staff, each one teach one
* staff often have time on their hands to lend skates and also to maintain skates
* the city has insurance that can cover this (the city is self-insured under $5 million anyway), but skate lending programs are rarely threatened with a claim if they do responsible skate maintenance.
"Change rooms at Sam Smith are open Monday morning. Got here around 10:30 and the ice was a bit worn in but not too bad. Here's a snap of the mezzanine showing what looks like a food concession booth."
Feb.3, 2017, from Councillor Grimes' office:
The portable toilets were removed from Colonel Sam Smith Artificial Ice Rink this week. Yesterday the main floor lobby area was opened to the public and this area will remain available to the public for the remainder of the skating season.
"Did my 20 laps this morning on a good ice surface with a half dozen others. The base seems thicker this year, maybe in case of a thaw. The bathrooms were open though the change rooms were closed. No sign of any work happening. There were some guys in vests nearby but they had no news. Porta potties still there. Huuge lineups at the Tim Hortons so gave up..."
The recreation supervisor for the area, Karen Harris, says that the rink guards are supervised separately by a citywide rinks person, so that Karen was unaware that some staff put up signs saying the indoor washrooms are for staff only. And it's Parks, not Recreation, who's in charge of the port-a-potties, so Recreation can't ask for them to be removed -- even though the indoor washrooms have been listed as open on the city's website since Nov.29, 2016.
Karen said that the indoor renovations are mainly to make the Power Plant building more usable year-round for kids' camps and permits (hence the mezzanine). However, because of the many delays, Recreation has not been able to use the Power Plant for camps for three years, and perhaps the building won't be ready this summer either.
Three years to upgrade the HVAC, instal an elevator, improve an existing mezzanine, and do heritage brick tuckpointing: really?
No response from Councillor Grimes' office, but there are a few fixes. The ugly port-o-potties are still all there, but the door to the washroom corridor is unlocked on the men's side (locked on the women's), and there is no sign forbidding entry to non-staff. Also, in the corridor three chairs have been set up, so at least a few people could get warmed up or put on their skates there.
We asked for signs, and there are some. One sign says the change rooms will be open in January. There's a week left. The zamboni driver says the building will be open on weekends but not on weekdays, beginning this weekend. The rec staff say that an architect came today and told them the building would be open beginning the first weekend in February, every day until the end of the rink season. Time will tell who's right. Through the big windows no workers can be seen, although there's a cherry picker lift parked inside. There's a door open into the machine room so probably there's some work going on there.
The other sign says construction will begin in April 2015. True enough, but not a good advertisement for city scheduling.
Power House state of good repair rehabilitation and upgrades were originally scheduled to take place in the off seasons, phased over multiple years to minimize impact to use of the rink and coordinate with available funding. During the design phase, condition assessments undertaken by the consulting team determined more extensive work than originally planned was required, primarily with regards to heritage masonry repairs.
Unfortunately construction has spilled over into the skating seasons for several reasons:
2015/16 – PowerHouse Mezzanine Project: – scope of work including new mezzanine, stair, and elevator.
This work originally scheduled for summer 2015 was delayed due to the untimely passing of the original architect, a sole proprietor, just prior to tendering. This necessitated the need to hire a replacement firm to reconfirm the design and administer the construction contract, this delayed the project by several months. Secondly, unforeseen site conditions were discovered during construction which required a relocation/redesign of the elevator. Changes to the existing fire alarm monitoring system required by TSSA (but implemented by others) held up completion and certification of the elevator.
2016/17 – Power house State of Good Repair Rehabilitation Project: – scope of work including chimney stabilization, HVAC upgrades, acoustical upgrades, and heritage masonry repairs. This work was originally scheduled for summer 2016 was tendered in the spring but returned with all bids being grossly over budget. The design and scope needed to be reassessed, was repackaged and retendered excluding the chimney restoration/masonry work. As a result the work was awarded and started later than hoped and has now extended into 2017. Accommodating two significant community events has required the project to temporarily shut down twice, completely justifiable given the popularity of the facility, but nonetheless contributing to the contract extension.
The current construction phase is expected to be completed by Jan 31, 2017. We are reviewing options with the contractor, consultant and City staff to potentially increase public access during the balance of the construction period, possibly on weekends.
Despite the cold day (minus 10 C) there were a few dozen skaters. There was a fire in the fire cage, with three staff watching and trying to keep warm. But not much heat was coming from it. There has to be one staff person there at all times when it's on, because the danger signs all over the structure are real. That is, the metal cage really does heat up enough that people can get burns. The rink staff were explaining that the cage is much more dangerous than a fire circle, because the metal gets hot but doesn't look hot, whereas everybody knows to stay away from open flames. But at least with an open fire people can get near enough to keep warm!
Because of the need to have a staff guarding the fire every minute, the rule is that the fire can normally only be lit for two hours twice a week (6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).
We asked about the second year of "closed for construction" of the change room. The staff said that there's no obvious sign of construction inside, and people can't understand why it has to keep being closed. Apparently it was open only on the day of the Santa Claus parade and will be open again tomorrow when the mayor comes to skate. The washrooms are still open but there are port-a-potties as well, and some staff put up a sign saying the indoor washroom door is meant for the rink staff only. So most people are obedient and don't try going in.
The history of the fire cage is that it was sitting abandoned in a supply yard and Councllor Grimes saw it and asked staff to bring it to this rink. But there was a reason why it was abandoned -- because it gives no heat, only trouble.
From Dale Howey: Ice quality was reasonable given the warm temperatures. The ice keeper knows his job. The smokestack was wrapped, maybe it was a structural thing. It looked like the plastic that new boats come wrapped in. The fire pit didn't look like it gets used much. Lots of port-a-potties which was a bad sign as it means the washroom and change rooms are out of order even though the facility was worked on last year. Oh well.
The campfire installation from last rink season, which appeared in January and vanished in February, is back. The security measures from last year must have been seen as inadequate, so there's a new railing this year. Local resident Eric Code sent these pictures:
Rink diaries from earlier years
This rink was scheduled to stay open until March 20, but it closed for the season on March 11.
They are putting in infrastructure for a food operation in the change room. They were also back at the fire pit digging holes to put armour stone benches.
The big new fireplace has vanished. Since it's too heavy to steal in any ordinary way, one has to assume that somebody decided it wasn't the right thing, and the parks lift truck came back to pick it up. The rink guards said they had no idea why the fireplace was installed in the first place nor why it was removed, "nobody tells us grunts anything, not even if the rink is open or closed."
They said the skating trail was listed as closed for 3 hours in the afternoon. But by 9 p.m. the ice was good. Even so, there were only three skaters.
The building washrooms and the downstairs changing area have reopened, although all doors but one are still blocked.
A truck came with lots of firewood -- but where will it be stored, since the rule says no combustible materials closer than 6 meters away...? And the building is still locked.
There was fundraiser at this rink on Saturday Jan.23 between 2 and 4 p.m., selling 'compassion t-shirts,' hot chocolate and baked goods, to help sponsor an as-yet unknown Syrian refugee family. See the poster here. Suggested donation was $20.
The new fire place in in -- it looks armoured. There are warning signs on all four sides that fire is hot. An extra fence has been put around it, but so far there is no sign of wood. A staff person from City Councillor Grimes' office was setting out newsletters. She thought that perhaps there would be a fire at the councillor's Family Day event.
The city's campfire circle installations increasingly have the feel of the signs that went up along the lake shore one year "danger: open water." As if people don't know that water can be deep and fire is hot. Very strange. Presumably all the certification costs extra, plus the heavy-duty armour to hold the fire in.
Good news! They were installing the fire pit this morning. One of those raised metal ones so hopefully it will be in operation this weekend. The change rooms are still closed but there was one lone worker there chipping away at concrete at the sill of one of the doors. There was actually a crowd there at 9:15 when I arrived, mainly youth but a few adults as well.
The change rooms are still closed and no fire pit yet. They had only scraped the ice when I got on around 9am due to the snow but the surface was pretty good.
"The change room is still closed for renovations and the fire pit isn't installed but the ice was in good shape and I was the first one on at 10 am. It was fine going south but a bit cold on the cheeks going north."
All the city's outdoor rinks were closed today until later afternoon, because of the heavy, extremely wet snow. Colonel Sam Smith was the fourth rink to re-open, at 4.30.
The city's website says the rink is closed all evening, but clearly it wasn't.
9.30 p.m.: people are skating despite some wetness on the ice. The rink guard asks me not to take a photo. I ask him (and some friends he's talking to), do you know about the article in the Star, about taking pictures at this rink? He says the rink guards were just told about it yesterday. But they were told there's still no picture-taking allowed unless the person with the camera ONLY puts in people he knows.
He lets me take a far-away picture of the Christmas tree, though. Nice.
Here is a Toronto Star article telling the story of a Star editor, Scott Colby, who was ordered by a rink guard to stop taking pictures of his own kids skating at the skating trail.
Rinks and parks in Toronto are predominantly staffed with youth. Some are likely to enjoy their new-found power over adults. And the hours and hours of training given to the rinks' young part-time staff focus almost entirely on preventing things, not on building enjoyment and wintertime social life. The kids are told that people taking photographs might be pedophiles, and that taking photographs puts children at risk. The same fragments of gossip are circulated over and over by the trainers -- the child whose mother was on the run from the father, and the father sees the child's photo and tracks them down and.....disaster!
This rink already had a respectable layer of ice on Wednesday Nov.25. Despite two days of 15 celsius that followed, there was enough ice for lots of skaters on opening day. Construction is keeping the building closed until January, according to the sign -- does that maybe mean February? The timing of construction is peculiar, since the building is much needed in winter. The work is constructing a mezzanine and adding an elevator. Apparently it began in April, and takes 9 months -- really?
Rink marked "closed" for today, by 3 pm.
11 am: the rink was open (the building also), with lots of people inside and out. Two staff.
It's so nice for people to be able to be inside, out of the cold, when they're helping their kids get their skates on.
On the city's rink information website/311, this rink was listed as unsupervised for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day, with the implication that the change room/washrooms would be closed. But that was wrong (hurray) -- the building was open and there were staff on the rink. The rink guard showed us the holiday schedule posted in the rink change room. It didn't agree with the city's web schedule:
...and a good thing, too, since the rink was packed with skaters, as usual.
The skating trail looks excellent, lots of schoolkids skating on it. The messages for last week, saying this skating trail was water-covered, must have just been wrong information on the 311 site.
At 3 pm the city's website continues to list this rink as "closed - water covered." A puzzle. Did they turn off the compressors since yesterday?
The ice looks good but there is a "closed due to inclement weather" signed on the locked door of the change room. A foreman drives up in a city truck and says the rink is closed because there's no ice. The visitor points to the solid ice and the foreman angrily goes into the building, saying over his shoulder "see for yourself." A mystery.
Compressor is on and there is frost on the rink. The mats are laid down and the changeroom looks clean and ready to go. The doesn't seem to be sign of hoses out.
The parking lot was empty as we pulled up to the rink. We watched a family go up to the rink house and get turned away. Turns out that Colonel Sam Smith had opened in the morning, but then decided to shut down in order to build up more ice. This update didn't make it to the City's outdoor rink status page. There were still three rink guards and a lead rec staff in the rink change room. They said that the zamboni staff felt the weather had been so bad for the rink for the past week... (too warm, too rainy, too sunny). So it was better to shut down now, and reopen later. [Ed. note: weather was ideal for ice making, cold, very short days, just enough rain to build up ice where a base existed.]
This rink had 2 rink staff flooding late nights (6pm to 2pm shifts). They say they tried to lay down at least 4 or 5 floods a night.
Compressors are on, and there's a layer of frost on the cement. Mats are out.
2 guys were out flooding. The ice looked thinner in some places than others and especially at the edges, but the guys said it was good enough in the middle to skate on now, (but there were no skaters) They will continue flooding and open officially on the weekend. Compressors on. Change rooms locked.
| zamboni garage
Lots of frost on the ice at night. Lights on.
From Stephen O'Bright, Supervisor, Capital Projects-Building & Infrastructure, Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Parks Development & Capital Projects to an inquiry about the skating trail, from Belleville:
It is not listed as it is not yet ready to go. Final testing of the equipment can only happen when it becomes somewhat colder.
It is scheduled for after Nov 27 at this time. Depending on the date the Power House adaptations will be completed it may be as late as December 1. The trail will have its own Zamboni
Community members that attended the public meetings objected to the suggestion that a snack bar be located in the park. Other alternatives will be considered.
Some history of the skating trail.
The skating trail opened today. Not many people know about it yet, since the official opening is not until Saturday the 11th. So there was no one skating as twilight was falling, but that situation will change, for sure, since the trail is really smooth and the view is wonderful. There's comfortable change room for people to warm up. The zamboni driver was proud to point out how long it took to make all that ice, and how solid the ice is now.
Peter Kuitenbrouwer in the National Post: a great place to skate, needs hot chocolate!
The skating trail continues very popular. The Christmas music has given way to a radio station which broadcasts lots of ads -- so part of the time while skaters are enjoying the outside air, they're listening to muffler ads.
I took my kids today at Colonel Sam Smith outdoor rink, we had lots fun. Unfortunately when I want to take picture of my kids, the supervisor come and told me not to.
I was wondering why I can't take picture in there, can you explain to me? I didn't have a chance to ask the supervisor because he left soon as he told me and I was kind of shocked.
I understand that you are probably the relevant supervisor to respond to this email. Can you help with this? ...there seems to be some confusion about who can take a photo and under what circumstances.
There are parameters in place around photo taking and at Sam Smith we had numerous issues with enforcement and compliance of the Photography Policy.
In the instance that you have made me aware of, it would have been reasonable for our staff to create the opportunity by educating the participant regarding the "staging' of a photo to avoid having any other members of the public visible within the shot.
We will continue to educate our staff regarding this policy and the application of it at our rink locations.