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The Dufferin Rink skate lending program

September 11 2017

Despite all the organizational troubles last season, the rental income still covered the costs of the program:

The economics of skate lending at city rinks

To help figure out the question of costs, here are some recent rink season income numbers from Dufferin Rink's skate loan program, posted on the CELOS financial section:

2011/2012: $15,009

2012/2013: $10,604

2013/2014: $10,566

2014/2015: $11,319

2015/2016: $14,225

2016/2017: $10,877

[Source: the first three totals are from the CELOS Quickbooks accounting program, the second three totals are from PFR through Freedom of Information.]

In actual fact, the income for each of those years was higher, because this table only includes the three full months of rink operation, not the partial months of November or March when the rink was open.

The city's SAP book-keeping record does not specify which part-time hours were paid to the skate loan staff, but since the $2 skate loans earned an average of $120 to $166 a day, and most days involved much less than 10 part-timer hours, it's clear that there is money left for skate upkeep after paying wages.

The variability from year to year is related partly to the weather, partly to organizational factors that can be addressed.

April 3, 2017, e-mail to the community recreation programmer, copy to supervisor

Dufferin Grove staff have told me that the Dufferin skates are already put away in the loft on top of the zamboni kitchen. It's probably better not to mix them up with the remaining CELOS skates for now, until we settle how we can get back the CELOS equipment that was stolen from the skate lending operation last year.

You will recall that CELOS got an NHLPA donation of 20 sets of skates, helmets, sticks and gloves last season (Jan.2016). Because Dufferin Rink was so short of equipment we lent all the CELOS helmets, gloves and sticks, and some of the skates, to the rink. None of this equipment except a few pairs of skates came back to us. It disappeared even though the skate lending was staffed the whole time.The documentation of our January 2016 stocks is here. The documentation of last year's skate lending problems is here.

Although CELOS arranged for the original "Randy's skates" donations, we collaborated with the city to lend equipment to other rinks (all of it was counted and came back). Our skates and some from Campbell were borrowed for a youth event at Scarborough Civic, our skates and helmets combined with some city skate aids and helmets were borrowed by the head of the Parks committee at Irving Chapley, both in Feb.2016. Our skates and city helmets were loaned out for a refugee event at Greenwood Rink. This year we were approached by two other rinks but were unable to oblige them because too much was missing.

I would like to meet with you and Keith to go through what was lost and how the city plans to replace it. Can you suggest a few possible meeting times?

Nov.25 2016

Rink staff have been told by their supervisors that they cannot take I.D. for skate rentals anymore, because that's considered a "breach of privacy." Also there will no longer be loans of hockey gloves and sticks because most of them were stolen last year. Staffing is the same as last year, with minimal supervision. Since so many skates, sticks and gloves disappeared last year, supposedly with I.D., this suggests that the skate lending program may not last much longer.

One of the staff said she also heard that no new skates will be bought to replace ones that disappear or wear out.

Last season (2015-2016)

Feb.24, 2016

Feb.5: 24 pairs donated by MLSE. Feb.24: 4 pairs already disappeared

There are now four pairs of the 24 pairs of brand-new MLSE-donated skates missing from the Dufferin Rink collection. Apparently it's difficult or impossible to find when they went missing because the record sheets are often undated and not all skate loans are recorded anyway. For the record: 80DP, 81DP, 93DP and 110DP cannot be located.

Feb.15, 2016, e-mail to the Ward 18 recreation supervisor, copied to Sue Bartleman (Toronto/East York recreation manager) and City Councillor Ana Bailao:

Here's some follow-up on the skating/shinny hockey loan collection at Dufferin Rink.

At the beginning of the current rink season, CELOS put 20 new sticks, 20 pairs of gloves, and 20 helmets into the Dufferin Rink collection, from the NHL PA donation that we got. In the course of the current rink season, it appears that almost all are gone.

In addition, two of the seven pairs of skates that CELOS lent the rink to tide them over for the holidays are gone, and I'm told that at least one of the new pairs that you brought in through the Partnerships office last week is already gone.

It also appears that all 20 of the Pashby grant helmets that went to Dufferin Rink last year are gone.

Apparently the rental documentation by at least part of the staff is so sketchy that the thefts cannot be traced.

I first wrote to you about this issue on January 4, 2016. Last week, new skates arrived (how many pairs? nobody seems to know), and on Tuesday there is a plan to bring in some of the Pashby grant helmets that were kept in boxes in an office since the donation arrived last year.

I would suggest that until you fix the skate/shinny gear lending operation, keep the Pashby helmets out of circulation and remove the new skates temporarily. It's urgently time to do a proper inventory, to establish a baseline of what's there before more of it goes missing. On January 4, I suggested weekly inventories (instead of once every few years) -- but now it seems like daily inventory should be done until the rental system is fixed.

I'm cc-ing the councillor for the record, and the manager because she said at our meeting that Dufferin Rink is a good news story and everything is fine with the staffing system.

Dufferin Rink skate lending income comparisons

December 2011: $5843.86; 2012: $4443.31; 2013: $5216.10; 2014: $5535.00; 2015: $6083.15

January 2011: $4783.68; 2012:; $5690.80; 2013:; $3836.00; 2014: $3209.44; 2015: $3588.00; 2016: $5071.50

Feb.9, 2016

The new skates have ended up being stored on the floor, the helmets more or less thrown in one corner. At least half the helmets are past their expiry date anyway, and the new donated helmets have not yet appeared.

new skates stored on cement floor

the few helmets are here
February 5, 2016

New skates have arrived, some older ones have been thrown out, nobody exactly knows where things got put, helmets are supposed to be brought over too, but there's no room for them in the messy storage area. There will be more space once the redundant water heaters are removed.

new skates, old skates, everything jumbled together

unidentified pile in the corner -- broken?

skates sort of on shelves

good skates in garbage -- nobody knows why

dirty, rusty skates, ready to lend

Some staff make the effort to clean up the skates, others duck the job. There's no forethought -- how can there be enough space, how can the blades be protected from nicking each other, which skates need repair? So after each cleanup the collection reverts to being in a mess again. One month after our January 4th letter to the councillor, there is still been no inventory of the collection and no plan made to store it in a more manageable way. There are no helmets to replace the 40 that disappeared. Skates like this pair on the right get back on the shelf: muddy and rusting, but supposedly ready to lend out again. We asked manager Sue Bartleman -- "is it your intention to just let the Ward 18 skate lending program slowly die by attrition?" She said, "absolutely not."


Dufferin Rink skate lending: not enough room
January 4, 2016, e-mail to city management and Ward 18 City Councillor Ana Bailao about skate lending

Subject: Dufferin Rink skate lending is broken

Dear Sofia,

Now that the new year has begun, it's urgent to either fix or abandon the Dufferin Rink skate lending program. I have made a web page with pictures of some of the problems.

The problems: 1. there is no one responsible for coordinating the whole operation, and there are way too many occasional staff for consistency 2. skates are not being sharpened often enough when they are dull from intensive use -- that can cause falls 3. there is only one staff person assigned to sharpening 4. there is no one in charge of inventory 5. the water-heater room has insufficient space for the skate collection 6. because of lack of inside space, most of the new helmets have been stolen from the outside bins. This includes most of the 20 new CELOS helmets donated by the NHL PA 7. often, skates are not replaced when they are damaged 8. for the last few years, skate lending revenue has not been dedicated to skate upkeep

Suggestions: 1. by the middle of this week, have a team of designated skate room staff do a complete, clearly documented January skate inventory, removing all damaged skates and incorporating suitable donation skates 2. have inventory staff set aside all the skates that are overdue for sharpening, add extra shifts to do them all and to train at least two new sharpening staff 3. designate a capable person to coordinate the skate lending, make them accountable and pay them accordingly 4. Move the operation into the garage now that the zamboni is not there anymore: i.e. skates, shinny equipment (sticks, gloves) and remaining helmets. The garage can be much better organized than it is now 5. designate a part of the skate rental income to replace gaps in the collection 6. visit two skate loan programs that work better: Evergreen Brickworks and Harbourfront. (Note that both those programs are internally run and help support the rinks.) Take several designated skate lending staff along. The people in charge are Evergreen director of facility management Luuk Postuma [email protected] and Harbourfront director of operations Helder Melo [email protected].

Also I suggest that you bring the remaining Pashby helmets that you didn't bring over to Dufferin Rink last year -- I think there were 20 more? If they can be housed in the garage instead of outside, and rented out in the regular way, they won't be stolen.

At the moment, the Dufferin skate loan program is temporarily using 11 pairs of CELOS skates to fill in the worst gaps in the park collection. We will need most of them back whenever we lend the CELOS collection out for an event, but the rest of the time, CELOS skates are available to tide the park over. However, those gaps need to be filled over the coming weeks, using skate rental revenue.

The skate-lending program has been one of the biggest successes of the rink, but right now it's an orphan. As before, I am cc-ing management and the councillor, to see if they have an interest in supporting solutions. Alternatively, if management tells the councillor that these fixes prove impossible, in the interest of safety and good practices I suggest the program should be closed down for now.

I will post this letter on the rink bulletin board to solicit input from on-site staff and skaters as well.

Jan.7 2016, email from City Councillor Bailao's office:

Again thank you for your email and comments with regards to the Dufferin Rink skate lending program.

Councillor Bailao will be further discussing the problems you have highlighted and the possible solutions with City staff.

We look forward to working with you, the community and City staff in continuing to improve and build on the enjoyment and use of the Dufferin Grove skating rink.

Dufferin Rink skate lending income:

  • 2011, Jan.1 to March 20, Nov.21 to Dec.21: $15,602.93
  • 2012, Jan.1 to March 10, Nov.24 to Dec.31: $14,331.23
  • 2013, Jan.1 to March 3, Nov.23 to Dec.31: $13,063.29 (or $13,890.99)
  • 2014, Jan.1 to March 16, Nov.20 to Dec.31: $14,637.55
  • 2015, Jan.1 to March 22, Nov.28 to Dec.31: $13,939.64


Dufferin Grove loaner skates back-of-the-envelope cost calculation: assume an average of 5 hours a day for one skate lending staff, for 100 days of later-November to end-of-February rink season. 5 hours is an average of how much time is actually spent in the skate room renting skates (assuming that the same person would also be contributing other work to the rink when it's not busy or raining or closed or whatever). At $13 an hour that's $65 a day or $6500 per rink season.

Even in the lowest-income year that leaves $6500 for skate-sharpening, extra staff for holidays, and replacement skates.

If the program is better run -- e.g. in 2011 -- there is more.

The city is tax-funded and the purpose of skate-lending or other parks programs is not defined by balancing the books, but even taking that into account, the funds are there to run this program right.

2005: the first NHL PA skates

NHL PA donation

painted yellow and lined up by size

2016: lots more skates -- these need better care!

Sunday 8 a.m., left like this from the night before

broken skates (how many got thrown out already?)

unlabelled donations, piling up

10 pm Sunday -- the skate room was left like this

Helmet bin #1: Dr.Tom Pashby donation -- only a few left

Helmet bin #2: 2015 NHL PA donation -- where are they?

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Content last modified on October 17, 2017, at 08:28 AM EST