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Here's a look at the running of Harbourfront Rink during the rink season of 2005/2006. Jutta Mason visited some outdoor rinks every day, some just occasionally.
5.55 Zamboni was just cleaning the ice. Very busy rink – hundreds of skaters sitting along the curved edges of the rink, their feet on the ice. One rink guard, no barriers. Zamboni going fairly fast, just staying slightly back from the edges.
I asked the staff at the skate rental if they’d had trouble with the warm temperatures and the sun. They said their ice had been fine all day and they had not lost a single day after the first weekend when their rink opened.
10.10 p.m. Packed. Coloured lights, music – people are dancing on the ice, it looks like a big, energetic club. I ask the rink guard – when did your rain dry up enough so the ice got hard? He looks at me funny. "Our ice wasn’t wet. If it rains, it freezes right away." And he starts to explain about compressors freezing the ice.
That's how things are when the ice is the right thickness. Harbourfront tries to keep their ice around 2 inches, versus most rinks' (including ours) 6 inches.
However, the music and the dancing on the ice are worth imitating.
3 p.m. Good ice. Much less crowded than on the weekends. The rink supervisor told me their ice is pretty thick now too, after the last few rainfalls. He said they put on an extra operator early morning for the past two days and did 5 scrapes with the blade all the way down, and that helped.
Sun and cloud, 4 degrees. 4.00 p.m. It’s started to rain. The rink looks rough and mushy. About six skaters on the ice are scrambling to get off , out of the driving rain/snow. I talk to the zamboni driver. He says he did the ice at 2 p.m. It looks ridged, though, and rough. Maybe it is better to stay off. The guy at the rink says they have a problem at Harbourfront -- too much sun.
Minus 3, sun and cloud. 1.30 p.m. Ice good, but with a cold wind off the lake. The zamboni driver told our staff person that the Siemens control system monitors the ice temperature and sets the compressors automatically. He says that a lot of their ice is 7 inches thick too.
Sunny, 2 degrees. 4.10: Ice didn’t look good – mushy all over the place. Lots of skaters, though. Last week the staff there told me they have seven inches of ice. They also said they have a hard time with the sun, which has no barrier at all down by the lake.
Sunny, 2 degrees celsius. 5:45 pm, Lots of skaters. Ice in poor condition.
12.30 sunny: ice has thin film of water on it but good underneath. Beautiful scene along the waterfront, but only 12 skaters.