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Harbourfront's Natrel Rink opened for the season TODAY.
Rink Diaries from earlier years
Opened Nov.17, 2018
The rink opened for the season today. Their webcam no longer works. Too bad.
The rink is open and the ice is fine. A big three-masted sailing schooner is tied up at the dock nearby, planes are flying in to the island airport, and the skaters on the rink show widely varying levels of competence. A few are holding on to the concrete sides of the rink, others are gliding at ease.
There are some odd posts at the side of the rink that seem to tell skaters what they might be feeling or doing: "happiness" and "laughter."
The café was open, and although skaters can't go in with their skates, there are picnic tables on floor matting outside, where people can sit with their skates on and eat and have a beer and enjoy the view of the skaters and the lake. A wonderful location.
There were four staff standing outside the skate loan building on their coffee break. They said that they started up the rink last Thursday (Nov.9). It already has some good ice on it. They also said they hadn't heard whether their webcam (still malfunctioning) would be fixed this year.
They hope to open on Friday Nov.17, a full week before any of the other rinks. It looks promising.
The rink has closed for the season. This year it seemed to have some difficulty with sunny days, and of course there were longer mild periods than usual. And no shade, not like at City Hall or (even shadier) the rink in Mississauga's Celebration Square.
This rink has been busy as usual despite some weather challenges (rain between Christmas and New Year's, now some real cold) and their DJ skate nights have been going on Saturday nights since mid-December.
At 9 p.m. it looks like a fair number of people are skating, somewhat in the dark -- lights not turned on. Odd.
The website lists the rink as open. Now they just need to clean the webcam lens :-)
Although the website still says the rink will open mid-to-late November, the webcam at 7.30 a.m. shows skaters, looking like they're having a good time. A phone call at 10 a.m. confirms that their rink is open and the ice is good.
The machine is out making ice.
They write that they hope to open by Friday. (Really? Not until then, with this cold weather?) Ice maintenance happening after dark. Note that Mississauga's main outdoor rink downtown is open and has lots of skaters. Is Harbourfront losing its edge? Today their web page still has an old message saying they'll open mid-to-end of November, and their phone message says "closed for the season, see you next year."
From Russ Minaker: "at the Harbourfront Natrel Rink, they made an attempt in early November. At the time they were saying they were going to try to open Nov 15th. I saw their Olympia machine working on it on November 4th I believe it was. But then we got that warm spell."
Tonight their webcam shows a good sheet of ice in, Olympia flooding at 11 p.m.
The rink closed on March 10. It struggled during the last week in particular, with parts of days, or near the end the whole day, being closed. The zamboni did hours of ice maintenance on the 9th but you could see the coolant lines in the ice pattern. So on the 10th, right after a school class that skated in the rain, the closure announcement was put up.
Last DJ event (first one was Dec.19). Smart scheduling, given the likelihood that the ice will be affected by the higher sun as March approaches, and the fact that people's enthusiasm for skating wanes as winter nears its end.
Since the rink closed for one day, it has not been closed again (during regular hours), even though the weather has given some challenges.
The rink has been closed all day and will not re-open until tomorrow. The zamboni has been cleaning the ice all day, and the staff say it's still too soft for skating. At 10 pm the webcam still shows the zamboni grooming the ice.
The rink was closed again for a few hours on Dec.24, but open for scheduled hours since then. Ice was fine.
This afternoon, it looks like the rink was closed (bright sun, 14 celsius). By 7 pm there were skaters, and at 10.30 pm there are more skaters, in the dark.
At 11 pm, the rink's webcam shows a lot of people skating in the dark.
First DJ skating party of the year.
Today the rink was filled with skaters, even though it was cloudy and windy.
We found out that not only the skate lending, but also the restaurant, are run directly by Harbourfront, not outsourced. This is the opposite of the rink at City Hall (Nathan Phillips Square) where both food and skates are outsourced. And at City Hall there are not enough places to sit, either outside or in the tiny change room. In contrast, Harbourfront has large numbers of benches outside and also skate-friendly flooring in its restaurant. That room was full today too, youthful skaters (also from schools?) eating and talking and just lounging on the available couches, in their skates. Like a comfortable clubhouse.
The rink was sparse under dark skies in the morning but then by evening it was full of skaters -- and again at 11.45 pm there were many people skating around in the semi-dark.
Even though it was a warm, sunny day, this rink kept its ice very well. Just before midnight after the zamboni was done, it appeared from the webcam that there were at least 40 people skating, in the semi-dark. Very nice.
An article in the Toronto Star says that on Dec.4, a Star reporter was barred from taking pictures of his own children skating at Colonel Sam Smith skating trail. But happily, no such rule exists at Harbourfront's Natrel Rink. Neither does it exist at City Hall's rink. They have a sign saying that people can film or take pictures there. But all other city rinks treat cameras as contraband.
Everything seems easier and less rule-bound at this non-municipal rink. Helmets are not mandatory for anyone, but helmet rentals are available. Staff who are good enough to teach skating don't wear helmets, although the learners do. At municipal rinks, helmets are mandatory for all on-ice staff, sending the message -- "skating is dangerous."
The in-house skate loan program (outsourced at City Hall) used to pay for the entire rink operation. That may not be true anymore; we'll ask the manager and report back.
The webcam showed people skating on Friday Nov.27 (opening day) after the rain had stopped. And it's been very well attended ever since.
The ice is already good and solid, thicker than on opening day in some other years. Mats are not out yet, and it looks like there's still maintenance going on in the skate rental room. Staff said they started flooding on Friday night. They were getting ready to install some propane heaters in the former firebox areas -- they said it's cheaper to buy propane than to buy firewood.
Sadly, the webcam is still broken -- something the rink staff only realized yesterday.
The staff said they hope to open the rink on Friday afternoon after they've had a chance to push off the rain that's forecast for Thursday night.
At 9.45, there are 0 skaters, 1 celsius; at 3.30, 5 skaters, 2 celsius; at 4.45, 0 skaters, 2 celsius. Rink closed for the season.
At 11 a.m. the webcam shows two skaters, at 12.30, 3. At 1.30, 15; at 2.30, 15. At 5 pm: 9 skaters (temp went up slowly from 1 to 12, but overcast). At 8.30: 0 skaters.
At 6.30 pm on Sunday, the rink is full of skaters, despite a sunny day with 6 celsius. There are pylons in the middle where it's wet, but nobody seems to be anxious about the ice quality.
We wanted to see the campfires in the warming areas, and we'd been told that the fires are only lit on Saturdays and Sundays. But the rink supervisor said that actually they don't even light the fires on Sundays -- only on Saturdays during DJ night. Besides, he said, it's hot -- why light a fire?
Saturday, January 24, 2015 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Motown Party on Ice with DJs Steve Rock, Misty Rock‘n’ Roll and Sean Caff Come down and skate to the classic sounds of Motown! From Marvin Gaye and the Supremes to Smokey Robinson and the Jackson 5.
This morning, there was a plough taking off the snow, with the zamboni following close behind. Around 10 a.m., a big group of skaters came on, and managed to skate in the snow.
From Spencer Emmerson, Harbourfront Communications Dept: "I will be bringing my shovel to work tomorrow and making sure the ice is spotless! A sprinkle of snow is magical, but a storm is just stressful."
From Harbourfront communication department, their media release about their DJ skate nights:
The rink has been open almost all the scheduled times despite whatever the weather does. The webcam is the CityRinks reality check about ice conditions, at a rink where there is ideal maintenance.
The DJ nights schedule is up, set to begin this weekend on Dec.13.
The compressors are on and there's ice at the edges, but it's 17 celsius, so the ice-making will have to wait until evening. Everything looks ready for the weekend, though.
The rink is open and full of skaters -- sunny much of the day, but only 3 celsius.