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A Manual for Running Compressor-Cooled Outdoor Rinks Really Well. Read more>>

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wood stove at Dufferin


posted October 10, 2007

The CELOS Outdoor Rink Report, Part One

Written in 2007 by CELOS, funded by the Metcalf Foundation, this report provides outlines of operational issues and their possible solutions. The report is still relevant today (2010).

See also Part Two: Attendance, Permits, Helmets, Staff, Community, Appendices, and the pdf version.

Part One:

Rink season

What needs fixing: working against the sun

Artificial outdoor ice rinks work best (and most energy efficiently) when the sun is at its weakest during the year. The sun is at its lowest angle (and is hence weakest) in the northern hemisphere on December 21st. It follows that the best and most efficient time to run outdoor artificial ice rinks is in the 15 weeks centred around that day. After an attempt in 2001 to just squeeze the rink season down to 10 weeks, chopping it off at BOTH ends, 2-3 weeks were added back on. But the chart below illustrates how, in the last four years, the Parks department has slid away from this ideal season.


Keeping the rinks open in March is a losing battle against the spring sun.

In the most recent (2006/07) rink season, most (21) of the city-run rinks which we tracked did not open until December 9.

December 2006 was unseasonably warm and served as an instructive experiment on the effects of October/November-like temperatures on compressor-run outdoor ice rinks. Taking Dufferin Rink as a sample rink: Toronto’s December temperatures ranged from 0°C to plus 13°C. Throughout December there were no days when the rink had to be closed.

In January the temperatures ranged between minus 12°C and plus 11°C. The sun was still low enough that there were no days when the rink had to be closed, even on sunnier days.

In February the temperatures were, for the most part lower (ranging from minus 13°C to 0°C). Yet staff had to close Dufferin Rink by 1 pm on 3 days due to soft and slushy ice.

In March this became even more pronounced with temperatures ranging from minus 20°C to plus 15°C – but 6 days of afternoon rink closures (often on cold days). Since the rink closing date was March 18, six closures actually represent 33% of the month closed during peak hours.

The angle of the sun in the late fall and early winter makes for dreary days that could happily be spent skating regardless of temperature (anywhere under 18°C) or clear skies (low sun). The compressors are designed to keep the ice frozen and are very well suited to countering the force of higher temperatures. But they are unable to counteract the effects of higher sun. Another example: on November 29 the ice at Harbourfront Rink was in perfect condition at plus 16°C, with over a hundred skaters when we visited, and no puddles. Similarly on December 17 when the high was plus 13°C and it was mostly sunny, the rink at Dufferin was in perfect condition, and full of skaters. Compare: Dufferin Rink staff were forced to shut down the rink during peak hours on March 7 on a sunny day when the high was only minus 6°C. The chart below demonstrates the increase in rink closures over the late winter months, and the fact that this increase happened despite overall lower temperatures.

Using the average daily temperatures that Toronto experiences between November and the end of March, along with the angle of the sun at noon hour of each day, the melt rate of the surface ice was calculated. The following chart illustrates how under average seasonal conditions, outdoor rinks work best from early November until the end of February.

Click on the graph for a larger image.

How to fix it:

Work around the sun. The rinks should be opened in mid-November and closed at the end of February to best take advantage of the low sun and the related savings in energy costs. At least half the rinks should be open for fifteen weeks, to allow Torontonians maximum use during the winter season.

Ice is good, but Riverdale Rink is locked all morning

Hours of operation:

What needs fixing: ice good, but rinks locked

- Many rinks keep the ice surface locked all morning on weekdays, and often into the afternoon. This means no school classes nor shift workers nor families with very young children, at those less-busy times.

- Some rinks are locked a great deal in the evenings as well, during what would normally be considered prime time. In 2006/07 season,

- 17 of 24 rinks closed at 5 or 6 pm on Sunday, despite the presence of many skaters

- 5 rinks of 24 didn’t open until 11 or even 12:30pm on Sunday

- 3 rinks didn’t open until 12:30 or 1:00pm on weekdays.

- Giovanni Caboto (also known as JJP or Earlscourt Rink) a once-popular double-pad rink, rebuilt new about ten years ago, was kept locked during most of the weekend. According to its schedule, the rink was only open three and a half hours on Saturdays, and three hours on Sundays.

-Besides poor scheduling, rink visitors too often found rinks closed unexpectedly without apparent reason (this does not include closures due to inclement weather)

- Many outdoor rinks close early on weekend evenings, or even on weekday evenings, while other rinks remain open and very busy with shinny hockey until 11 pm. The compressor plants are running even when rinks are closed.

How to fix it:

- Use the rinks to the very maximum during skating season. No rink should be locked and empty during the hours when a park would normally be open for the public.

- Keep rinks unlocked during normal operating hours even when there are no staff on site. (Post “rink unsupervised” signs)

- Research needed, to investigate whether the City shoulders greater liability for a claim made at an unsupervised rink that can be locked but isn’t vs. one that cannot be locked (eg. Nathan Phillips Square, Rennie Rink, Wallace-Emerson Rink). Research so far: The city has never paid out a claim for unsupervised outdoor public skating, at either lockable rinks and unlockable rinks.

Ice maintenance

What needs fixing: Unreliable season-opening dates.

Although Toronto announces opening days for rinks, they are often not open until a few days later. This is because, in order to save wages, the ice making too often begins only a day or two before the rink is scheduled to open.

From Veronica Pochmursky, Ramsden Rink, December 2003: I went to Ramsden Rink today, fully expecting it to be open because I knew that Dufferin Grove was, and they usually open at the same time. Much to my surprise, not only was the rink not open, it appears that ice making hasn't even begun! What is the problem? With the torrential rains last week, it would have been a perfect time to initiate ice making to take advantage of the natural flooding. Free water. Doesn't that count as a good cost savings initiative, not to mention the environmental benefit?

From Caroline Lindberg, Trinity Rink, to Brenda Librecz, general manager of Parks, Foresty and Recreation, December 2005: With the cold weather we had last week we really missed having the rink available. I wondered about the fact that we didn't see much going on in terms of preparation but assured my kids that the rink would open on the weekend. But Sunday morning, when we headed over to the rink for shinny, we discovered that City staff were there with a hose, putting down yet another layer. The rink wasn't ready! My twelve-year-old daughter would like to know why the rink wasn't ready even though we were promised that it would be. What should I tell her?

From teacher Sally Bliss, about Monarch Park Rink, to City Councillors Sandra Bussin and Paula Fletcher, December 2006: I'm a teacher at Greenwood Secondary School at Greenwood and Danforth. As you know, all our students are new Canadians. Last year, I started an after school skating program to introduce them to the joys of skating and get them "Active on Ice", during what can otherwise be quite a miserable season for many. With donations of used hockey skates and helmets, we'd walk 5 minutes over to Monarch Park's rink to use during public skating hours. The program was hugely popular! In September when school resumed, the first question a student from Iraq asked was, "When does skating start again, Ms?"

We'll, it was suppose to start today, but the rink at Monarch is a mess. I phoned Matty Eckler Community Centre at noon and they said that it would most likely be closed. I stopped by the rink at 4pm and the rink attendant didn't know if the zamboni would be coming or not.

I can't help but be frustrated at the inconsistency across the city. Last year on 3 or 4 occasions, Monarch shut down while other rinks remained in operation. And I just phoned Dufferin Rink to find out that not only are their rinks open, but the ice is also "great".

How to fix it:

Starting floods only two days before rinks are scheduled to open is a false economy. Return to putting on extra crews to start flooding the rinks four days before the scheduled opening. These crews should work at night (to make use of the no-sun hours), as the ice-making crews used to do when these outdoor rinks were first introduced. To make the most of staffing, the crews can travel between four rinks, to put layers of water on all of them in rotating sequence.

Open groups of rinks in a planned sequence, not all at once. All that's needed is half a week between each group of rinks opening. Rink supervisors already try to do this, to do the work in an orderly way. But every year recently, City management and city councillors have directed the rinks to open all on the same day. Decision-makers need to know that the principle of "harmonization" -- in this case each rink opening at the identical time of each other rink -- does not work well in practice.

What needs fixing: Ice thickness in rainy winters

In years when there’s lots winter rain and it’s not removed before it freezes, the ice on outdoor rinks can get as thick as 7 inches by the end of January, at which point ice maintenance becomes very problematic. It has been the practice of many ice maintenance staff to stay off rinks when it rains. Some seasonal rink zamboni drivers say thicker ice is better ice, and they insist on leaving rainwater on the ice to freeze.

A letter from Steven McLeod, president of CIMCO/ Toromont, Canada's largest rink building and maintenance company, April 28 2006:

For outdoor artificial ice it is believed that the optimum thickness of ice is between 2-3 inches thick...thicker ice actually costs more to maintain as the compressors must operate longer to ensure that the ice remains frozen (7-8 inches of ice should not be the "norm").

How to fix it:

Train all rink maintenance staff in the importance of keeping the ice at less than 4 inches thickness. When ice is kept between 1 ½ and 3 inches, compressors work well at keeping it frozen. In years when there is lots of rain, zamboni drivers must remove water as it accumulates during a rainfall, so that it doesn't freeze onto the existing ice. Also the zamboni drivers need to cut ice more often when there's been lots of rain.

What needs fixing: Availability of ice resurfacing equipment.

Sometimes there's a zamboni operator at a rink but no equipment for him to use. Having a zamboni operator sit in the rink office with no equipment is expensive. The cost per operator for a 12-week season ranged from $22,449.59 in the west to $25,563.99 in the North in 2003 – per rink.

The shortage of ice resurfacing equipment is also caused by frequent equipment breakdowns. This is made worse by having "flying squads" pull zambonis from rink to rink on trailers without springs. Some city rinks have no convenient parking for zamboni trailers. In other rinks the zamboni has to be driven over curbs and other obstacles, to reach the rink it's supposed to plough. At other rinks the zambonis have to drive a far distance over rough paths. This slows them down in poor weather and jolts the machines, causing them to need repair sooner.

How to fix it:

Continue to acquire more ice resurfacers (Zambonis or Olympias). Put a Zamboni/Olympia ice resurfacer at each double pad and a Zamboni/Olympia or even a tractor with a "Champion" ice-making attachment at each single pad. Zamboni drivers can go from rink to rink, but ice resurfacers should stay put. The drivers who service rinks located near public transport should take the TTC or ride bikes instead of using city trucks. That way the City can save money on more trucks, and also reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Equipment well-maintained on a priority schedule: This has already improved from four years ago when it could take five days or more to repair a machine. Broken machines need to be repaired fast because when the travelling zambonis (“flying squads”) break down, or the zamboni trailer gives trouble, outdoor ice can get too thin from lack of resurfacing and the rink has to be closed for emergency ice build-up.

What needs fixing: programming interrupted by ice maintenance

Single pad rinks are maintained by “flying squads” – two drivers go from rink to rink with a zamboni on a trailer and maintain them in series. The on-site rink staff don’t always know the schedule of ice maintenance at their rinks, and schedule changes without notifying on-site rink staff are frequent. Rink users and on-site staff need to know when the zamboni is coming so they can plan around it. Frequent unscheduled ice maintenance discourages rink users from using the outdoor rinks -- if they're going to spend half their time sitting on the sidelines waiting for the zamboni to finish resurfacing the ice.

How to fix it:

Work in the direction of having ice resurfacing equipment at every rink. That way, only one zamboni driver is needed to run the equipment. The second driver is freed up to run equipment at other rinks, multiplying the labour power and giving much greater flexibility. Drivers can then work around program schedules. It's also very important that zamboni drivers are in frequent contact with on-site rink staff, so that the rink staff can give users the right information about the day's ice cleaning schedules.

What needs fixing: delays in reopening rinks after snowfalls

Ice maintenance approaches vary too widely. There are too many days when all the neighbourhood rinks are closed even though City Hall and Harbourfront are open. This is not because those rinks have better compressors but because they have better snow maintenance provisions. Up until a few years ago, zamboni drivers were not allowed to push snow off the rink after a snowstorm, even if there was a tractor on site. That was someone else’s job. So after a snowstorm, even when the weather was fine again, many outdoor rinks stayed shut for days until the plough got to them, and meantime the operators sat on their hands.

From Richard Sanger, Harry Gairey Rink, December 2004: 3 pm on Saturday December 10th I head over to Harry Gairey rink with my 9 year old son and his 12 year old friend to skate and play hockey; it's snowing a bit so I bring a shovel in case there's no-one around to clear the ice. But the rink is closed! In the change room there are three young P and R employees: one reading the Sun, two mopping the same spot repeatedly. I ask why the rink is closed. They say because it's snowing. I spend 20 minutes looking for the Rink operator who has made this baffling decision. He seems to have disappeared and I give up.

How to fix it:

Some of the rink operator trucks are fitted out with shovels on the front in winter. Train all zamboni drivers use them, when it's snowing. No need to wait until the snow stops falling completely to begin clearing: in a blizzard the working conditions are too severe, but when the snowfall begins to let up, all zamboni drivers can resume their clearing schedules - not only the brave ones.

What needs fixing: not letting rink users shovel light snow off the ice

- Rink guards often don’t allow skaters to shovel snow off the ice, even when rink shovels are on site.

From Gar Mahood, Ramsden Rink, 2003: "There were problems with ice maintenance last weekend and some folks were upset. Snow had accumulated and there was no zamboni available. The rink attendants would not release the shovels so volunteers could clean the rink. This ran counter to the understanding that we struck last year about the shovels, after about a three-year battle. So we thought we had lost ground. It seemed that we were back to the old position that the city would not clean the ice and it wouldn’t let us clean the ice either."

From David Howard, Rosedale Rink, 2006: "A couple of years ago, after a large snowfall, when the rink hadn't been cleared two days later, a few of the local residents showed up with shovels and began clearing the rink so our kids could skate. When a City Rinks supervisor showed up, he ordered us off the rink and locked the door even though we all agreed that we would sign waivers if we were injured shovelling.

The City staff didn't get around to clearing the rink for another day and half."

From Gar Mahood, Ramsden Rink, 2006: "On some occasions, keys have not been available to give access to the shovels. Sometimes the claim was made that there was no key to open the end gate of the rink to remove the snow. When this happens, the shovels are not released."

How to fix it:

Rink shovels on site and used: The City still owns many of the long metal green rink shovels from the days when the ice was maintained manually. When no zamboni or no zamboni driver is available, rinks where shovels are brought out, and where staff work alongside the skaters to shovel the snow off, can have many extra hours of good playing time.

From Gar Mahood: "I met with the supervisor this week and we reached this understanding: 1. they will release medium-sized scrapers and shovels. They'll release the large scrapers if the medium size ones are not available or are not available in sufficient numbers (they still claim that city lawyers fear liability if there is an injury shovelling and the large scrapers require real exertion). 2. the deal is that all snow must be removed around the edges and in the corners and from around the gates or the hockey game cannot resume (fair enough). But the staff cannot refuse to give us the shovels and scrapers."

From Alan Carlisle, reminiscences of skating in Montreal, 2005 When I was a kid in Montreal, we all pitched in to warrant our obsession with skating and hockey...At least 20 snow shovels were available and as the ice became snowy, we would stop hockey and almost everyone would grab a shovel and within a few minutes (many hands make light work), the game would resume.. the down side was at least once a season, I would get run into by a big guy and get smacked hard to the ice... not good.. We all cried when the march thaw made a lake of our beloved rinks. The horse buns from the ice-cleaning froze and we always had a puck.. even if it was made of half digested oats..

Ice cleaning by rink users with shovels: from the CELOS OUTDOOR RINK STAFF HANDBOOK

When snow is falling, some extra actions need to be taken in order to keep the rink a fun and safe place to skate.

Important: If there is any snow on the ice at all, ask the shinny players to play with only one puck. Keep a very close eye on them and if it becomes difficult to see the puck make them stop playing. It is imperative that they don’t lose a puck in the snow. Pucks get stuck in Zamboni’s and damage them, and we need to protect those machines! Explaining this to the shinny players is a good idea.

If there is a light/medium snowfall and no zamboni or snow-plough driver is able to come and clear the ice just then, supervised skaters can clear the snow themselves. It is very important to do this right because there are many possibilities for snow shoveling to be a disaster.

First, ask everyone to stop playing and see if there might be enough skaters around to clear the ice. If there are about five or six guys/gals and they are game, gather them together and explain the snow shovelling rules.

Do not hand out shovels until you have explained the whole process. Otherwise people will skate away with the shovels and you will have to yell.

The shovelling rules:

1. A staff person has to be around for the shovelling from start to finish.

2. No one may play on the ice until everyone is done working.

3. No snow may be piled anywhere on the ice, especially against the boards.

4. All snow that is cleared must be brought out of the rink through the gate and cleared to the side so that a Zamboni or a plough can still get through the gate.

5. At least one of the players has to change from skates to shoes and help the staff person shovel the snow out of the rink and over to the side.

6. If there are more helpers than shovels a couple of people should continually skate around the rink and move the snow out from the boards with hockey sticks.

7. If there are not enough people around to clear the entire rink, staff can organize them to clear half of the rink (the half closer to the gate).

8. Everyone who helps to clear the rink gets a reward, e.g. free pizza or cookie and a free drink. (Not every rink has these on hand, but it is a good idea to think of some kind of a reward for such hard work. Maybe you can just explain to people that they are being good hardy Canadians and living out our heritage!)

IMPORTANT: Shovels have to be locked up at all times unless skaters are committed to clearing the whole ice.

Make sure the green metal shovels are locked up and that the other shovels are put back in the garage.

All of this will only be useful if everyone is vigilant about two things:

1. No pucks hidden under snow on the ice surface

2. No piles of snow on the ice surface especially against boards or blocking the entrance to the rink

Simple, inexpensive rink design changes that can be done NOW

a rink house shelf of storybooks makes a nice break from skating

An outdoor rink should be one of the public spaces in Toronto where the widest variety of Torontonians can be seen together. We envision a rink with young parents and toddlers trying to balance on skates for the first time, a rink with grandparents keeping fit, a rink with teens playing casual shinny. Staff on site should be easy to locate, friendly and in a position to create such a neighborly rink.

There are many problems with the design of some rinks and buildings. However, small changes can make a big difference. And if we don’t make some of these changes, outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks will remain underused, unsafe and a far cry from what they can be.

What needs fixing: WINDOWS

- No windows in change rooms: Of the 23 rinks visited, 10 had change rooms with no windows, and 5 had windows that were either very small, or too high up to see out, or not facing the rink. The absence of windows, together with harsh lighting and drab interiors, often give rink change areas a slummy look.

- No windows in staff rooms: 13 of the 23 rinks had no windows in the staff room, and often the staff at the rinks were inside and cut off from rink users. One staff room had windows not facing toward the rink, and one had windows blocked with black plastic garbage bags. That leaves only 8 staff rooms with windows allowing staff to see out or rink users to find staff.

East End skating father: “My wife hates skating. I don’t mind skating with our daughter but I can’t go all the time. So when my wife goes to Kew or Jimmie Simpson rinks and can’t sit inside and see Andrea skating around -- because there are no windows -- she just doesn’t let her skate for more than 20 minutes before she is frozen and mad from sitting in hockey boxes.”

How to fix it:

no window at Greenwood Rink changeroom

windows at Dieppe Rink changeroom

Windows are very important for making a rink safer and comfortable for skaters and staff. Ideally rink change rooms should have large, eye-level windows onto the ice. Staff rooms should have the same visual access to the rink and the change room.

The rinks with adequate windows had many different kinds, from simple windows within doors, to the wide walls of windows at Regent South, and the well placed window inserted into the wall only this year at Wallace Emerson. There are many solutions to the problem of visual access.

- Using eight outdoor rink change rooms with adequate windows as guides for the variety of the windows available, the following rinks could have a window easily added to the change rooms in time for the 2007/2008 rink season: Jimmie Simpson, Kew Gardens, Hodgson, JJP, and Withrow. The cost for an external window is around $2000 each. Internal openings (between staff rooms and change rooms) are cheaper.

- Staff locking themselves up in windowless rooms where they cannot participate with skaters is undesirable. When staff rooms are far from the change rooms or windowless, like at Rosedale Rink, Ramsden or Jimmie Simpson, it would be better if rink staff could leave their closed up, windowless offices and work out of the change rooms instead – as they do at Regent South and Harry Gairey Rinks. At Regent South Rink, staff have a table and work equipment in the general change room. They have a good view of the ice and sunlight pours in all day. Staff can talk to people in the rink house and keep an eye on the ice at the same time.

There are a few rinks with offices where the windows face in the wrong direction, away from the rink and from rink users. These offices are almost as non-functional as windowless offices. And if rink staff install television sets or personal computers in the rink office to while away the hours, the benefit of a window is effectively cancelled.


If there are benches outdoors, parents may choose to watch their kids skate or play shinny hockey. Benches also offer another place to change to skates if the change rooms are locked, or unpleasant or sex-segregated.

-Of 23 outdoor rinks visited, in 8 rinks the mats don’t reach benches or washrooms. In 7 rinks there are no outdoor benches for resting or skate-changing. The rest have some outdoor benches, although often not more than one or two.

At Jimmie Simpson Rink, on an otherwise wonderful afternoon when City Councillor Paula Fletcher had her annual Neighbourhood Skating Party with hot dogs, popcorn, hot chocolate, buttons, ice dancing and a DJ, the small change rooms were crowded by people warming up and changing into their skates. There were no benches outside, so people putting on their skates out there hopped on one foot trying to change into skates while standing up. Others hobbled over the extremely icy, bumpy pathway to find a bit of fence to sit on to change their skates.

How to fix it:

benches around a rinkside campfire, with hot chocolate

- Outdoor benches (or picnic tables) should be delivered to those rinks with no existing outdoor benches. Mats should lead to outdoor benches as well as to change rooms and washrooms.

- While benches and picnic tables are perpetually in short supply in the summer, many picnic benches during the winter are chained together, waiting for summer events. If these picnic benches were distributed at the rinks during winter, there could be outdoor places to sit at every rink with no extra cost.



What needs fixing:


two years out of date

one current sign, but a slummy bulletin board!

- Of 13 plexiglass rink bulletin boards, ten were broken or defaced. 9 of them had out-of-date information, some as old as six years. Two more were empty. 10 rinks didn’t have any schedules posted at all, indoors or out.

- At some rinks, staff said they had been told that there was no money for the photocopying of rink schedules, so there would be none available.

2. SIGNAGE for change-rooms and washrooms

- 66% (15) rinks were in need of signs.

- At 10 of the 15 rinks in need of signs, staff had written paper signs to help skaters.

- 29% (9) staff rooms were in need of signs.

Staff rooms which are separate, locked-up and without signage, are a major stumbling block between recreation staff and the public working together.

3. City Rink Information WEB SITE:

- gives the printed rink schedules, many of which are wrong. The site lacks certain basic details such as rink opening dates or rink phone numbers, and it also has no capacity to report on rink closures for mechanical failure, or rink re-opening after a snowstorm.

4. Rink Information “HOT LINE” is only a recorded rink schedule from the beginning of the season.

5. Rink PHONES Individual rink phone numbers are unlisted. Many rink staff feel that it's not their job to give information to rink users on the telephone.

How to fix them:

- Schedules: Rink staff should be given a good supply of up-to-date skating schedules to post and hand out to rink users. (Not printing rink schedules is a false economy!) Rink staff should also be given the responsibility of making sure that the schedules are posted on all bulletin boards or tapes to the change room walls, inside and out, if no bulletin boards exist.

- Signage: As soon as possible, the City should order the installation of signs for identification of change rooms.

- Temporary signs: As we visited rinks we saw that many workers tried to solve the signage problem on their own by making signs and taping them up, to direct skaters. A hand-written sign saying “rink closed, due to sun, try back at 5pm or call…” is clearly appropriate given the specificity of the information given.

- Workers should not have to make and tape up little pieces of paper saying “women’s washroom”. But we applaud the rink staff’s effort given the circumstances. We recommend giving the rink staff pieces of plywood and paint, and encouraging them to make something a little nicer and longer-lasting.

snowfall needs plowing, can't open yet

- "Live" rink hot line: The "live" rink hot line at Dufferin Rink should carry on, and all rink staff citywide should be encouraged to call in their information to Dufferin Rink when the weather forces rinks to close, and again later when they are ready to reopen.

- The recorded rink information line: The rink information on the city's rink information line should be updated quickly whenever weather affects the rinks. This can continue to be done by Dufferin Rink staff, but it needs cooperation from other rink staff citywide.

- The city's rink information web site: There should be one page accessible to a city worker for quick postings of rinks closings and re-openings. These updates should happen much more frequently than once a season.

- Individual rink telephone numbers: they should be listed in the phone book, on the city's rink information web site, on the recorded rink information line, and on the schedules given out at each rink. Rink staff should be encouraged to give up-to-date information and refer callers to nearby rinks, giving the phone numbers, if they wish.


Food in rinks

What needs fixing: Broken VENDING MACHINES, or poor food choices:

In the 23 outdoor rinks visited, there was a total of 25 vending machines, of which 13 were out of order. The ones that worked sold only pop, gatorade, water, chips, and candy bars.

- Vending machines are a cheap, but ineffective, solution to the challenge of food at a rink. Vending machines break, run out of items and present staff with irate and hungry skaters who lost their quarters and have no recourse other than arguing with staff. Of total of 25 vending machines in the change rooms at Toronto’s rinks, less than 50% of the actually work. They sit taking up space in small change rooms.

The foods and drinks offered by vending machines are by definition limited. Vending machines offer chips, candy bars, Gatorade, pop and water. Vending machines should be phased out where possible, or maintained to a much higher standard, wherever a healthier alternative food provider is impossible to establish.

Ramsden Rink vending machines - all out of order

Dufferin Rink Zamboni Cafe - soup and muffins
How to fix it:

Food: community kitchens, snack bars Food available in rinks around the city varies a great deal and provides a spectrum of models to use when thinking about providing opportunities for healthier, more diverse, and tastier foods.

Dufferin, Wallace, Rennie, Campbell and North Toronto Outdoor Rinks should be used as potential models for snack bars.

Wallace Rink is attached to a community centre. This past winter, Wallace Rink staff collaborated with Dufferin Rink staff and volunteers to create a “Sunday Family Day” snack bar and campfire program. From 2-4.30pm every Sunday in January and February 2007, rink staff worked with young teens to make cookies, little pizzas, and pasta with sauce in one of the two community centre kitchens, plus hot chocolate and hot dogs over a campfire. The teens were easily engaged in helping out with the cooking and preparing but also in creating and posting menus and practising counting out change under the staff’s supervision. What were the benefits? For the teens: a little casual kitchen training, a little design and drawing practice, honing some math skills. For the Recreation staff: they came out of their staff offices and made friends. For rink users: some tasty food when all that fresh air made them hungry, and a sociable gathering place around the campfire. Public service at its best!

A number of rinks have the potential for innovative food programs. Some are attached to community centres with public health certified kitchens, some have a snack bar already installed. Some rinks that have minor food programs could increase the regularity of the snack bar hours. Some rinks with accessible kitchens nearby are Rennie, Wallace, North Toronto, Christie, Jimmie Simpson, and Harry Gairey.

In some rinks a kitchen could be added easily. When outdoor rinks and swimming pools share facilities (Greenwood, High Park, Christie, Monarch) there are large buildings with plenty of extra space. A new kitchen would have year round possibilities. Other rink change room areas that are large enough to accommodate a simple snack bar are Campbell, Trinity, Regent South, Riverdale, Hodgson, Dieppe, Harry Gairey, Wallace, and Ramsden.

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Content last modified on October 09, 2007, at 11:53 AM EST