For better use and better management. The UNOFFICIAL Website of Toronto's Outdoor Skating Rinks
For media stories from previous years, see the menu on the left. ll
Stories we're following, longer term:
Simla Skating Club, in India. Their town is so high up in the hills that they need no machinery for the ice to stay frozen in winter.
"120 pairs of donated skates inspiring Regent Park residents to hit the ice." Sub-headline: "Free skate-lending program only offered at 2 events in Regent Park this winter"
....with a partial story about skate lending,saying Councillor Layton "first proposed" the idea last week. Actually we sent him and 14 other councillors our skate lending offer on Sept.11 2017. But, who's counting?
Jan.13, 2018, Tory on twitter
Jan.12, 2018: May Warren in the Star -- another follow-up to skate lending, with a headline turning Councillor Layton into the champion -- a shift from his previous stance.
Jan.11, 2018 May Warren, in Metro News, a follow up about skate lending.
Dec.29, 2017: CityTV "City website causing confusion over outdoor skating rinks closures."
Dec.17, 2017, Globe, Andrew Savory, "Toronto gets three new skating venues"
Dec.14, 2017: Maytree Foundation Newsletter: Story of Change
Dec.7, 2017: Press Reader here.
Dec.6, 2017: Metro News here.
Nov.28, 2017: Edward Keenan from the Star give the outdoor rinks a plug. They included a reader questionnaire asking who's looking forward to using the rinks -- only 267 say they are. And in fact many of the outdoor rinks don't get much use. But there's a nice photo showing three guys (illegally) playing pond hockey on Ryerson Rink.
Nov.25, 2017, CBC radio "Toronto's outdoor rinks opening despite warm, cloudy day." [8 celsius]
Nov.20, 2017: CBC radio morning news here
Nov.20, 2017: CBC radio Here and Now afternoon show piece here.
Nov.18, 2017, Metro News here
March 26, 2017 (Updated from June 26. 2012), Globe. Kelly Grant, "Auditor slams Toronto energy retrofit program"
Jan.23, 2017, CBC Radio, Metro Morning "How Toronto's skating rinks stay frozen even when temperatures rise" Quotes cityrinks.ca/CELOS information about the mechanics, and the parks director's description of a rink as a "giant refrigerator."
From: CUPE Local 79 <[email protected]>
Date: February 10, 2016 at 6:46:21 PM EST
To: Local 79 members
Subject: Bargaining update: Raise the stakes - Take your breaks!
Reply-To: CUPE Local 79 <[email protected]>
Join us for a great skate on Family Day!
On February 15, Locals 79, 416 and 4948 are hosting skating parties at rinks across Toronto. It’s a great opportunity for you and your family to get a little ice time while showing the public our dedication and commitment to the quality public services that make Toronto a great place to live.
The skating events will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.on Monday, February 15, at the following rinks:
Nathan Phillips Square, Mel Lastman Square, Scarborough Civic Centre and High Park.
There will be free hot chocolate, visits for the kids from some Minions and maybe even a Storm Trooper or two, and lots of fun.
CTV News: "Skating Ban to be lifted at High Park's Grenadier Pond"
Toronto City Council voted 28-9 on Thursday in favour of a program that will allow skating on a designated area of Grenadier Pond next year... Doucette proposed that the city allocate $50,000 to hire an "ice engineer" who would test the thickness and quality of the ice on a daily basis, for a period of eight weeks.
He or she would then post signs or flags to let skaters know when the ice is safe to use, and which parts of the pond are available for skating....Council voted in favour of the motion only after [Councillor] Doucette agreed to drop the funding request from $50,000 to $25,000.
Instead of hiring an engineer, city staffers will be trained to do the tests.
Weather permitting, legal skating will begin in the winter of 2016-17.
"a one-time capital outlay of $192,000 and annual operating costs of $123,000, to cover “the services of an ice engineer and ice surveyor,” “de-naturalization of a portion of the eastern shoreline to ensure safe access,” “maintenance staff … maintain the ice surface,” yet more staff to provide first aid and keep skaters in their officially approved area, “purchase of required maintenance equipment such as a Zamboni,” “construction of a seasonal storage building,” a “safety perimeter boundary, a flag system, minor safety lighting and signage,” “seasonal washroom facilities and office space for staff.” So that people can skate on frozen water. Which they do anyway, every year it’s safe, without incident. It is beyond parody."
Chris Selley "Keep the Bureaucrats off the Ice"
"For city hall, $200,000 for rinks is a stretch." Globe column by Marcus Gee. Some excerpts:
The city’s 2015 budget is close to $10-billion. Spending by the parks, forestry and recreation department alone stands at $437-million...
The city government has a staggering list of responsibilities. It issues 45,000 building permits a year and conducts 165,000 building inspections. Its paramedics answered 274,220 medical calls last year, while the year before its cops made 41,255 arrests. It maintains more than 4,000 emergency-shelter beds in 58 locations.
City hall is spending $162-million for new subway cars and $600-million for new buses, not to mention $1.6-billion to upgrade the Ashbridges Bay sewage plant and $88-million to build new bike paths. Its state-of-good-repair backlog – what it needs to keep everything from falling apart – stood at $3.7-billion for 2014....Within a few years, city hall forecasts it will bump up against its debt ceiling, which keeps debt-servicing costs to under 15 per cent of its tax levy....
The plain fact is that the city must either a) do fewer things for its residents, or b) ask them to pay more for what they get. On past evidence, it will opt to do c) neither, and get Tim Hortons to pay for ice rinks instead.
Comment from CityRinks: There is a fourth option: do some better housekeeping of the outdoor rinks program.
(1) Open the rinks as soon as the sun is low and people are excited about winter (mid-November).
(2) Turn the rinks into more hospitable places, so that they’ll get maximum use during the skating season. That includes keeping the change rooms and washrooms open on all the stat holidays, and having more skate rentals. Staff can move the focus from rule-enforcement to fostering people’s enjoyment of skating, of the outdoors, and of wintertime neighbourhood sociability.
(2) Then close the rinks when the sun gets too high for good ice, fuel costs go through the roof, and attendance drops off anyway (early March).
Globe editorial "Skating rinks are an essential service."
Globe: "Toronto moves toward making more outdoor rinks available." Excerpts:
Toronto’s parks committee has moved to address recent criticism over the city’s ice skating policies, approving two motions that aim to make more outdoor rinks available, and for longer.
On Wednesday, the committee approved a motion to create a contingency fund that would allow the city to extend its outdoor rink season in years when the weather is cold enough to do so. The committee also approved a motion that asks city staff to report back on the viability of allowing skating on Grenadier Pond in High Park.
Globe: "Last-minute donation needed to extend Toronto's skating season." Excerpts:
Waste management company Green For Life, which last Friday pledged $100,000 to keep additional rinks open through the March break, withdrew the offer after city staff flagged problems over the weekend. Tim Hortons stepped in Tuesday with a replacement donation, matching a $100,000 gift from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. The corporate funds will allow an additional 12 rinks to stay open for an extended season, taking the total in the city to 29. All others are now closed....
...Councillor Gord Perks said the rules on donations and sponsorship are clear and the switch could have been avoided if the sponsorship deal had been vetted by city staff before they were announced.
“In between the announcement and today, someone in the public service checked the rules and found that there was a problem with GFL,” he said. “I think it’s a great thing that members for the community want to step up and help out, but we have to make sure that we are absolutely spotless when we take that money.”
MLSE also has extensive dealings with the city, including a $10-million loan it received from the city last year for the expansion of BMO field.
Asked whether city policies were followed in securing the donations, Mr. Tory said the corporate donors approached the city and details were worked out by city staff. He agreed measures need to be taken to avoid such last-minute fixes in the future.
“I think we have to take a serious look at how many rinks we can keep open with city funds – knowing that they are not unlimited – through the school-break week,“ he said.
The Star: editorial "Toronto should find money to keep its outdoor ice rinks open."
The Star: "Corporate donors keeping 12 rinks open"
The Star: "Eleven Outdoor rinks will remain open until March 16"
The Star -- Councillor Sarah Doucette will ask staff for a report
The Star - a story about writer Richard Sanger's yearly adventures on Grenadier Pond
CBC story and poll about skating on the pond.
National Post editorial about skating on Grenadier Pond
"Get out there and skate" by Peter Kuitenbrouwer.
Star editorial about skating and tobogganing
Sunday evening Laine Pond, his son Owen and his partner Jen Cypher braved the cold, donned their toques and gloves and headed out to their neighbourhood park to flood the natural ice rink at McCormick Park.
For the first time, the Friends of McCormick Park are working to build two large ice surfaces in the park, one for shinny and the other for pleasure skating on the east side of the park, on the baseball diamond, off Brock Avenue in Parkdale.
"We have such a huge area here that is underutilized in the winter," Cypher said. "And there are so many people around here that skate, but ice time can be hard to get in the (Mary McCormick) arena."
Cypher explained the City of Toronto has given the Friends of McCormick Park access to water and hoses for flooding. There is a team of volunteers who come out nightly to flood the surfaces, but more volunteers are needed.
Media 2011-2012, Media 2010-2011, Media 2009-2010, Media 2008-2009, Media 2007-2008
posted on February 12, 2015
By: Reporter/Byline: By John Spears Toronto Star
Source: The Star
Natural ice rinks in Toronto should no longer be maintained by city staff, a report to city council says. The proposed cut would affect 44 rinks, the staff report says. It would save $135,000 a year.
The report describes the proposal as "harmonizing" the operation of natural ice rinks. It says that last year, community groups maintained 24 natural ice rinks for public skating. The city set up boards and provided hoses and lighting, but volunteers flooded the rinks and shovelled them except after exceptionally heavy snowfalls.
The city maintained 56 rinks, including 12 ponds.
But the report said the heavy snows of January, followed by a long spell of mild weather, made it hard to develop and maintain the rinks.
The report says the city should continue to maintain rinks on ponds because of public safety.
The other rinks currently maintained by city staff should be turned over to community groups, it says.
The proposal will be considered by the city's economic development committee on Monday.
Councillor Ila Bossons (Midtown) said the report is one more example of a city fraying at the edges.
Public areas are messier, city trees are untrimmed and potholes are showing up on city streets, she said. Now, the city can't afford ice rinks.
"We're inventing new standards all the time, except they're always lower, not higher, " she said.
In some areas, local volunteers might do a better job of maintaining rinks than city staff, she said. But some neighbourhoods don't have strong community groups to organize the work and keep rinks going.
posted November 20, 2010
Harbourfront's Natrel Rink (not operated by the City) on Saturday morning, November 20, open on schedule. Go have fun!
Unfortunately, the 14 rinks the city had scheduled to open November 20 now won't be open until November 27 at the earliest.
In mid-November, 2010, Brenda Patterson, General Manager of Parks Forestry and Recreation, released a memo announcing that the opening of 14 rinks on November 20 would be delayed by a week to November 27. She gave a long list of reasons for this, chiefly the weather.
We've been fact checking the statements made in this memo and other sources, and collate our findings here.
See also correspondence about this.
September 15, 2010
Update: The following rinks are scheduled to open Saturday November 20, 2010 (pending any revisions): Nathan Philips Square, Dufferin Grove, Regent Park South, Kew Gardens, West Mall, Sir Adam Beck, Rennie Park, Sunnydale, Mel Lastman Square, Broadlands, Glen Long, Hodgson, Irving Chapley, Albert Campbell.
The remaining rinks will open on Saturday December 4.
posted November 12, 2010
Update - on November 12, city management decided to postpone all November 20 openings to November 27, citing weather as the deciding factor. But Harbourfront's Natrel Rink (which is independent of the City) will open on Nov. 20th. Also (Central Park) and the (Rockefeller Center) outdoor rinks in New York City are already open.
So cityrinks.ca asked city management to let Dufferin Rink open on Nov. 20th, to prove, yet again, that good ice can be made at Toronto rinks at these temperatures in the low-sun month of November.
There's been no response to our "test Dufferin Rink"? request to Brenda Patterson. However, the new Ward 18 city councillor, Ana Bailao, called Ms.Patterson. Ana sent this: "She said Council and Mayor had been informed of this decision and that it was reached with the City Manager and she was not in a position to change it. She also said that some compressors broke last year - do you know of anything?"
No we don't know of any compressors breaking down because of starting up in November. We monitored all the rinks. Maybe Ana can find out which ones broke down, so we can follow up. It's always good to get the facts.
Nov.24 2011, Summary of CIMCO ice-making responses:
1. With ideal environmental conditions and the correct equipment, ice can be made in the latter half of November
2. To avoid the radiant heat gain, making ice at night is ideal
3. There is nothing to my knowledge that says the sensible [ambient] temperature can’t be greater than 10 degC. This is the average temperature in an insulated indoor arena
posted November 16, 2010
There's a lot of confusion about the factors that go into deciding on opening and closing dates for outdoor rinks, so we thought we'd ask an expert.
CIMCO (an acronym for Canadian Ice Machine Company, formed in 1913) has a support contract for 18 of Toronto's outdoor rinks in the west end of the city. They visit each of these rinks twice a day when they operate, and built many of them. So they know their business.
I spoke to David Sinclair of CIMCO (He's the Toronto Branch Manager) about factors effecting the outdoor rink season, and he had a lot of interesting information and insights.
He confirmed that the main factor for deciding outdoor ice viability was "radiation load" (direct or indirect sunlight). The lowest effect of this was in the 12 weeks from the start of December to the end (third week) of February. He noted however that on a sunny day even during this winter period, direct sunlight reflecting from white boards around the ice could cause ice near the boards to become soft.
CityRinks cost estimate? for opening 14 rinks on November 21 2009: March 1, 2009. This letter was sent to Councillor Janet Davis, head of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, but received no acknowledgment or response.
On January 12, City Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed to Council’s “Community Development and Recreation Committee” that the city’s outdoor rinks be opened two weeks earlier next winter. They asked for a staff report, to be presented to the committee on February 6. This is something rink friends have been requesting for ten years, so it was time to make a deputation, in favour.
My name is Jutta Mason and I work with a small research group called “The Centre for Local Research into Public Space” – CELOS. Among other things, we run the cityrinks.ca website. I’ve come to talk to you today about the timing of the outdoor rink season. I’m here not because I’m an avid skater – I can’t skate – but because of my long-standing interest in the wintertime social possibilities, for all ages and cultures, of our neighborhood public rinks. Outdoor public rinks can be a great place for “community development.” As you know, Toronto has 49 outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks - more than any other city in the world. We’re set for skating together in the winter.
posted January 19, 2009
In a letter to Councillor Janet Davis, the Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, Toronto Councillor Minnan-Wong has requested that outdoor rinks be opened early ("at the same time as Nathan Phillips Square").
Read the full text of the letter. Minnan-Wong's letter was formally received for consideration by the Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting of January 12. See Decision Document, page 8.
This website has been saying for quite some time that owing to the angle of the sun, it makes sense to open the rinks in early November, to end of February, rather than early December to mid-March as has been the case for the last few years.
The Community Development and Recreation Committee voted 3 to 2 to postpone any possibility of earlier rink openings until November 2010 Read more
posted January 01, 2009
According to Google Analytics, you visited cityrinks.ca 12,896 times in December 2008, about 2.75 times more than last year (our first year). In the process you viewed our website pages 54,688 times. And this doesn't count any downloads of our publications.
We're thrilled. Outdoor skating is a great Canadian activity, and Toronto is blessed with the most extensive set of outdoor rinks in the world. We hope that in some small way, together with you, we can make this skating resource a little more accessible and a little better for everyone, through the information provided on this website.
If you read the Google reports attached (see below) you'll notice that although visits were quite a bit lower last year, pageviews were sometimes even higher. That's because so many people worked so hard to get the basic content on the site last year. That work continues this year, but can now build on the foundation that was put in place last year.
Lots of people help put things on this website, but the main people are Jutta Mason, Aseel Al Najim, and Michael Monastyrskyj. There are now about 765 pages of information on the website (not including downloadable pdf's). See Site Map.
This website is supported through celos.ca. We're doing it with minimal financing -- money earned by the "Zamboni cafe" snack bar and skate lending program of Dufferin Rink.
Anyone interested in participating in the continued improvement and growth of this website is more than welcome to inquire, or just send us comments. Send us an email at [email protected].
Here are the Google Analytics reports for December 2008:
posted November 24, 2008
The Community Development and Recreation Committee recommends that weather permitting, the Outdoor Artificial Ice skating season of twelve weeks be extended at a total of 14 outdoor artificial ice rinks, as indicated in Attachment 1, for an additional two week period to March 15, 2009. Decision Document
This is the letter cityrinks sent to all the councillors on November 14 2008:
Dear Councillor Mihevc,
Last night Councillor Minnan-Wong's office made us aware of a staff report relating to the March extension of the outdoor artificial ice rink season. The item is scheduled to be considered at today's meeting of the Community Development and Recreation Committee: Outdoor Artificial Ice Rink Season. Councillor Minnan-Wong was aware of our long-term involvement with these rinks, as apparently no other councillor or PFR staff was, since we were not notified about this item. Sadly, none of us can change our schedules to come and depute. We will be tracking your committee's decision on this with interest, however. Here are our concerns:
The staff report says: "There are no financial implications arising from this report. The total operating cost of keeping 14 city-owned and operated outdoor artificial ice rinks open for an additional two week period in early March is $172,000."
But the need to find that extra money must be why Rec management has already sent out the order to close the rinks on Christmas Day this year and shorten rink hours on other popular winter holidays including the new Family Day.
The puzzling thing about this March rink plan is: why bother? As the staff report says, March break doesn't begin until March 16 in 2009, so the outdoor rinks won't be open during March Break anyway.
The staff report itself says that last March, keeping the rinks open had lousy results: "there were [only!!] 25 to 40 skaters on each rink per day.....During most days in March, the sunlight and warmer temperatures deteriorated ice conditions at all locations." We agree with this description, except that there were even fewer skaters at some of the rinks. Many of them were closed much of the time. CELOS Information Bulletin:City Outdoor Ice Rinks, March 2008
And yet the report says that staff recommend 14 rinks to stay open into mid-March this year, and every year from now on. If any committee member could question this recommendation, that would be a good idea.
See also Outdoor Rinks And Weather
Rink staff have been concerned for some time that the youth who play shinny hockey at outdoor rinks are dwindling in numbers at many city rinks. The rinks that focus on strict helmet rule enforcement for shinny hockey (i.e. not Dufferin Rink) seem to be losing skaters, who may be opting to stay at home and be couch potatoes instead. But city management have said they are worried about liability risk to the City, if they don’t bar skaters from playing shinny without a helmet.
City staff say they’re unsure about the actual number of claims against the city as a result of rink injuries. So CELOS applied to the City’s Corporate Access and Privacy office (freedom of information) to track down that number. The response was very reassuring. The City’s Risk Management Section has records of only two ice-rink injury claims, and neither of them happened during shinny hockey. Both injuries were during a full-equipment, full-contact hockey game in arenas. One player got a broken leg as the result of a body-check in 2004, the other got an on-ice beating during an MTHL game in 1999, resulting in a broken nose. The broken leg claim seems not to have been settled yet, The on-ice beating victim asked for $1.1 million but settled for $12,000 (grounds for the lawsuit was that the referees didn’t intervene until very late).
In CELOS’ search for ice rink injury hospital data, two more relevant things turned up:
(1) after mandatory helmets were introduced for full-contact hockey programs, head injuries went down for some years. Then, in the past half dozen years, head injury rates began to climb steadily again, despite the helmets, and spinal cord injuries have also increased. Body-checking seems to be the main occasion when serious harm is done. Sports medicine doctors conjecture that as hockey players add more body armour, they feel more invincible.
(2) Canadian hospitals injury data show a lot of “falls-on-ice” injuries. But it turns out that most of the falls are not on rinks, they’re on sidewalk ice. Winter is a slippery time! (For more details about sports injuries and hospital data, go to the media link on the cityrinks.ca website.)
Shinny hockey is a different game than full-equipment, full-contact hockey. In shinny hockey there is no checking, and no slapshots. It appears that there have never been any shinny hockey injury claims against the City. If mandatory helmet rules are causing many youths to stop playing drop-in shinny hockey at the rinks, the harm done to physical fitness may be greater than the good in protecting against the risk of concussions. CELOS will continue to urge City management and Councillors to attend to this problem.