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Monday Outdoor Rink Report #3, Dec.7 2009

Although many rinks did open by Dec.6, and many skaters were able to enjoy them, this report still shows a lot of problems.

Delayed rink opening of many rinks:

Of 14 rinks schedules to open on Nov.21, 2 opened the first weekend, two opened only their hockey pads by mid-week, 2 opened the second weekend, and 4 more opened between 1 and 4 days before the citywide opening date for all rinks. The weather was cited as the reason for all late openings. But actually 1 rink turned out to need repair (Albert Campbell) and 2 rinks had building repairs scheduled so late that they were not ready (Sir Adam Beck had ice but was still closed even by the Dec.5 weekend, for bathroom work). Details can be found at the bottom of the home page: .

The two rinks that opened on time had late-night floods; the others had ice-making attempts at various points in the day, either under full sun or in the evening, ending by 10 pm. This was the main reason for late opening of the rinks.

On December 5, at least 20 of the rinks scheduled to be open at 9 am were not reported open at 1 pm.

Remedy: in future years, schedule the initial ice-making from 6pm to 2am, for the same cost and greater effectiveness.

Access restrictions:

Front doors kept locked: Two West District rinks (West Mall and Giovanni Caboto) opened but followed their practice of the previous two years, of keeping their front doors locked and only the back or side doors in use. At West Mall the reason given is "too much circulation" and at Giovanni Caboto "it's been like this for 25 years." But it sends the wrong message. For comparison: on Friday Dec.4 at 11 a.m. (school holiday) there were 3 skaters at West Mall and 109 at Dufferin Rink. On Sunday Dec.6 at 2.30 pm there were 23 skaters plus 4 staff at Giovanni Caboto (front doors locked). There were 86 skaters at Dufferin Rink plus 57 people inside, plus 4 staff. At Wallace Rink at 3 pm there were 71 total (outside plus rink house) plus 3 staff.

Remedy: unlock rink front doors during the hours of operation.

Pleasure pads not operating: Both West Mall and Rennie Rink rerouted all their compressor power to the hockey surface until Dec.4, citing the weather. This meant that there could be no pleasure-skating for 10 days after the hockey rinks were open. This is a questionable practice. For comparison: Rennie double-pad rink has three compressors: 75 plus 76 plus 60 Hp. Dufferin double-pad rink, with a slightly larger total ice area, has less power -- two compressors: 75 plus 75 Hp. But Dufferin Rink was able to keep good ice on both pads from Nov.22. Same weather, double the access for skaters.

Remedy: schedule late-night (6pm to 2 am) floods at all rinks for the first week prior to opening, so that pleasure-skating use is not restricted.

Ice thickness evaluation for safety that was too erratic. Skaters at outdoor rinks are very accustomed to watching out for thin spots or chipped ice. On December 5, some rinks were basically ready except for thin areas along the boards. Pylons on those areas would have served fine, but instead, skaters had no access. These rinks were quite skateable, as is evident at rinks that had unfenced pads or low fencing e.g. Harry Gairey Rink Diary, Campbell Rink Diary.

Remedy: supervisors can be directed to be more consultative with onsite staff and users, re safety.

Access for newcomers and new skaters: Besides opening the rinks, the main way to increase access is to increase skate lending. Interest in outdoor winter sports like skating/ pickup shinny hockey is on the increase wherever skates are available. The template for such programs is at Dufferin, Wallace, and Campbell rinks. It worked just as well at Christie Rink over the last two years until rink staff were ordered to stop. Skate lending resulted in a huge newcomer attendance at Councillor Minnan-Wong's Broadlands Rink Fair three seasons ago. With support from the NHL PA, this can be expanded. However, this rink season, skates designated for Giovanni Caboto are still in their storage bags, and the rink is still underused.

Remedy: collaborate with on-site rink staff, donors like the NHL PA, and rink users to increase the skate supply for more outdoor rinks. Prioritize rink use over rink appearance, i.e. skate/stick lending over purple or blue paint in rink change areas.

Communication problems:

1. Information sources: Although there was better success this past week at keeping the 311 line informed and updating the information on the rink hotline, the problems were far from solved. Far more rinks were closed on Saturday Dec.5 than were made known to the 311 line. The rink hotline was not updated for the second wave of rink openings until Sunday Dec.6, and then the caller was referred to 311, which had only half the information. Rink Hotline Monitor

The rink hotline is the main information source advertised at every outdoor rink, but it continues to be unreliable. For example, it gives a schedule for College Park (Barbara Ann Scott) Rink and Ryerson Rink, both of which are likely going to be closed for the whole rink season.

Remedy: Centralized rink information is an impossible task, so publish the individual rink phone numbers, as in the old days, and teach rink staff how to record updating messages. North York outdoor rinks are already doing voice mail and returning calls, and it works very well. Rink staff at all outdoor rinks, without exception, have plenty of time to give information in this manner, so they should be assigned this task.

2. Publicity: It's unclear whether there is ANY attempt by the City to publicize neighbourhood outdoor rinks, or even the civic square rinks. So far this season, small paper notices taped onto rink doorways were mainly wrong in the date they gave. When Sunnydale Rink finally did open on Dec.3, there was no visible sign of its being open (even the chain link fence was still locked). Remedy: rink staff and/or recreation staff must do a lot more outdoor rink publicity. They can contact schools, distribute flyers, get articles into local newspapers, make press releases, work with councillors on opening day events, etc.

CELOS will submit an FOI request on Dec.8, to find out how much publicity is being done at the moment. Keeping the rinks a secret restricts access. It also means that some rinks that have local publicity are swamped while others are empty despite excellent ice. Comparison: Dec. 6, 7.30 pm, Greenwood Rink 7 skaters, Kew Rink 0 skaters, Dufferin Rink 93 skaters plus 31 inside.

Inadequate and inequitable ice maintenance

1. Insufficient cleaning of ice surface: Some rinks are not properly cleaned before the ice is put in. This varies greatly across the city. West and North District rink get good surface cleaning prior to ice-making. Two examples of unacceptable or almost non-existent surface cleaning are Regent South and Campbell rinks (Campbell, which was a garbage depot during the strike, is shocking, with patches of matted leaves, dirt, including twigs and even screws, embedded in the ice). Dirty rinks are affected badly in late season, developing more bad ice. Remedy: beginning next rink season, use some of the training days to clean the rinks properly, educating the new staff at the same time.

2. Inequitable staff and equipment allocation: for comparison, on Sunday Dec.6 at 2.30 pm, Giovanni Caboto double-pad rink had 23 skaters and its own zamboni and rink operator. Wallace Emerson double-pad rink had 71 skaters and no rink operator nor zamboni and only two scrape-and-floods from the flying squad all day (Saturday only one' scrape-and-flood). All single-pad hockey rinks in the Etobicoke District and North York have their own rink operators. Almost none of the Toronto/ East York single-pad hockey rinks do, and neither does one of the double pads (Wallace-Emerson). No garage is no excuse --- Nathan Philips and High Park rinks don't have garages, but they have dedicated ice-resurfacers and their own operators. Remedy: share operators and distribute resurfacing equipment more equitably.

3. Insufficient education of zamboni drivers and management regarding how compressor-cooled rinks work. In the past two weeks (and the past 5 years) it's again been evident how many city staff approach the compressor-cooled rinks as though they were natural-ice rinks that can only function when the temperature is near or below 0. This adversely affects their ice-making and ice-maintenance decisions. Remedy:

(a) better training/education onsite and at the supervisory level, to upgrade comprehension of the physics of compressor-cooling, Two helpful links: Outdoor Rinks and Weather, RinkLiteracy

(b) better education of the public, e.g. stop blaming poor ice maintenance on the weather.

4. Out-of-date divided city: administrative boundaries between different areas of the city continue to be too rigid. So for example when zamboni staff from a different area of the city dropped off a zamboni at a central rink on Dec.5, it was (apparently) understood far and wide that they would not be able to actually use the machine to flood the destination rink, even though no central zamboni driver was on-site. Staff would not do such a thing "out of district." Remedy: give direction to city staff that they all work for the same city.

Of note: neither of the other two rink reports have received acknowledgment or response. Will this one?

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Content last modified on November 15, 2010, at 09:37 PM EST