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Monday Outdoor Rink report #8, January 11, 2010

1. Significant improvements:

a) for the first time in recent years, Dufferin Rink's zamboni driver has been available as needed during periods of snow, and the drivers have worked out the details with on-site program staff. Radio contact between these staff is still not permitted, but verbal contact shows a friendly collaboration.

b) When rink users send in reports of problems to CityRinks, and the e-mails are passed on to city staff through Tino DeCastro, there has begun to be some faster problem-solving of straightforward issues (e.g. night-time noise, rink access) than in previous years.

2. Issues that need follow-up:

a) Low usage at many of the rinks where we've been counting. This is connected to:
- restrictions of access hours, including rinks opening as late as noon every day, and closing as early as 9 pm. Skaters (including families with young children) say that the standard opening time of 10 a.m. at some neighbourhood rinks is too late, and youth in particular say that they routinely hop the fences after 9 pm to gain use of their local rink. The problem is increased by the limited or even non-existent prime-time public shinny hours at North York and Etobicoke Rinks.

- even when prime time hours are not taken by a permit on a given night, the permit-focused rinks stay empty or low in use because skaters don't just go in the hope that the rink might be empty. Nobody wants to waste their time.

- rinks where the mandatory helmet rule is Job One continue to show much lower usage for shinny hockey than rinks that have reverted to helmets being de facto recommended rather than mandatory. (Note the liability risk of an unenforceable mandatory helmet policy, documented in Rink Report #7).

- Families avoid rinks that have poor change-room arrangements such as windowless or remote change rooms, and no benches outside, near the ice pads, as safer skate-changing alternatives.

- of note: many of the "minor" and unsupervised outdoor rinks in Etobicoke, with change rooms permanently locked but benches outside, showed higher usage (particularly by families and youth) than many of the "major" single-pad rinks during the holidays.

b) Overcrowding of City Hall and Dufferin rinks, seemingly associated with the scarcity of skate rentals elsewhere. On the plus side, where there are skate rentals the proportion of newcomers using the rinks is is rising dramatically. Of note: we were sorry to hear that a fledgling skate loan initiative, a collaboration between the zamboni staff and the program staff at Giovanni Caboto, may be ordered to stop. We hope this will not be cancelled.

c) Continuing problems with the flying crew system at Toronto/ East York single pad rinks and Wallace double-pad rink. This includes unpredictable or missed times of ice maintenance, cursory too-fast scrapes, and (particularly) lack of direct communication between flying crew staff and on-site rink staff. An example of poor communication: zamboni staff who believe that their main job is to focus on permit times may leave ice in poor condition for many public skating hours, coming just in time to create good ice for one permit at the end of the day. Wallace Rink continues to have more twice-a-day maintenance than the three-times-a-day that was promised. Maintenance there is not geared to usage.

d) noise complaints: these are about midnight hockey and continuous broadcast of amplified radio stations at some rinks close to houses. Solutions: Midnight hockey needs a few strategic rinks (e.g. High Park) where shift workers can be redirected, away from rinks located near houses. Sound systems at rinks should be broadcasting music designed for rinks, not radio station ads, and the sound track should not be running continuously.

e) repairs needed: examples are a lift gate at North Toronto, which was jammed once in December, so that during the holidays it was never opened to make a larger continuous skating surface; neighborhood rink lockers, which currently have no repair arrangements at all, although they are very important for the comfort of skaters; concrete stairs at Giovanni Caboto, which have had danger tape around them for weeks to mark missing chunks on the stair treads; a rink access gate at Wallace rink that locks skaters in by jamming -- work orders have not brought results.

f) unsuitable permit arrangements for public activities at neighbourhood rinks. Activities arising out of direct collaboration between rink users and their local rink staff are rerouted into the city's special events office. This tends to subvert community initiatives (note the solitary event permit sent to us by Mark Lawson, for 49 rinks over a rink season of three months). Such initiatives need to be in a different stream.

g) Lack of support for our "help make a list poster": in the absence of management direction to let me put up this poster, discretion is left to the zamboni drivers and rink guards, restricting our ability to seek the input we need. It also gives an appearance of restricting free communication between rink users. Community bulletin boards should be at every rink, and removal of notices should be reserved for the posting of illegal activities. (no need to spend more money -- a square painted on a rink wall can be a bulletin board). Of note: the city's locked bulletin boards mainly contain notices out of date by 1 - 4 years).

I look forward to the January 12 outdoor rinks meeting with Andy Koropeski and Malcolm Bromley, to see if collaboration is possible.

Jutta Mason

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Content last modified on November 15, 2010, at 09:38 PM EST