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

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Welcome to The Unofficial Website of Toronto's Outdoor Skating Rinks

There's nothing like outdoor skating

A project of CELOS

Natural Ice Rinks

Christie Pits in 1923: five rinks! (Toronto Archives).
Click on picture to enlarge.

See the City of Toronto web map and instructions about natural ice rinks.

All natural ice rinks are built and maintained by volunteers. According to a city-sponsored outdoor rink report, in 2000/2001, there were still 97 municipally-operated natural ice rinks in Toronto: 23 in Etobicoke, 47 in Toronto, 16 in North York, and 11 in Scarborough.

For an idea of how important natural ice rinks are in colder parts of Ontario, here's the City of Ottawa's outdoor rinks web page (over 250 outdoor rinks in and around Ottawa!)

How to make a natural ice rink: manual from the town of Olds (Alberta) Read more >>

Terrific video of ice maintenance and rink culture at a neighbourhood-run outdoor rink in Calgary.

A nice photo essay of natural ice rinks in Toronto, by Tobi Asmoucha in the Globe, January 15, 2017, is here.


Why we have compressor-cooled ice rinks:

TORONTO STAR, JANUARY 3 1958: "It is true that the parks department operates 58 natural ice rinks for skating and 23 for hockey - or will do so, if and when there is enough frost. For all the freezing weather we get here most winters, the department might as well spare the trouble and expense, and get on with the job of multiplying the number of artificial ice rinks."

And yet -- to make a neighbourhood rink can be a real thrill:

Baird Park (map)

bairdparknight.jpg: 320x240, 30k (May 28, 2015, at 02:49 PM EST)

Beresford Park (map)

Blantyre Park (map)

Botany Hill Park Rink (map)

Churchill Heights (map)

Dovercourt Rink (map)

East Lynn Park (map)

Edithvale Rink (map)

Elizabeth Simcoe Park (map)

Fairmount Park (map)

Florence Gell Park (map)

Glen Stewart (map)

Grenadier Pond (map)

Leaside Park (map)

McCormick Park (map)

Morningside Park (map)

Norwood Rink

Orchard Park (map)

Pearen Park (map)

PhinPark (map)

Sibelius Rink (map)

Sorauren Park (map)

Stephenson Park (map)

Toronto Harbour

Toronto Island (map)

Trace Manes Park (map)

Trinity Bellwoods North Rink (map)

Wigmore Park (map)

Wychwood Barns (map)


Covered ice Rinks

Burnhamthorpe Community Centre Outdoor Covered Rink, Mississauga

Greenwood Rink

The Bentway

Media articles on natural rinks


Media about outdoor rinks (a very partial record)

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.


March 1, 2018: CBC radio Ieva Lucs

"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"

Jan.17. 2018. The Star, Jennifer Paggliano

....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 information about the mechanics, and the parks director's description of a rink as a "giant refrigerator."



Feb.10, 2016

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.



Dec.11, 2015

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.

September 19, 2015, "Keep the Bureaucrats off the Pond" Chris Selley, National Post


"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"

Keeping rinks open longer

Feb.28, 2015

"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).

Feb.26 2015

Globe editorial "Skating rinks are an essential service."

Feb.25 2015

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.

Feb.24, 2015

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.

Feb.22, 2015:

The Star: editorial "Toronto should find money to keep its outdoor ice rinks open."

Feb.20, 2015

The Star: "Corporate donors keeping 12 rinks open"

Feb.27, 2015

The Star: "Eleven Outdoor rinks will remain open until March 16"

Grenadier Pond

February 18, 2015

The Star -- Councillor Sarah Doucette will ask staff for a report

January 25, 2015

The Star - a story about writer Richard Sanger's yearly adventures on Grenadier Pond

January 26, 2015

CBC story and poll about skating on the pond.

January 27, 2015

680 news story

Torontoist story

January 29, 2015

National Post editorial about skating on Grenadier Pond

"Get out there and skate" by Peter Kuitenbrouwer.

Star editorial about skating and tobogganing


Flood of volunteers needed to flood McCormick Park outdoor rinks

Parkdale Villager, by Erin Hatfield


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.



posted on February 11, 2012

The Fairmount Park ice masters take pains to make ice — and winter

By: Catherine Porter
Published: February 10, 2012 00:02:00
Source: The Star

A sign just went up at the top of Fairmount Park. It reads: “Winterfest. Feb. 11, 2 to 5. Hockey. Toboggan. Music. BBQ. Prizes.”

At the bottom of the park near Coxwell Ave. and Gerrard St. E., a group of men pace around a mud pit, penned in by wooden boards. This is the hockey rink they built back in November and have been diligently flooding since New Year’s Day with nothing to show for it.

“It’s only negative 2 degrees,” says Jeff Smylie. “Is it worth trying again?”

“It’s going up to 4 degrees tomorrow,” counters Ray Bernard. “We flooded it three times last night and had some nice ice going. Look at it now.”

“I have 10 baseball mitts,” says Keith Rudyk.

“Anyone have a croquet set?”

A couple nights to Winterfest and still no winter.

What to do?

The winter that never was has been a boon for runners and cyclists and coyotes. For the natural ice rink aficionados across the city, it’s been misery.

We go up to the local bar to drown our sorrows.


YouTube short showing skating and ice-fishing on the pond.

posted on February 13, 2012

Kids skate and slide on outdoor ice rink thanks to residents

Elizabeth Simcoe Park home to one of Scarborough's few outdoor ice rinks


Published: Feb 3, 2012
Source: Inside Toronto

It's amazing what a little ice rink can do.

Separated by a snow fence from the rest of Elizabeth Simcoe Park in Guildwood, 10 children were on skates Monday afternoon racing, jumping, turning tight circles, sliding or just laying on the ice, which neighbourhood parents had created.

"It's a lot different from being inside on an indoor rink," said Scott Wardle, 9. "There's no stands, there's no boards. The ice is kind of bumpy but it's still very nice."

Ice pads on baseball diamonds and other patches of grass were once common in east Toronto. It seemed like every park had one, said Hilary Wollis of Friends of Elizabeth Simcoe Park.

"That was a big part of our childhood."

Now it's a novelty for children in Scarborough to skate outdoors as they once did, said Wollis, surveying the park rink's homemade benches and plastic milk crates guarding a corner with rough ice.

"We have lost something over the decades by not doing this." Read more >>


Blog TO refers to the "no skating" sign on the pond as a bylaw.

Rob Roberts blog says that this is not a by-law, it's an internal Parks policy that was never approved by City Council.

posted on January 14, 2010

A glimmer of reason on skating ban

By: Peter Kuitenbrouwer
Published: January 14, 2010
Source: National Post

"In deciding the other day not to seek re-election, veteran city councillor Kyle Rae (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) blasted the can't-do attitude at City Hall -- particularly bureaucrats who are "more interested in risk management than delivery of programs."

Case in point: the city's Activities on Frozen Open Bodies of Water Policy, a dumb document produced by a risk-management culture. The policy -- which council never saw -- bans all skating on city ponds, forevermore."


posted on January 14, 2010

City parks chief wants skating on ponds, no matter what bureaucrats say

By: Kuitenbrouwer
Published: January 13, 2010
Source: National Post

Toronto parks department bureaucrats permanently banned all skating on city ponds without consulting any elected city officials, Councillor Paula Fletcher, the parks chief, said yesterday.

Ms. Fletcher (Toronto-Danforth) and the committee’s vice-chair, Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence), believe the ban on pond skating is wrong, and plan to bring the topic to the Parks and Environment meeting at City Hall this morning. Ms. Fletcher suggested yesterday people should continue ignoring the signs, as long as they believe the ice is safe.


posted on January 12, 2010

City needs to chill out

By: Peter Kuitenbrouwer
Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Source: National Post

"Toronto's biggest skating rink is now (unofficially) open for your winter pleasure.

Please ignore the City of Toronto's yellow plastic signs, fastened to trees and posts around Grenadier Pond in High Park, which read, "Danger. Ice unsafe. Keep off. Municipal Code #608."

The affirmation on these signs is false, as hundreds proved this past weekend when we piled onto the city's largest pond. Some cross-country skied. Some walked dogs. A photographer from a community newspaper got on to take pictures. One young man who had a thick Russian accent brought an ice drill and bored eight holes (the ice is about 25 cm thick) and sat down on his cooler to fish."


posted on February 12, 2015

City's ice rink report urges ending upkeep of natural surfaces

By: Reporter/Byline: By John Spears Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Published: 9/8/1999
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.

Some history - Dovercourt Park - from around World War II

Source: Herbert Franklin, Street Stories of Toronto. 1996. Toronto City Archives [emphasis added].

“Dovercourt Park: The only open space that most of us saw from one year to the next was the park. The winter sports were especially enjoyable as most children from the school and the surrounding area were in the park either skating on the pleasure rink or playing on one of the two rinks that were boarded off for hockey. The pleasure skating rink was especially good for meeting friends. Boys and girls.

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