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Rink Bulletins 2007-2008

posted March 20, 2008

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March 19, 2008: last rink stories of the season

Last outdoor rink message for now. The stories here are longish, but shorter than a good shinny game or a skate under a starry sky. Keeping up with the twists and turns in the rink saga has come to be an important element of good skate care, sadly, so please read on:

1. Outdoor rinks in March: Yesterday, CELOS sent a letter to every councillor who voted on the question of re-opening all 49 outdoor rinks to the end of March break. Most outdoor rinks don't keep good ice in March unless they have a high-rise to the southwest to shade them, like City Hall.

The plan to re-open them all would have cost about $500,000. See March Rink Costs Math. That's our math. The city's math is confusing -- Councillor Ootes called me today and said that a city staff person had given him the figure quoted in the Sun: $40,000. But a freedom of information response from the City to CELOS last November, says that their rink cost calculations are even higher than our estimate of half a million -- the city's numbers added up to over $700,000 for two weeks: see Cost Of Running Outdoor Rinks

Dufferin Rink was one of the 8 rinks already scheduled to stay open. Even so, it had to be closed for 40% of the time during the extra two weeks, because of unskateable ice. Here's our colourful information bulletin (pdf). Outdoor rinks are designed to be open from mid-November to the end of February -- pass it on!

posted March 10, 2008

March 10, 2008: More-cost-less-ice-time update -- more letters please

If you haven't written to those councillors, general manager, Mayor's office yet, please consider doing it now (see suggested text and links below). Updates:

1. The issue of keeping more rinks open in March is a red herring but it gets lots of press. (Fact: At 1 pm on Monday March 10, Dufferin Rink is open but the hockey ice is mushing up fast, despite -14 celsius this morning. That spring sun has so much power.)

2. So far, the rink restructuring plan, which adds $250,000 to the cost of the ice maintenance at outdoor rinks Increase In Rink Costs can't seem to catch any interest either at City Hall or the media. (Media-savvy skaters -- any inspirations?)

Councillor Adam Giambrone said he spoke to Councillors Mihevc and Fletcher and they now have the plan "on their radar." But those committees are not meeting until April, and the decision to commit to this very poor plan is being made this week (or last, or next -- who knows, nobody's talking). And the grapevine says that the Etobicoke (single pad) outdoor rinks have been promised even more -- TWO shifts of a rink operator sitting there all day, during the rink season. If true, that plan would require even more funds, making rink operation even more precarious.

posted March 03, 2008

February 28, 2008: Rink alert: time for emails and/or phone calls

Now that the outdoor rink season is almost over, there are suddenly some dark clouds on the horizon, coming up fast. Parks management has a restructuring plan, which may be put in place as early as this week. They want to put the lead hands of the summer grass-cutting crews in charge of the all the city's outdoor ice rinks, as zamboni operators, in winters from now on, permanently. This is to be accompanied by a significant increase in wages and an increase in the numbers of zamboni operators. We calculate the increase in outdoor ice rink maintenance costs (same number of rinks) at $250,000: Increase In Rink Costs. That seems like a bad idea.

We have brought up this problem all over the place since we learned about the plan two months ago, without results. On February 5 we deputed to the Budget Committee about the additional expenditure (not mentioned in the budget), without any result. We wrote to the director of management services about it, but when she responded after a long delay, she said the restructuring is actually "revenue neutral." However she declined to give actual numbers. It's unclear to us whether she or her colleagues know the numbers.

posted January 21, 2008

January 21, 2008: This week's bits of rink news, from Jutta Mason

Four bits of news --

1. A shinny player from this list wrote to say that he was getting wrong schedule information for Ramsden and Hodgson. And he was right! A few of last year's schedules are still spooking around some of the rink pages. Web posters Michael Monstyrskyj, Aseel Al Najim and I, and even Henrik Bechmann (the webmaster), are chewing through all the "rink details" pages again to take out more of these floaters, but it's slow going. There's so much other stuff to post because of all our rink visits.

The site is so much about trying to avoid another rink catastrophe and get the outdoor rinks to be run as well as they can be. But the schedule information should be right too, and we're working on it. If you want to know the city's official rink schedule for each rink, best to click on the link under the green "schedule" bar on each "rink details" page.

2. And if you play shinny hockey or like to skate, be glad if you don't live in North York. They have five very good municipal outdoor rinks, but the three with fences/boards around them are off limits for public skating most of the time. Four hours of drop-in shinny and eight hours of pleasure skating a week are the norm. When there's no permit, nobody's allowed to set foot on the ice -- the rinks just sit there empty and locked, we've seen it with our own eyes. Sacrilege!

We've been making the city's rink manager Kevin Bowser and the relevant city councillors aware of this, and talking to the on-site rink staff in North York-- we'll post any changes.

posted January 11, 2008

Jan 11, 2008: Brief Update

This note is to let you know that our little research group (CELOS, Centre for local research into public space) has been working pretty hard to enlarge our outdoor rinks knowledge to include all 49 rinks, not just the downtown ones. Lots of the outdoor rinks have had lots of wonderful skating since they opened.


1. The 49 rinks vary wildly in their public hours, from 4 hours public shinny weekly in some North York and Etobicoke outdoor rinks to 60 hours public shinny weekly in some downtown rinks.

2. Some of the rinks with little public skating have a lot of permits, but some are just kept locked much of the time, with no one allowed to skate there. All of them get public money for ice maintenance.

3. It's unclear which management person is in charge of the rinks overall; the story changes. Kevin Bowser is sort of in charge but he was apparently unaware of items #1 and #2 when we met with him yesterday. However he said he'll look into it and maybe give direction that the rinks are to remain unlocked for public use when there's no permit.

Jan 11, 2008: Please send us letters.

...about your local rink. We especially want to know: is your rink open at the times advertised? Is the ice good/medium/poor?

posted January 10, 2008

December 3, 2007: New web site and rink glitches

An update and a forwarded message that went off to the acting recreation director. The update: has become one section of the newly independent Have a look at the site -- same good map, lots of news, and soon all 49 rinks will have their own information page.

In latest news: we just learned that the city's freedom of information office will only let us see the documentation of their 2006 budget committee suggestion (to close all the neighbourhood rinks to save money) if we pay $1560 to the staff to hunt for the information. (To be continued). And even then they may not find much: Background To 2006 Rink ClosureProposal

posted January 10, 2008

October 28, 2007:October News

Today all city rinks would have had excellent ice -- the outdoor ice rink in New York's Central Park is already open.

This is an update of progress here:

October 17: meeting of rink supporters from various parts of the city, and rink researchers, with Kevin Bowser, manager of outdoor rinks. Report of meeting: Oct17 Rinks Meeting. Mr/ Bowser said that all 49 city outdoor rinks will be open by December 8. He also said that the city doesn't know how much it costs to run the outdoor rinks, but hopes to know by January.

October 22: City Council voted to adopt the new taxes, in a modified form that will give the city $175 million extra next year and leave us still $240 million short. That means outdoor rinks will likely be under the gun again, unless we get them solid this coming season. (Can do.)

posted January 10, 2008

October 12, 2007: MasterCard Rink Hotline

E-mail (below) to the city's outdoor rinks manager Kevin Bowser, cc to Parks, Forestry, and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz, Parks director Paul Ronan, and recreation manager Constanza Allevato: partly tongue-in-cheek, but not completely!

posted January 10, 2008

October 10, 2007: Rink closure update

Here's an update: Two-thirds of the councillors have been contacted by phone to remind them the outdoor rinks should open. There have been media stories, and more planned now that the Ontario election is over. (Please send in any that you know and they'll be posted on Media

The outdoor rinks manager (Kevin Bowser) has finally set up a meeting with the writers of the Outdoor Rink Report What Needs Fixing, about not only length of season but also other aspects running the outdoor rinks in a better way. Some rink supporters form other parts of the city will also be at this meeting.

Meantime a hockey lover named Alex Baird has started an anti-rink-closure group on Facebook which has 200 members already. Those folks are mad, as you can see from Baird's idea:

''My goal was to hopefully get to 500 and to organize a rally on city hall, with everyone carrying a hockey stick (similar to the way protesting farmers used to carry pitchforks).''

However the Mayor has said that if his taxes get through on October 22, the rinks will be opened as originally planned (Dec.8). And it sounds as though he has the councillor votes that he needs. So a rally may not be necessary -- we'll know on October 22.


If you haven't e-mailed the councillors yet (or if you think they need reminding), here's the link: What Needs Fixing

More updates will be coming now that the heat is on.

posted January 10, 2008

October 1, 2007: Surprise rink vote

Today (Monday Oct.1) there was a surprise outdoor-rinks vote at the Executive Committee meeting at City Hall.

Background: At the September 20 budget committee meeting, quite a few councillors asked for a discussion of outdoor rinks, but were told it was out of order. Again at the City Council meeting on Sept. 26, rinks were ruled out of order, and councillors were told that any rink changes would first have to be brought up at the Executive Committee. But last night, the agenda for that committee listed no opportunity to address cost containment measures.

Then this morning the Cost Containment issue was suddenly on the Executive Committee agenda. Two of us from "Save our rinks" had gone there anyway, just in case. Councillor Karen Stintz made a motion (she’s not on the Executive Committee, but councillors can move guest motions), to allow the rinks to open in December.

In the absence of any other rink supporters (since there had been no prior notice of this new agenda item), I made an impromptu deputation about how the cuts were made with too blunt a hammer, and about the configuration of the rink season. I had brought along copies of the “Save our rinks” weather graphs, showing that it’s much cheaper, with better ice, to run at least some of the neighbourhood rinks mid-November to the end of February, instead of opening them later and then keeping them open in March despite the high sun.

posted January 10, 2008

September 26, 2007: Rinks at City Council

Today at City Council:

Councillor Michael Thompson tried to make a motion to included the rinks in the community centre discussions, but that was ruled out of order. We're still transcribing bits of the tapes we made, see News, because some discussions relevant to the rinks did creep in anyway, for example this exchange:

Councillor Karen Stintz: in the legal opinion we have, it indicates here that only council may amend the city budget.
Chief Administrative Officer Shirley Hoy: I did not amend the budget approved by council. What we have done is managing the delivery of services – just two things – how we deliver, and the service level.
Councillor Karen Stintz: but in fact, the delaying of the skating rinks is an absolute effect on the 2007 budget, because what we’ve said is we won’t open skating rinks at all in 2007.
Chief Administrative Officer Shirley Hoy: the service level is reduced.

posted January 10, 2008

September 25, 2007: City Hall

Wednesday Sept.26 is the City Council meeting where the Mayor is going to propose reversing the Monday closings of community centres. Come on down and have a first-hand look at the drama, the chaos, the press gallery! 9.30 the City Hall Council Chamber.

"Save our rinks" has joined with the Swansea Hockey Association to ask that rinks be included in the reversal of the cuts, on the grounds that they are the winter community centres for many neighbourhoods. Anna Galati and Michael Monatryskyj have spent a good deal of time on the phone over the past two days, trying to pin down councillors on the rink openings (a bit like pinning jelly).

Meantime, it appears that the Parks Department has between 15 and 25 permanent staff who can be redirected from other work to run zambonis, without any extra wage costs. That means that our proposal of a mid-November opening of 12 outdoor rinks Call to Action could easily be achieved, with the rest (only for this year) not opening until Dec.22, still in time for the school holidays.

posted January 10, 2008

September 23, 2007: Rink news

Progress report: The community centre closings will make it onto the city council agenda

On Sept.26 or 27, although they are not a listed item. The rinks are not on the list for discussion. But we'll be calling each councillor on Monday Sept. 24 to ask whether s/he is willing to support discussing the rinks at the same time. We agree with the Swansea Hockey Association, that the rinks ARE our winter community centres. After all, December is the busiest month at many rinks (well above 12,000 visits last December at Dufferin Rink, and similar at some of the other rinks).

It's good to write to the councillors NOW and remind them of this fact (Tell your councillor).

It may also be very helpful to have some people at city hall on the 26th or the 27th, just to show we're lively. Shift-workers, writers, people with civic-minded children willing to skip school, shinny-hockey players who work downtown and have a cell phone -- we'll keep you informed as we try to find out when the item will be on. Come down and find out who your friends are.

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Content last modified on October 24, 2008, at 08:02 PM EST