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January 9, 2009

Response to a letter from shinny hockey player Maria Gervais (her letter is below):

Hello Maria, I'm very sorry to hear about the state of Withrow Rink and its impact on women's shinny last night.

As far as I can understand it, a big part of the problem here is the inequality in both staffing and equipment between different parts of the city. The City spends around $4 million per season in direct costs to run the outdoor rinks, so there's lots of funding allocated. But a couple of years ago somebody downgraded 10 of the 11 central Toronto single-pad rinks to "minor" rinks The 9 single-pad rinks of the same size and type in Etobicoke and North York .are rated as "major" rinks. That means that Et.and NY single-pad rinks have on-site re-surfacing operators for 72 - 112 hours a week, and on-site ice maintenance equipment (ploughs and ice resurfacers), while the central Toronto single-pad rinks like Withrow have maintenance staff at the rinks for 7 - 21 hours a week, and no on-site equipment. The travelling ice resurfacers for the flying crew are often broken and plows seem to be in short supply.

I wrote to the acting general manager, Brenda Patterson, about this problem on December 16 and again on December 22. After the first letter she replied: "Staff is pleased with the availability and assignment of equipment and believes it is more than sufficient to support the needs program across the city." The second letter got no response. (Full text: Cityrinks Correspondence page)

I'm not sure what a "needs program" is, nor who decided on the staff and equipment allocations, but it seems clear from what we're hearing that problems such as the one you've described are very common in the central rinks. Management staff may be "pleased," but skaters are not.

I've cc'd Ms.Patterson and some of the rink management and supervisory staff on this. Hopefully she'll soon begin to see that she needs to help her staff to address this situation.


P.s. I have recently been told that I should be directing rink questions to the City's media office, NOT asking rink staff directly. Staff are being asked to sign the city's media policy statement to show they agree not to give me any "insider" information, i.e what's not working. And posters giving the web address have been ordered removed at some locations. -- Trying to persuade the City to run the rinks better is a strange struggle.

Letter from shinny player Maria Gervais I went to Withrow Park last night in hopes that there would be enough bodies for spirited game of shinny as when I initially drove by there were no skaters on the rink, much to my surprise there were about 10 skaters waiting in the rink house. They weren't allowed to on the ice to skate as there was a couple inches of snow (pond like conditions) and in dire need of a hard scrape/flood. I noticed the frost build-up along the boards is getting bad and could pose a serious problem later in the season if this cold snap continues.

The rink attendants said they dispatched the flying squad at 3pm to service the rink, as of my arrival shortly after 6pm, there was still no call back from city dispatch. This same discussion was being had with the rink staff/patrons as more and more ladies showed up to skate only to be disappointed.

I left the rink at 6:45 after waiting around in vain in hopes of the flying squad making a timely arrival, and there were still MORE women showing up to play, I would say there was at least 20 women turned away. Why are there 2 rink attendants on site getting paid to sit around on the tax payer's dime when the rink apparently hadn't been safe enough to use for AT least 2 days?! Talk about a ridiculous waste of money!

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Content last modified on January 30, 2009, at 02:30 PM EST