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posted April 8, 2006
This last rink season, Dufferin Rink was even busier than last year (a bit too crowded for a neighbourhood rink) but people said they had lots of fun anyway – and a lot of new kids and some grown-ups, learned to skate with those yellow-painted skates we got last year from the NHL Players’ Association.
On-site staff and rink users disagreed considerably with the zamboni drivers, this past winter, about optimum ice thickness and other aspects of their ice maintenance. No resolution was ever found. In February there was a public meeting to look into forming a board of management to run the rink. Representatives of the zamboni drivers’ union, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 416, told the meeting that no matter who manages the rink, their existing collective agreement stands. However, introducing more hands-on rink management could help a lot. A list was circulated at the meeting to get volunteers who would work on finding out more about boards of management. Several of them attended a meeting of the McCormick Arena board of management, to see how they function. Now one of the park’s legal researchers is going through the City’s proposed new board of management legislation and also the union’s collective agreement. Check the "City Rinks" page of the park web site for new information as it’s posted. To get on the rink information e-list, e-mail [email protected]. To get on rink phone list, leave your name and number at the park: 416 392-0913, and staff will pass along your message.
After the public rink meeting, City Recreation Director Don Boyle directed the zamboni drivers to cut the ice thinner. Extra ice scrapes occurred on five occasions, but the ice was still between 3 and 8 inches thick (depending on where it was measured) by the end of the season. Once it gets too thick, ice is hard to reduce.
During the final two weeks of the season, on-site staff and rink users tried scraping the ice with the green rink shovels when the sun made it mushy, hand-flooding (with a big black hose), and mopping the ice after flooding to get it smooth (a tip learned from curling arenas’ web sites). The human zamboni! Rink staff also painted one of the hockey boards black to see if that would reduce the melt on the sunny side of the rink. It helped, so next year all the board on that side should be painted a dark colour.
Now that the rink season is done, the on-site park staff are writing a little booklet about all the details of running outdoor rinks, for other City rink staff and rink users. Rink friend Sylvie Varone has donated $75 to help with the printing.
The park’s research group checked out ice thickness in outdoor rinks all over the city at the end of the season. Almost all the rinks had ice between 4 and 7 inches thick. Our researchers found a chart from Manitoba arenas that showed a 20% increase in energy costs when indoor arena ice thickness went from 1 inch to two inches. We consulted CIMCO, the ice rink compressor company, to find out what ice thickness is optimal in outdoor rinks. The person we talked to said that our rink compressors could not possibly cool four or more inches of ice and that any ice that thick had been turned into a natural ice rink. He told us he’d talk to the CIMCO engineers to see if they had an energy-cost formula. But he never did get back to us or return our phone calls after that. So we wrote to the president of CIMCO. He wrote back that while one and a half to two inches of ice is the standard for indoor ice, three inches would be best for outdoors, no thicker.
Meantime, two weeks after the compressors had been turned off, the last little sections of ice, still over three inches thick, were almost done melting. The ice sheet was like a retreating glacier, staying hard on top even when the temperature rose to 18 degrees.
The "rink cluster" experiment did well for two months and then the wheels fell off in the third month. The idea had started as Dufferin Rink staff helping staff at Wallace Rink and Campbell Rink making their rinks work better, and thereby spreading out rink users and making Dufferin Rink less crowded. But the conflict between Dufferin on-site staff and the ice maintenance crew removed the support that was needed, and Wallace Rink in particular reverted to its former ways. The ice was often poor there and the strongest youth dominated the ice and the rink house in the evenings. This summer, Wallace Rink will be torn down and replaced, at a cost of $1.2 million. It appears that there may after all be some minor improvements inside the rink house as well. So next season we’ll try again.