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

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posted October 16, 2007

CELOS Releases Ice Rink Manual

The Center for Local Research into Public Space (CELOS) has released a new report on the operation of outdoor ice rinks. Based on over a decade of experience in promoting the enjoyment of Toronto's outdoor rinks, the report catalogues ways in which the city can more effectively offer this service to skating enthusiasts, while minimizing cost, and protecting this unique treasure. For one thing, the season should be mid November to end of February, not December to mid March, owing to the angle of the sun.

See the booklet.

Table of Contents


page 3

City of Toronto Outdoor Ice Rinks
Rink usage

page 6

Balance of ages
Skate Lending


Signage for change-rooms and washrooms
City Rink Information website
Rink Information “hot line”
Rink Phones
Rink Season

page 13

Working against the sun
Hours of Operation

page 15

Ice good, but rinks locked
Ice maintenance

page 16

Unreliable season-opening dates
Ice thickness in rainy winters
Availability of ice resurfacing equipment
Programming interrupted by ice maintenance
Delays in reopening rinks after snowfalls
Not letting rink users shovel light snow off the ice
Design: quick and cheap improvements

page 21

Outdoor benches and mats
Food in rinks

page 23

Broken vending machines, or poor food choices
Rink permits

page 25

Low permit numbers
Helmet Policy

page 26

Un-enforceable Helmet Policy
Staff structure
Too many sections
No room for communication

page 27


page 31

1 Map of Toronto’s Outdoor Rinks

page 32

2 History of ice time reduction and shifts(:cell:)

page 34

3 How to hand-shovel a rink(:cell:)

page 38

4 Outdor rinks, and the parks, Forestry and
Recreation division”by the numbers”

page 40

5 Air surface ice melt rate at noon (November - March)

page 43

From the introduction:

Toronto has the most outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks of any city in the world. There are 4 rinks at central locations and 45 in neighbourhoods. Twelve of the rinks are double pads – one pad for playing hockey, the other pad for pleasure-skating. The rest are single pads where hockey and pleasure-skating take turns. A double-pad rink costs over $1 million to build, not counting the rink change-rooms. A single-pad rink costs around $700,000. So these rinks are one of Toronto’s treasures.

But they need some help. For many years the compressor-cooled outdoor ice rinks were open from mid-November until the end of February when the sun got too strong. Torontonians could skate outdoors for about 15 weeks each winter. But in 2001 City Council voted to permanently reduce the season of the neighbourhood outdoor rinks to 10 weeks a year, not opening them until late December. The rink season went down from 106 days to 70. This resolution caused such an outcry by skaters that 2001 was the only year when it was actually carried out.

Even so, since 2001 the outdoor rinks have opened between two and four weeks late every year. Finally in 2007 the mayor announced that rinks would not open at all until January 1 2008, to save money. The Mastercard Company came to the rescue with a one-time donation of $160,000. But it’s not impossible that the rinks could be a pawn for the same announcement again next year.

Beyond that, there seems to be persistent confusion at City Council and among City management about how and when these rinks work best. The confusion is reflected in a recent Parks, Forestry, and Recreation document “SERVICE PLANNING AND PROVISION STRATEGY OPTIONS.” It conflates natural and compressor-cooled outdoor rinks, stating that both kinds of rinks are “limited to a relatively short operational season that has recently been further reduced as climatic changes result in fewer days when it is possible to have natural ice or maintain outdoor artificial ice.”

See the booklet.

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Content last modified on October 24, 2007, at 01:49 PM EST