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Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis

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

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wood stove at Dufferin


What Needs Fixing?

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Quick Page Table of Contents


See also How To Fix It, Alternative Proposals, and Rinks By The Numbers.

Troubled ice maintenance:

- Sometimes a zamboni operator is at a rink but there’s no zamboni for him to use.

- Half the rinks have “flying squads” – the zambonis are pulled around the city on trailers without springs, and at some rinks the access is so poor that the zambonis are damaged by curbs and long drives over rough park paths. This slows them down in poor weather and jolts the machines, causing them to need repair sooner.

- Rink guards often don’t allow skaters to shovel snow off the ice, even when rink shovels are on site.

Riverdale Rink locked
Restricted hours of operation:

- Many rinks keep the ice surface locked all morning on weekdays, and often into the afternoon. This means no school classes nor shift workers nor families with very young children, at those less-busy times.

- Some rinks are locked a great deal during what would normally be considered prime time. In 2006/07 season, a once-popular double-pad rink, rebuilt new about ten years ago, was kept locked during most of the weekend. According to its schedule, the rink was only open three and a half hours on Saturdays, and three hours on Sundays.

- Many outdoor rinks close early on weekend evenings, or even on weekday evenings, while other rinks remain open and very busy with shinny hockey until 11 pm. The compressor plants are running even when rinks are closed.

Low permit numbers:

- Of 24 outdoor rinks checked, 11 earned between $3000 and $6000 permit fees in the 2006/07 rink season. Three earned less than $1000 and four earned nothing. All of them had compressor-cooled ice.

- The permit office has a policy of no refunds if the rinks are closed for bad weather. There are also no refunds for poorly maintained ice. Charging people for rink time even when they can’t use the ice discourages permit applications.

Un-enforceable helmet policy:

- Rink staff are told to enforce a shinny-hockey helmet policy for adults that is so unpopular that its low compliance rate actually increases the legal risk for the city. Of the 99 rink visits when helmet counts were included for this report, only on 19 occasions were there any skaters wearing helmets. The four rinks where the helmet policy was strictly enforced for adults had much lower rink use.

- There is little or no documentation about the background of the mandatory-helmets-for-shinny policy. Staff could produce no information on shinny-related injuries, nor on claims against the city, nor data from other cities. Nor was there any memory of which working group might have discussed this policy before it was endorsed by the directors.

- A freedom of information request turned up the information that there have been only three claims against the City for injuries at outdoor ice rinks since amalgamation. All claims (indoor and outdoor rinks together) during those seven years added up to a total of $36,000. None of the claims were related to the absence of helmet use.

Poor communication:

two years out of date

- Of 13 plexiglass rink bulletin boards, ten were broken or defaced. 9 of them had out-of-date information, some as old as six years. Two more were empty. 10 rinks didn’t have any schedules posted at all, indoors or out.

- Web site: gives the printed rink schedules, many of which are wrong. The site lacks certain basic details such as rink opening dates or rink phone numbers, and it also has no capacity to report on rink closures for mechanical failure, or rink re-opening after a snowstorm.

- Rink “hot line” is only a recorded rink schedule from the beginning of the season.

- Individual rink phone numbers are unlisted.

Poor rink house facilities:

- No windows in change rooms: Of the 23 rinks visited, 10 had change rooms with no windows, and 5 had windows that were either very small, or too high up to see out, or not facing the rink. The absence of windows, together with harsh lighting and drab interiors, often give rink change areas a slummy look.

- No windows in staff rooms: 13 of the 23 rinks had no windows in the staff room, and often the staff at the rinks were inside and cut off from rink users. One staff room had windows not facing toward the rink, and one had windows blocked with black plastic garbage bags. That leaves only 8 staff rooms with windows allowing staff to see out or rink users to find staff. Thirteen of 23 staff rooms had no signage.

- No benches, skimpy rubber skate mats: Of the 23 outdoor rinks visited, in 8 rinks the mats don’t reach benches or washrooms. In 7 rinks there are no outdoor benches for resting or skate-changing. The rest have some outdoor benches, although often not more than one or two.

- Broken vending machines, or poor food choices: In the 23 outdoor rinks visited, there is a total of 25 vending machines, of which 13 were out of order. The ones that worked sold only pop, gatorade, water, chips, and candy bars.

- Poor access to rink entryways: Few rinks provide parking for users arriving in cars. The immediate pedestrian access to rink buildings is often by driveways meant for Parks vehicles, by out-of-the-way stairs, or by inclined walkways without railings, which get treacherously slippery with snow and ice.

Unworkable Parks staffing structure

During the last twenty-five years, there have been four major and three medium restructurings (“re-orgs” in slang) at Parks and Recreation (more recently called the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division). Since the most recent restructuring, Dufferin Rink has been in the purview of thirteen different administrative sections.

Bad Season Timing

See also Outdoor Rinks And Weather

Artificial outdoor ice rinks work best (and most energy efficiently) when the sun is at its weakest during the year. The sun is at its lowest angle (and is hence weakest) in the northern hemisphere on December 21st. It follows that the best and most efficient time to run outdoor artificial ice rinks is in the weeks centred around that day. The chart below illustrates how the Parks department has strayed away, rather than toward, this ideal season.

Keeping the rinks open in March is a losing battle against the spring sun. The rinks should be opened in November and closed at the end of February to best take advantage of the low sun and the related savings in energy costs.

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Content last modified on October 09, 2007, at 11:51 AM EST