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News 2014-2015

News 2014-2015

From the May / June 2015 Newsletter:

What doesn’t work: the rink clubhouse reno and other money sinks

The rink house was rebuilt in 1993, so that makes it 22 years old. Someone, somewhere, decided last winter that it needs to be renovated again. Rumour says that the budget for doing this is $250,000. An architect was hired and began design work. More recently, the onsite staff were invited to say what they might like to see. Eventually there will be a public meeting, presumably with sketches of the architect’s plans.

This is the second major renovation in the park in the last 6 years. The first was the wading pool, which got new plumbing, a new layer of surfacing that made it very slippery, and some stone benches and pavers where sand used to be (now covered by sand again). Only the new plumbing was actually needed, to replace the rusting pipes, and it was not even in the original plans – it was added when the program staff asked for it. In addition, the city councillor of the time, Adam Giambrone, managed to pull some strings so that the paving of the centre north/south path was tacked on to the wading pool project – a great boon for park users in place of the rough mud track that was there before 2009.

The wading pool renovation cost $227,000, including $13,500 for an architect and $15,000 for a project management fee.


skater picnic in the rink house

And now it seems the rink house is getting its turn. In 1993, it was rebuilt as a three-months-a-year facility, with a cluster of little rooms and no eye-level windows. Over a few years, park friends worked with city staff to alter the building for year-round use, adapting an unnecessary staff office, a garage alcove, and a surplus slop room as kitchens and a café. Some unnecessary walls were removed, more windows were put in, and Home Depot donated better lighting. The changes cost about $51,000 in total, and set the stage for many new activities.

The rink house changes showed that parks can be made lively without spending a lot of money. Dufferin Grove became an early example of a formula that’s being used in many cities which are not as rich as Toronto: “lighter, quicker, cheaper.”

But that formula seems to be of limited interest to Parks capital projects management, and of even less interest to our politicians. The Parks, Forestry and Recreation budget has been hugely increased over the last 10 years, and this year it’s almost $610 million (operating + capital). With all that money, the rink house renovation will most likely be followed next by a new playground. The wooden playground was proposed for replacement in 2006, but at that time park friends persuaded the councillor to preserve what exists now. Everywhere else in the city, playground funds are flowing – with plans for spending $42 million citywide on replacements or additions by 2018. Much of the money for such projects is borrowed, but servicing that debt comes out of the operating budget (borrowing not allowed). Paying interest on capital loans means less to spend on staffing the programs – or hiking the user fees again.

In such a climate of spending, how long can Dufferin Grove hold on to being a cheap park, where many activities have no extra fee, and where people friendly to the park can have an influence on city hall?

From the February 2015 Newsletter:

Events in February

February 6 and 7: The 10th annual The Women of Winter (TWOW) outdoor shinny Tournament. From the organizer, Deirdre Norman: “Fun and feisty tournament is a community event for all level of players.”

The tourney starts on Friday Feb 6, 7:00-10:00pm, then runs on Saturday Feb 7, 10:00am-7:00pm. There will be no public shinny hockey during those times, but good watching!

Friday Night Supper will be a one-dish meal – smaller than usual, but still on.

Saturday Feb.21, 7 to 10 p.m.: 14th annual Dufferin Rink Icycle: Bike races on the rink

Here’s a good description from a National Post article written a few years ago by journalist/shinny hockey player Peter Kuitenbrouwer: “On Saturday hundreds of spectators will gather at the outdoor rink in Dufferin Grove Park to cheer competitors at a race that defies logic, to the many who store their bikes in November and bring them out again in April....The competitors include Jim Kuz, a.k.a. “The Ice Bear,” Alberto De Ciccio, “The Ice Emperor,” and several dozen others, many of whom hone their winter biking skills as couriers, battling ice, wind, snow and police on the cold streets of Toronto...[Racers]use tires that are customized for ice cycling with hundreds of tiny wood screws. On Saturday [Jim Cuz] will wear cycling shoes, winter bike tights, heavy-duty bicycle overshorts from Mountain Equipment Co-op, cross-country skiing socks, a Spyder giant slalom ski sweater with “armour” sewn into it, winter cycling gloves, a balaclava, cycling helmet, and $6 construction safety glasses.”

Everyone welcome: it’s quite a (free) show.

Saturday February 28: 2014 Andrew Cash M.P. annual skating party – 12 to 2 pm

From M.P. Andrew Cash: “I am pleased to invite you and your family to our annual skating party at Dufferin Grove Park. Join me and my family for an afternoon of free family fun. Come by to say hi, enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies, listen to some music by the campfire, and skate with your neighbours! We look forward to seeing you there!”

A great January for skating on Grenadier Pond

The almost snowless January, combined with steady cold, have made natural ice rinks a dream this year, all over the city. That includes Grenadier Pond in High Park, which had over a kilometre of 12-inch-thick, smooth, snow-less ice for most of the month. Nevertheless, the usual yellow “No Skating, No Access” signs ringed the pond, and on a few occasions a by-law officer tried (unsuccessfully, from the shore) to whistle skaters off. The City Parks By-law has a subsection on skating, which includes: 608-21 B: No person shall access or skate on a natural ice surface in a park where it is posted to prohibit it.

The same by-law also prohibits anyone being in a park between midnight and 5.30 a.m., tree climbing, snowball fights, weeding park gardens without a permit, or playing informal group sports without a permit. (Really?)

From Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee: "...for decades, even generations now, people have been coming to Grenadier Pond to skate, municipal codes be damned." Actually, until the mid-1990s people didn't have to damn the municipal code. Skating was not only allowed on Grenadier Pond, the city encouraged it and made it nicer. In the years when the ice was thick the city staff made a daily campfire and put straw bales around it so people could warm themselves. There were no rink guards -- who needs them on a pond? And the cost of having those two friendly campfire staff must have been less than the cost nowadays of putting up all those yellow signs and sending out by-law officers. The bylaw banning skating on the pond was not actually made until 2002, and part of the reason given then was saving the money it took to staff the campfire and clear a path on the ice. Before that, on those flukey winters when the ice froze before the snow came, the pond used to look like a Breughel painting, alive with skaters.

Last month, there were nine media items about skating on Grenadier Pond, including editorials in the Star and the Post. They all pointed out the same thing: skaters can be reminded that they skate at their own risk and they should be careful. The city can drill for ice thickness measurements and post that information without comment. Meantime, happy pond skaters practiced civil disobedience in January, before the snow.

Dufferin Rink schedule, Nov.22, 2014 to March 22 (not likely!), 2015

More Info: dufferinpark@gmail.com

Pleasure Skating:  Monday – Saturday, 9:00am - 9:00pm
The pleasure pad is open for unsupervised shinny after the last ice maintenance of the evening.
Sunday 9:00am - 9pm. Skate in the round on both ice pads until 5.00pm
Shinny hockey:
Monday, Thursday, Friday before 9 p.m.:
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT/Program 9:00pm-11pm

Tuesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
Women’s Drop-in Shinny 9:00pm-11:00pm

Wednesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT 9:00pm-10:00pm
Adult Beginner Drop-in 10:00pm-11:00pm

Saturday
All Ages 9:00am-11:45am
Level 1 12:00pm-1:45pm
9 & under 1:45pm-2:45pm
Level 2 3:00pm-5:15pm
All Ages 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:00pm-8:55pm
Youth Saturday-Night Shinny Program 9:00pm-11:00pm

Sunday
On the hockey pad:
5-6:30pm - Family Shinny Program (booking with staff)
6:30-8pm - Neighbourhood Youth Shinny Program (booking with staff)
8-9:30pm - Permit
9:30pm-11:00pm Adult Beginner drop-in program (by registration)

Beginners’ shinny:
Drop-in: Wednesdays 10 to 11 pm. All beginners welcome but there’s a cap of thirty skaters. Registered: Sundays 9.30 to 11 pm. Brief lesson followed by a game.

Nearby rinks: Campbell Rink, Mondays 8.30 to 10, intermediate, skills and drills (drop-in)

Wallace Rink: drop-in Adult beginner, Thursdays, 8:30pm-10:00pm (registered)

GENERAL RINK INFORMATION

Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm, except closing at 6 pm on Family Day (yes, really!)

Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm

Skate/stick/gloves loans ($1 to $2 suggested donation): Monday to Sunday 9 am to 8 pm

Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. From rink staff: “If you ever see the wrong age group on the shinny ice, do us a favour and notify the rink staff right away.”

Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's a bit like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

The large rink lights turn off after 11:00pm, and then the rink is locked.

Parking: One good place to park is at Dufferin Mall across the street. After 5 pm. there’s lots of parking across from St.Mary’s School at the north end of the park too.

Rink contacts: 416 392-0913 or dufferinpark@gmail.com. The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions.

In the event of snow, if rink users help staff in clearing the ice, the rink opens faster. There are lots of shovels, or bring yours from home.

Ice maintenance times: Monday to Friday: 9 am, 11.45 am, 3.15 pm, 7 pm and 8.55 pm. Saturday: 8 am, 11.45 am, 2.45 pm, 5.15 pm, and 8.55 pm. Sunday: 9 am, 1 pm, 4.55 pm, 8 pm.

The cityrinks.ca website

This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 50+ municipal outdoor ice rinks, as well as Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink. The site has maps, hours, schedules, phone numbers, ratings, and stormy-weather updates. It also has blogs about the individual rinks, with contributions from skaters.

The surprising multiplication of Toronto’s natural ice rinks.

Three years ago, our outdoor rinks website, cityrinks.ca, began to add pages about community-built natural ice rinks to our list of city-run compressor-cooled rinks. In the past two weeks, we’ve visited 24 of them, all over the city, and there are still lots more to go and see. These rinks are quite different one from the other, but what unites them is their night-time flooding session with heavy-gauge city-supplied water hoses and their communities’ capacity to set up a rink that works by local rules -- no bossy rink guards! And when a late-evening, single-light-illuminated shinny game is done, there might be a few refreshing beers in the snow to quench the players’ thirst, before they sign up for tomorrow’s flooding schedule and go home.

A small sampling of community rinks: Morningside Park Rink, in Scarborough, was built and maintained by the international students of Centennial College. Local businesses help – Princess Auto Repair brought night lighting and snow shovels, and Home Depot sends over a snowblower when there’s a storm. Fairmount Park Rink has an annual Winterfest, with shinny hockey, hockey skills, family skate, sledding, a skate and ski swap, face painting and an outdoor wood stove to keep warm. Pearen Park in Etobicoke has the use of the 10 x 10 foot park’s shed, which they renamed the “skate hut” and stocked with “over 120 pairs of skates and forty helmets, plus gloves, socks, hats, scarves, eight hoses, eight snow shovels, an ice scraper, two hockey nets, more than a dozen hockey sticks, a set of brooms for broomball, six chairs, and enough open area for us to be able to fit and tie on more than 20 pairs of skates per hour”! Every day from 4 to 6 and weekends from 1 to 5 they run a learn-to-skate program for the kids from the many high-rise buildings around. At Orchard Park Rink, families make hot chocolate at a rink-side campfire. At East Lynn Park, tobogganers on the adjacent hill occasionally slide right onto the rink, without injury but with lots of laughter. Many rinks have double pads; some have hockey boards. Others are circular, flooded right on top of the parks’ baseball diamonds.

And then there’s the crowning glory of Toronto’s natural rinks: Grenadier Pond. For much of January, the ice was 12 inches thick, smooth and mostly bare – until it finally snowed, two days before the end of the month. Cityrinks.ca got this email from a skater/snow shoveller:

In past years I've seen people using shovels (and snowblowers) to clear patches of ice for skating. When I got to the pond the day after the snowfall I saw a group of 10 men finishing a game of shinny on a fair-sized rink they had made for themselves. I could see in the distance two or three other little rinks where people where skating.

I put on my skates near the south end of the pond and started clearing a path with my shovel, southwards towards one of the little rinks. Another man was shovelling northwards and we joined our paths. There may have been as many as a hundred skaters, and many energetic shovellers. All the people with shovels clearing paths and connecting them reminded me of the kids making rivers in the Dufferin Grove sandpit.

Same principle – making fun by working together, using common sense.

Is Dufferin Rink getting a new designer rink house?

Sometime around the middle of January, a couple of city staff, maybe from the capital planning section, came around with cameras and took a lot of pictures of every section of the rink house. It sounded like they might be documenting the building for possible redesign.

In point of fact, the rink house is a solid concrete-block building that’s barely over 30 years old. It can certainly last another 30 or 60 years, so “poor condition” can’t be the reason to send out the designers. The only other reason we can think of, for putting up a fancier building here at Dufferin Rink, is that so many people come to skate here, and eat, and play chess, and have a campfire, and meet their friends. It’s become a destination rink. And the city is spending lots of money to add significant buildings and important landscaping, to promote its brand.

But here’s the irony: the programs at Dufferin Rink are gradually unravelling (see page 5). By the time a designer building is put up, the rink may be a popular destination no longer. Should somebody warn Capital Projects not to waste their money?

News Flash: after-hours drop-in shinny hockey is reinstated

At the end of January, Phil Rock, the foreperson of the Zamboni crew, directed recreation staff not to let shinny players onto Dufferin Rink for drop-in shinny after 9 pm, when the rink building closes and the rink staff are inside, cleaning. But there’s a background he was unaware of. Until about 15 years ago, when the rink building closed the rink used to close too, except for the permit slot on the hockey pad. That left the pleasure-skating pad empty for two hours. But there were often 30 shinny players that didn’t want to go home. So it was decided to let unsupervised drop-in shinny hockey carry on, on the empty rink pad, until the permit players left at 11. It was the longest-lasting after-hours shinny game in Toronto – but it privileged shinny players over pleasure-skaters, and Phil felt that was wrong. Yet in order to protect pleasure skaters against pucks, rink guards are needed to shoo eager shinny players off the unsupervised rink pad. The rink guards are unavailable because they’re fully occupied inside, cleaning up for the next day. This was obvious to the rink staff but not to Phil Rock. After his order, the second rink pad was empty for a few nights. Happily, the recreation supervisor felt “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and allowed the shinny players back. The game’s back on.

From the January 2015 Newsletter:

Dufferin Rink schedule, Nov.22, 2014 to March 22 (not likely!), 2015

More Info: dufferinpark@gmail.com

Pleasure Skating:  Monday – Saturday, 9:00am - 9:00pm
The pleasure pad is open for unsupervised shinny after the last ice maintenance of the evening.
Sunday 9:00am - 9pm. Skate in the round on both ice pads until 5.00pm

Shinny hockey:
Monday, Thursday, Friday before 9 p.m.:'''
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT/Program 9:00pm-11pm

Tuesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
Women’s Drop-in Shinny 9:00pm-11:00pm

Wednesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT 9:00pm-10:00pm
Adult Beginner Drop-in 10:00pm-11:00pm

Saturday
All Ages 9:00am-11:45am
Level 1 12:00pm-1:45pm
9 & under 1:45pm-2:45pm
Level 2 3:00pm-5:15pm
All Ages 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:00pm-8:55pm
Youth Saturday-Night Shinny Program 9:00pm-11:00pm Sunday
On the hockey pad:
5-6:30pm - Family Shinny Program (booking with staff)
6:30-8pm - Neighbourhood Youth Shinny Program (booking with staff)
8-9:30pm - Permit
9:30pm-11:00pm Adult Beginner drop-in program (by registration)

Beginners’ shinny:
Drop-in: Wednesdays 10 to 11 pm. All beginners welcome but there’s a cap of thirty skaters
Registered: Sundays 9.30 to 11 pm. Brief lesson followed by a game.
Nearby rinks: Campbell Rink, Mondays 8.30 to 10, intermediate, skills and drills (drop-in)
Wallace Rink: drop-in Adult beginner, Thursdays, 8:30pm-10:00pm (registered)

GENERAL RINK INFORMATION

Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm
Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm
Skate/stick/gloves loans ($1 to $2 suggested donation): Monday to Sunday 9 am to 8 pm
Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. From rink staff: “If you ever see the wrong age group on the shinny ice, do us a favour and notify the rink staff right away.”
Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's a bit like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

The large rink lights turn off after 11:00pm, and then the rink is locked.

Parking: One good place to park is at Dufferin Mall across the street. After 5 pm. there’s lots of parking across from St.Mary’s School at the north end of the park too.

Rink contacts: 416 392-0913 or dufferinpark@gmail.com. The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions.

In the event of snow, if rink users help staff in clearing the ice, the rink opens faster. There are lots of shovels, or bring yours from home.

Ice maintenance times: Monday to Friday: 9 am, 11.45 am, 3.15 pm, 7 pm and 8.55 pm. Saturday: 8 am, 11.45 am, 2.45 pm, 5.15 pm, and 8.55 pm. Sunday: 9 am, 1 pm, 4.55 pm, 8 pm.

The cityrinks.ca website

This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 50+ municipal outdoor ice rinks, as well as Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink. The site has maps, hours, schedules, phone numbers, ratings, and stormy-weather updates. It also has blogs about the individual rinks, with contributions from skaters.

Holiday rink math

Last month, as in many Decembers before, the rink information schedule on the city’s website indicated that most of the city’s 52 compressor-cooled rinks would keep their buildings locked on all three statutory holidays – Christmas Day, Boxing Day (yes, really) and New Year’s Day. The ice surfaces would be unlocked for skating, but if people wanted to change their skates on a bench in a warm spot, or take their kids to the washroom, they would be out of luck.

Our cityrinks.ca website crew have been visiting these 50+ rinks for more than 10 years, and reporting on how they’re doing. We’ve been arguing with city management for almost as long about keeping the rinks open on those major holidays. And as the city website shows, now they do – but only the ice surface.

However, that’s not the whole story. This year we found that the change rooms and washrooms were open at all the rinks we visited in Etobicoke, on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, even though the city’s web schedule and 311 said they were closed. The busier rinks also had rink staff on site. On Boxing Day, a few of the downtown rink buildings we visited were open too, including the newly rebuilt Hodgson Rink and Greenwood Rink, both heavily used. But on New Year’s Day, those rinks were locked. Outside, parents were tying up kids’ skates with frozen fingers (it was a bitter wind). Skates, shoes, shin pads, helmets, snow pants were spread out all over the ground. And if somebody needed to go to the washroom…..

The reason for closing seems to be that staff are paid time-and-a-half on stat holidays. Closing the buildings saves that bonus money.

So here’s the math: Hodgson Rink has just been rebuilt for $2 million. Greenwood Rink was rebuilt last year for $3.4 million. The extra holiday bonus saved by not having a staff person to keep the rink buildings open on New Year’s Day is $77.00 for nine hours, per rink.

Canadians are famously polite, so they don’t tend to complain about much, other than the weather. But who doesn’t like transparency? Surely city management could put up posters at the locked rink buildings, clarifying the reason for saving the $77.00. If it’s to pay off the construction costs, it would be helpful to give a time frame – how long would it take before the $3.4 million Greenwood Rink cost would be paid off and holiday skaters could use the warm benches and go to the washroom again? Or if the closings are related to the city’s Park and Recreation operating budget – maybe $400+ million a year isn’t quite enough – would it work if staff stood in front of the locked rink buildings with a bell, a Santa hat and a donation box? When $77.00 had been collected (surely not hard with all those people who want to skate with their families and friends on the main holidays), they could unlock the door. Problem solved.

Readers of this newsletter know, of course, that in Ward 18, all three rinks were open on all three holidays. On two of the holidays, so were Ramsden Rink (in Rosedale), and all the Etobicoke rinks. Transparency needed, again. Why the unequal treatment?

From the December 2014 Newsletter:

Holiday skating hours:

The centrefold of this newsletter gives Dufferin Rink’s normal skating schedule and various other bits of rink information. For the holidays, the only exceptions are the statutory holidays, when we have shortened hours, and New Year's Eve, when we have extended hours.

On December 24 and 25, the rink opens at 9 am and closes at 6 pm. On both of those days, all-ages shinny hockey goes from 9 am to noon and again from 3 to 6pm. 12-and-under shinny hockey is moved up to noon until 1.45 (a chance to try out any skating presents that may be under the tree), and 13-17 shinny is from 1.45 to 3.

On New Year’s Eve, the schedule is like Saturdays except that from 9 to midnight it’s neighbourhood shinny on the hockey pad and pleasure-skating on the other side. Skate rentals will be open until the countdown and the snack bar will be going as well. On New Year’s Day, the Saturday schedule will again be in effect (even though January 1 is a Thursday).

Note that most other city rinks will be open for skating on the three statutory holidays but will have no change room/washroom access – hard to believe but true.

Risk management: the risk of fingers getting stuck in passing zambonis

In early December, someone in authority put in a safety-related work order for wire mesh to be welded to the railing along the end of the pleasure-skating rink pad, and for two swing barriers to be put up at the two open spots where skaters can get on the ice. None of the recreation program staff were consulted, so whoever put in the order is still a silo-ed mystery.

The reasoning, apparently, was that during the ten seconds when the Zamboni passes close to the railing to clean that edge of the ice, there is a risk that kids might stick their hands through the railing and try to touch the Zamboni, and injure their hands or their fingers. There has never been such an injury – but what if?

We sent a question to the general Parks supervisor: what if skaters at Dufferin Rink get so used to this bubble-wrap protection that they no longer feel secure skating at the many other city-owned rinks that have no Zamboni barrier at all – the rink at City Hall, for example, or Wallace or Ryerson or Scadding rinks, or the skating trails at Colonel Sam Smith and Rennie Rink in the west, or at Greenwood and Dieppe rinks in the east? Should skating trails also have wire mesh fences and swing barriers along their length, so that passing Zambonis won’t hurt the skaters? What about the danger of kids hurting their hands trying to touch the passing buses at the Dufferin bus stop? Should there be swing barriers down there too, which could be closed until the bus comes to a full stop?

Plain silly, this kind of risk management. Happily, the Parks supervisor had some discussions and cancelled the plan.

311: tracking the trackers

Soon after David Miller was first elected as mayor in 2003, he took a trip to Baltimore. He came back with stars in his eyes, a convert to their 311 information system. 311 was the central number you could call in Baltimore to report a pothole or a slummy house or a broken park bench. 311 was backed by a system called “citistat” described as ''“an ‘executive information system’ like those used by corporations such as Frito-Lay or Mrs. Field’s Cookies.” The idea was to get as much data as possible and enter it into a system where it could be continuously analyzed by management. The system’s boosters described it like this: “Tracking citizens ‘ complaints, requests, tips, and comments can provide a wealth of information about service levels, employee interaction, and neighbourhood conditions and trends. Baltimore’s 311 telephone line provides a comprehensive system for gathering this kind of ‘soft’ data.” And the gathering of data would somehow lead to tremendous savings – officials in Baltimore say they have realized over $40 million in financial savings since they put in this system.

Wow! Mayor Miller came back and made sure that Toronto got one of those 311 systems as well. And since then, every few years there have been reports to the council committees about how well the staff feel 311 is working and how much money they assume it's saving.

But we have to give it a big bad raspberry for ice rink information. Before 311, skaters could look in the phone book and call their local outdoor rink to ask about ice conditions. Then they could decide if they ought to get their skates and come down, or not bother until the ice was better. But in 2006 the order came to make individual rink telephone numbers unavailable to the public. Skaters were instructed to call one convenient number for rink information: 311.

As of January 2014, the CELOS-sponsored website CityRinks.ca has been tracking 311 for about five years. The 311 outdoor rink information is wrong more than 50% of the time; during storms it goes up to 90% wrong. No wonder. Toronto has more municipal outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks than any city in the world – over 50. Every time the weather changes (sometimes three times a day), ice conditions may change. That’s way too many updates to be entered into a central reporting system.

At the Ward 18 rinks, phone numbers continue to be unofficially available. For Dufferin Rink: 416 392-0913. For Wallace Rink: 416 392-0911. For Campbell Rink: 416 392-6921 (but often out of order). A phone call is a simple, straightforward solution for a problem made complicated (and expensive) through 311. Sooner or later, other rinks will need to return to using the phone again too.

Dufferin Rink schedule, Nov.22, 2014 to March 22 (not likely!), 2015

More Info: dufferinpark@gmail.com

Pleasure Skating:  Monday – Saturday, 9:00am - 9:00pm
''The pleasure pad is open for unsupervised shinny after the last ice maintenance of the evening.
Sunday 9:00am - 9pm. Skate in the round on both ice pads until 5.00pm

Shinny hockey:
Monday, Thursday, Friday before 9 p.m.
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT/Program 9:00pm-11pm

Tuesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
Women’s Drop-in Shinny 9:00pm-11:00pm

Wednesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT 9:00pm-10:00pm
Adult Beginner Drop-in 10:00pm-11:00pm

Saturday
All Ages 9:00am-11:45am
Level 1 12:00pm-1:45pm
9 & under 1:45pm-2:45pm
Level 2 3:00pm-5:15pm
All Ages 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:00pm-8:55pm
Youth Saturday-Night Shinny Program 9:00pm-11:00pm

Sunday
On the hockey pad:
5-6:30pm - Family Shinny Program (booking with staff)
6:30-8pm - Neighbourhood Youth Shinny Program (booking with staff)
8-9:30pm - Permit
9:30pm-11:00pm Adult Beginner drop-in program (by registration)

Beginners’ shinny:
Drop-in: Wednesdays 10 to 11 pm. All beginners welcome but there’s a cap of thirty skaters.
Registered: Sundays 9.30 to 11 pm. Brief lesson followed by a game. Nearby rinks: Campbell Rink, Mondays 8.30 to 10, intermediate, skills and drills (drop-in)
Wallace Rink: drop-in Adult beginner, Thursdays, 8:30pm-10:00pm (registered)

GENERAL RINK INFORMATION

Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm
Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm
Skate/stick/gloves loans ($1 to $2 suggested donation): Monday to Sunday 9 am to 8 pm
Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. From rink staff: “If you ever see the wrong age group on the shinny ice, do us a favour and notify the rink staff right away.”

Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's a bit like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

The large rink lights turn off after 11:00pm, and then the rink is locked.

Parking: One good place to park is at Dufferin Mall across the street. After 5 pm. there’s lots of parking across from St.Mary’s School at the north end of the park too.

Rink contacts: 416 392-0913 or dufferinpark@gmail.com. The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions.

In the event of snow, if rink users help staff in clearing the ice, the rink opens faster. There are lots of shovels, or bring yours from home.

Ice maintenance times: Monday to Friday: 9 am, 11.45 am, 3.15 pm, 7 pm and 8.55 pm. Saturday: 8 am, 11.45 am, 2.45 pm, 5.15 pm, and 8.55 pm. Sunday: 9 am, 1 pm, 4.55 pm, 8 pm.

The cityrinks.ca website

This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 50+ municipal outdoor ice rinks, as well as Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink. The site has maps, hours, schedules, phone numbers, ratings, and stormy-weather updates. It also has blogs about the individual rinks, with contributions from skaters.

From the November 2014 Newsletter:

Saturday November 22, 2014, 9 a.m. – Dufferin Rink to open for the season

Dufferin Rink was rebuilt in 1993, so this will be its twenty-first season since the new compressors were put in. Something to celebrate!

The short days that can make late fall pretty dreary are exactly the right recipe for making good, early ice at rinks like ours, that have cooling pipes under the cement. Most compressor-cooled outdoor rinks in New York City (same climate as Toronto) have been open since the end of October. Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink is set to open on November 15. Fourteen City of Toronto outdoor compressor-cooled rinks are not scheduled to open until a week after that, on November 22. The other 36 are supposed to open yet another week later, November 29.

Every November the city’s rink web page says that staff will “make every effort to open these rinks as scheduled.” We hope they’ll do that this year. Advice to the city: in order to make ice, the cement rink surfaces have to cleaned one week beforehand, then the compressors have to be started up. Water has to be put on the cooled rink cement at least four days before the scheduled opening. The water must be put on overnight, to avoid sunshine at the very beginning. If these basic rules are neglected, as they often have been in the past 15 years, staff cannot be seen to have “made every effort.” If the basic ice-making rules are followed, the rink fun can start on time. For the most up-to-date rink information citywide: http://cityrinks.ca.

Dufferin Rink schedule, Nov.22, 2014 to February 28, 2015

More Info: dufferinpark@gmail.com

Pleasure Skating:  Monday – Saturday, 9:00am - 9:00pm The pleasure pad is open for unsupervised shinny after the last ice maintenance of the evening. Sunday 9:00am - 9pm, skate in the round on both ice pads until 5.00pm

Shinny hockey:
Monday, Thursday, Friday before 9 p.m.:
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT/Program 9:00pm-11pm

Tuesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
Women’s Drop-in Shinny 9:00pm-11:00pm

Wednesday
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT 9:00pm-10:00pm
Adult Beginner Drop-in 10:00pm-11:00pm

Saturday
All Ages 9:00am-11:45am
Level 1 12:00pm-1:45pm
9 & under 1:45pm-2:45pm
Level 2 3:00pm-5:15pm
All Ages 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:00pm-8:55pm
Youth Saturday-Night Shinny Program 9:00pm-11:00pm
Sunday
On the hockey pad:
5-6:30pm - Family Shinny Program (booking with staff)
6:30-8pm - Neighbourhood Youth Shinny Program (booking with staff)
8-9:30pm - Permit
9:30pm-11:00pm Adult Beginner drop-in program (by registration)

Beginners’ shinny:
Drop-in: Wednesdays 10 to 11 pm. All beginners welcome but there’s a cap of thirty skaters.
Registered: Sundays 9.30 to 11 pm. Brief lesson followed by a game.
Nearby rinks: Campbell Rink, Mondays 8.30 to 10, intermediate, skills and drills (drop-in) Wallace Rink: drop-in Adult beginner, Thursdays, 8:30pm-10:00pm (registered)

GENERAL RINK INFORMATION

Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm
Skate/stick/gloves loans ($1 to $2 suggested donation): Monday to Sunday 9 am to 8 pm
Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. From rink staff: “If you ever see the wrong age group on the shinny ice, do us a favour and notify the rink staff right away.”

Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's a bit like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

The large rink lights turn off after 11:00pm, and then the rink is locked.

Parking: One good place to park is at Dufferin Mall across the street. After 5 pm. there’s lots of parking across from St.Mary’s School at the north end of the park too.

Rink contacts: 416 392-0913 or dufferinpark@gmail.com. The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions.

In the event of snow, if rink users help staff in clearing the ice, the rink opens faster. There are lots of shovels, or bring yours from home.

CITYRINKS.CA WEBSITE

This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 50+ municipal outdoor ice rinks, plus Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink. The site has maps, hours, schedules, phone numbers, ratings, and stormy-weather updates. It also has blogs about the individual rinks, with contributions from skaters.

BASIC RINK LITERACY

Toronto has many more compressor-cooled outdoor ice rinks than any other city in the world – over 50, most of them owned by the municipality. But our civic knowledge of the physics of ice maintenance hasn’t kept pace with our collective rink wealth. Many people seem to find it amazing, even shocking, that these outdoor rinks can run at temperatures as high as 15 celsius.

What’s the surprise? The outdoor rinks have between one and three powerful compressors, depending on the rink size – you can hear their noise through the compressor-room doors at the side of the rink houses. These compressors push a brine (salt-water) solution through pipes that pass through a big tank of freezing-cold ammonia, and then out into the extensive grid of PVC pipes underneath the concrete floor of the rink. This cold liquid brings the entire big concrete slab to well below freezing, so that any water that’s put on the rink pads turns to ice. The brine liquid, warming up a bit as it gives its cold to the rink slab, circulates back into a large pipe in the “header trench” right next to the building (underneath where everybody stands when the zamboni is doing ice maintenance). From there the brine gets pushed back into the compressor room, where it passes through the freezing-cold ammonia tank to cool right down again, and then gets pushed back out into the pipes under the concrete, and so on, round and round.

The only serious match for this powerful cooling system is the sun. But in the months before and after the December 21 winter solstice, the sun is very weak because it doesn’t get to spend very much time above the horizon. That suits the cooling system just fine.

The sun begins to gain real power toward the end of February, as it rises higher in the sky. If there’s a sunny day on, let’s say, February 25, even though the air temperature might be minus 8, the ice gets mushy near the reflective boards, and even a bit soft in the middle. The cooling system is losing ground (well, ice) as the sun prepares to bring on spring and summer. But on the low-angle-sun days of November, December, or January, even if it’s mild out, the shinny hockey and pleasure-skating at Toronto’s compressor-cooled ice rinks is brilliant.


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