After a string of longer-than-normal winters, Toronto's parks committee has voted to extend the outdoor skating season at the majority of city rinks.
The decision, which still needs city council's approval, will mean the city will not have to scramble – as it did in the past two winters – to find corporate sponsors to keep the majority of its rinks open if winter weather lasts beyond February.
For the past few years, the City of Toronto has only had the funding to operate 17 of its 52 outdoor rinks beyond February, despite the cold season lasting well into March.
Monday's decision from the city's parks committee proposes spending $556,000 – half of which would go to a cold weather "contingency fund" – to keep 36 of the city's rinks open for an additional four weeks.
"I think a lot of us have worked a long time to have the rink season extended by the city, recognizing that thousands and thousands of Torontonians skate, and as long as it's cold, they can't understand why they can't get on the city rinks," said councillor Paula Fletcher, who has been active on the issue.
"This is a great initiative by staff. They've listened, and I'm very excited. I can't wait for a cold winter."
Ms. Fletcher referenced the past two winters, where the city had to turn to corporate sponsors, including Tim Horton's and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, in order to keep rinks open.
"We're always begging. We go cap-in-hand each year, saying 'it's cold, can someone give us some money?' I think that's a little embarrassing in a northern city with so many rinks that we have to operate," she said. "This fixes that. It says 'this is a city service, and let's just make sure we can do that.'"
Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, voiced his support for creating the contingency fund, saying it has been "frustrating" dealing with unpredictable weather year after year.
"I'm glad that it's under discussion now, in June or July, as opposed to it being a discussion in March, where suddenly everybody is suddenly flapping around trying to find an answer," he said.