Torontonians will be able to enjoy another 11 outdoor rinks through the middle of next month after a pair of corporate sponsors stepped forward to fund their upkeep.
The city was planning to keep only 17 of its 51 rinks open and had not budgeted for more because of warm late-winter weather in recent years. With assistance from Scotiabank and Canadian Tire, that number will rise to 28.
"On the March break kids want to play, families want to go skating," said Mayor Rob Ford, who came to the rink in a frigid Trinity-Bellwoods park for the announcement. "I played hockey for years and years and years, my kids skate every single Sunday. When I can get out there, I still try to skate with them. It's that Canadian feeling for going out skating."
The $270,000 donation is split equally between the two firms.
The decision to open more rinks follows pressure from the public and councillors who expressed dismay that most were shut last weekend. Councillor Paula Fletcher will ask the park's committee on Monday to change the city's rink schedule so that it is linked to weather conditions rather than a specific date on the calendar. Under her proposal, the city would create a contingency fund for the money it saved when rinks close early in mild years to fund keeping them open longer when the weather is cold, such as this year.
"It's been such a long winter, it doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime," said Susan O'Brien, VP of marketing with Canadian Tire. "And we thought, you know what, you've got to make winter bearable. What if we did something to help that and that's how it came about."
Richard Ubbens, the city's acting general manager of parks forestry and recreation, said that the additional rinks will be scattered through the city. He listed Alexandra Park/Harry Gairey, Giovanni Caboto, High Park, Humber Valley Rink, Otter Creek Centre, Ramsden, Riverdale Park East, Regent Park North, Sir Adam Beck Rink, Trinity Bellwoods Park and Westway Outdoor Rink as the ones that will now also stay open through March 16.
"The rinks that we're picking are the one that have lights, that have the bigger compressors, the machines that can keep the ice going even though the sun gets very warm during the daytime," he said. "Also, we try to spread it around, based on usage, you know where we've got usage and where we don't have other rinks that are open. And, lastly, we work together with our sponsors."
With files from Elizabeth Church