Taking a page from Montreal, Toronto has relaxed requirements for accessing its privately run skating rinks, letting open-air public skating in the winter months.
Starting mid-October, the city has eliminated limits for the size of skates or on skates, and for lengths of exercise times from 30 to 45 minutes.
The relaxation of regulations is in response to recent weather conditions that have caused a favourable environment for playing hockey and skating.
Transport Canada defines skates as “individual skate controls, wearing good quality skates” – described as “masks on toe blades, effective poles with grip, and skates at least 49cm wide”.
The city will also be allowing anyone without a locker to use the facilities. “Without the use of a locker, skating rental rates will be reduced to $6,” reads the city’s website.
On Friday, the city said it will continue to operate a “Rent and Play” system, which offers free ice time to people with connections to the city’s skating rinks.
“While many people would like to stay outdoors at all times, it’s necessary to ensure we have a working network of skating rinks,” reads a statement on the city’s website.
Trained ice-rink staff will be on hand to ensure that no one goes on the rinks who is not entitled to do so. The city is also requiring rink owners to limit overnight hours to 9pm until 6am, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and to close one rink for all of January.
In previous seasons, the temperature at the rink has dipped as low as 5.8F. There is a tradition of jogs through the snow, ice breakers and flipping the rink over, especially after a snowstorm.
Prokopchuk parks, a rink complex with nine outdoor skating rinks, operates out of the Charlottetown Mall. The public place also has a store, tennis courts, a “skate shop”, full service cafe and a skateboard park. Park officials confirmed that approximately 7,000 people use the facility every day.
“We’re quite competitive with the other rinks,” says Mike Bezarski, public information officer for Prokopchuk parks.
Bezarski says they are looking forward to a winter season full of fun and friendly competition.
“People get anxious during the winter because they’re sick of being outside,” says Bezarski. “They don’t think they can handle it anymore. But if you encourage them to come, you’ll see they become super confident and you might even start thinking you’re better than them.”
The Toronto Canada charity organization Focus on the Family has partnered with Prokopchuk and hopes that the change will create fun and safer opportunities for individuals to skate and ride their bicycles during the winter.
“The rule change will give more people access to the rink and at least offer some sort of recreation option on hot nights or after the sun goes down,” said Debbie Wheelan of Focus on the Family.
Ontario’s Toronto Island also offers seasonal programming for adult skaters and their bikes. The non-profit organization Cycling by 4 uses the site as its major hub. Summer hours include 40 or 60 minute social skates at the Ferry Pickard Beach Area from 2-6pm, beginning on December 1. Skating and bike rental are free. On December 21-22, Bike by 4 will host a ride from Glendale Park to Gateway Beach, and another ride from Gateway Beach to Basin Street will run from 1-4pm. The rides will cost $15 per person.
Wheelan said they are excited to see the changes. “We’ve all had meltdowns this winter. People are freaking out about the ice in the park and lack of visibility.”