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Background: Ward 18 Conservancy
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·2· Public Rinks Conservancy

04-Jan-2012 by Belinda Cole [881]

What is it?

  • A new way of managing Toronto’s outdoor public rinks and making them work better.
  • A co-operative stewardship arrangement between local rink users and City staff.
  • A [model/case study for making city public facilities can work well for city residents at the lowest possible cost]

Why the issue matters*

  • Toronto’s public rinks are a wonderful resource. We have 51 outdoor compressor-cooled rinks – the largest number of any city in the world.
  • However, there are service and management issues, such as:
    • Shortened rink season because of late openings;
    • Facilities have been locked during the season, and closed on holidays;
    • A lack of communication to the public about the existence of rinks and rink schedules;
    • Narrow job descriptions leading to inefficient staffing practices; and
    • A lack of transparency in the City’s rink budgets.

Has this ever been done before?

  • Yes. In 1980, when New York City's Central Park had fallen on hard times, the "Central Park Conservancy" was created. This organization partnered with New York's municipal bureaucracy to provide the stewardship that led to Central Park's renaissance. A formal partnership remains in effect today.
  • In Toronto, volunteers and City staff at Dufferin Rink have implemented small, inexpensive changes that have transformed the rink into a community gathering place. Food is available. Skate lending and outreach programs to schools and newcomers have made the rink accessible to a larger number of users. Similar changes at two other Ward 18 rinks, Wallace Rink and Campbell Rink, have led to similarly positive results.
  • There are eight indoor ice arenas in Toronto operated by a Board of Management. These Boards are composed of user groups, local Councillors, and City staff. According to a framework agreement, the Boards are responsible for day-to-day arena operation, with major matters requiring the approval of City Council.

What needs to be done

  • Bring together stakeholders (rink users, City staff, unions, local residents) to address concerns, identify common ground, and suggest solutions.
  • Start with a pilot study – implement a co-operative governance arrangement at a small number of rinks. Adopt the Arena Board of Management model to the outdoor ice rink context. Implement a common governance model that can accommodate local differences between rinks.
  • Provide City support for the pilot study – adoption of Pilot Study Terms of Reference by the relevant Committees.