Chatham-Kent desires extra outside ice rinks, as council explores volunteer-run pads

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Chatham-Kent doesn’t have a permanent, covered outdoor skating structure like the City of Windsor, but the community is hoping volunteers will be interested in building at least six ice rinks in public parks.

A report will be presented to Council on Monday evening, recommending that the costs of implementing the ice rinks be included in the 2024 budget process.

Parks and community recreation manager Ian Clark says volunteer groups are being trained to ensure they make and maintain the ice surface safely.

“Providing this type of community resource would likely limit us dramatically to maybe one location and so we thought this model would allow for the development of multiple parks across Chatham-Kent where the need might exist,” he said.

Chatham-Kent already has 10 arenas for indoor skating, but Clark says the public has been moving towards more outdoor activities since the pandemic hit.

But in southwestern Ontario, the weather can be challenging with outdoor ice rinks, Clark says.

“Last year we actually had a great outdoor skating season, but then there are many winters where we have that dreaded freeze-thaw cycle that would require a far more labor-intensive effort to ensure the rink surface remains skateable,” he said .

Clark says the voluntary model would help with that unpredictability because they could choose not to maintain the rinks if the weather wasn’t cooperating.

Clark says he hopes some of these rinks could be available next winter.

The only outdoor ice rink in Windsor-Essex

Many Windsorites enjoyed skating in Windsor’s Charles Park Square, but this summer the city announced it was closing the pad for good.

The city says the ice machines are no longer functional and is planning a new outdoor ice skating rink as part of a new project for City Hall Square and Civic Promenade, which is expected to open next December.

This leaves the Lanspeary Lions outdoor rink as the only rink to be found in the city this winter season. Free ice skates are available Monday to Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. weather permitting