It may not be long before Oshawa has its own Nathan Phillips Square.
The ice sheet in Toronto has been a popular spot for skaters for years and there’s growing support for an outdoor ice rink in Oshawa, and Coun. Rosemary McConkey says she hopes it will be ready for Oshawa’s centennial celebration in 2024.
“My hope is to have it ready to go for Jan. 1, 2024,” says McConkey.
An outdoor rink was brought up in the first city council meeting of the year, with the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the lack of outdoor activities in Oshawa. Indoor rinks are currently closed as part of the province wide lockdown.
“As we’ve learned from COVID, more and more people are going to be looking for activities outdoors, because don’t know the predictability of another pandemic or this pandemic,” says Dan Carter, Oshawa mayor.
Winter seasons in Oshawa are increasingly unpredictable, with weather fluctuating a from highs of 5C to to lows of -16C in the last two weeks of January. Keeping a rink open from December until March means it will require refrigeration, according to Carter.
“The way that we used to do it, especially when I was a kid, putting the boards up, flooding it with a hose and off you go, it’s good for five months, is no longer realistic,” says Carter.
The pipes to keep the rink frozen would cost approximately $1 million, with seating, construction costs and lighting adding more to the budget, according to McConkey.
Carter is hopeful that they’ll be able to utilize provincial and federal grants to cover some of the cost, and McConkey says with the city’s Centennial Committee fundraising and possible sponsorships, it will be “financially feasible” for Oshawa.
While no location has been nailed down for the rink yet – and there won’t be until a report from the Centennial Committee comes back in the spring – Carter points to Rotary Park in the downtown core and the potential new Ed Broadbent Waterfront Park on the lake as potential places for skaters to get excited about.
“It has to be accessible for all of our residents and all of our citizens, it can’t be a barrier where only some get to use it. It has to be open for everybody,” says Carter.
The issue will be back in front of the city council sometime in April, May or June of this year, and it will require support from six members of the council to move forward as a project, but if residents want to continue to support the idea of an outdoor rink, McConkey and Carter both suggest writing into city council to have their voices heard.