By Ashley Corbett
Families flocked to the Emera Oval this week to get in one last skate before the season ends this Sunday.
The skating rink has been open four seasons now. The oval is Halifax’s only outdoor skating rink, and has hosted approximately 123,000 visitors according to one of its staff members.
“This puts a lot of demand on us,” says Lisa Doyle, acting community recreation coordinator for the oval. “But the public are so great. They are always understanding when we have to close due to weather, so it’s challenging but it’s such a great facility.”
The oval has a collection of more than 900 skates, including figure skates, hockey skates and speedskates. All of the figure and hockey skates have been donated. The speedskates belong to the Halifax Regional Speed Skating Club, but they allow the rink to rent them out during public skate sessions.
Weather is a factor
Doyle says that maintaining suitable ice conditions has been difficult this season.
“Safety is the first component we have to think of, so we can’t open [with] bad ice conditions.”
Doyle adds that this winter’s fluctuating weather has not helped.
“It’s been one extreme to the other, so that’s been very challenging this winter.”
Programs at no cost
The Emera Oval is a city recreation facility that provides their service free of charge. Anyone can use the rink and rent skates for free during public skate times, as long as they provide photo identification.
The oval provides many different uses. Their two core services are offering the public skate, which takes place multiple times a day, and providing a space for the speed skating club to practice.
In addition, the oval offers a Learn to Skate program on most Saturday mornings.
School Skate is also popular. This is when school principles or teachers can schedule time to bring their students to the rink.
As a School Skate session begins and the excitement of eager children fills the air, catchy pop music blasts through the speakers. The benches beside the rink are bustling with people tying up their skates.
Doyle admits this is a bit of a hectic time. They have had up to 600 children on the ice at once.
“They absolutely have the time of their lives so it’s worth it,” she said. “It is utter chaos for an hour and a half but it is totally worth it to see their happy faces.”
The oval also hosts a number of speed skating races and sponsor events. This year, the oval put on an event during the Olympics called “The Oval Games” that included a snowball toss activity and sled relay.
Doyle says the oval will continue to offer all of their services again next season. As usual, the skating rink expects to reopen in December, as soon as weather permits.
Visit the HRM website for more information about the oval’s programs.