By Barrett Limoges
Bundled in coats and braving the frosty morning air, demonstrators gathered in front of Halifax City Hall on Tuesday before council’s vote to make the skating oval permanent.
Many demonstrators carried pairs of skates, and one woman carried a banner which read “Save the Oval.”
The demonstration was organized by the Save the Oval committee, which sent out emails to supporters the day before the event.
John Gillis, one of the key organizers, was very optimistic about the oval’s prospects in the hours leading up to the vote.
“I am very hopeful that (council) will see this as the ultimate no-brainer,” he says. “We have been hearing that a lot of (councillors) are supportive.”
Gillis also advocates converting the Halifax Commons skating oval into multi-use site, accessible for a variety of outdoor activities.
“It’s amazing to see thousands in the winter, so why not thousands in the summer?” he says. “We want to make this a year-round recreational facility.”
Gillis explains that people could in-line skate, walk or bike on the concrete track during the summer, while the middle of the oval could be turfed for sports like volleyball or soccer.
Demonstrators ranged in age and skating ability, all with the belief that the oval is a valuable asset to the community.
Halifax resident Sheila McGinn says that she went skating on the oval almost every day this winter.
“I thought it was an absolutely magical experience for Halifax this year, that we had the oval and that so many people had the opportunity to come out,” says McGinn.
Many demonstrators acknowledged the financial donations of about $1 million from individuals, organizations and businesses. Liz Pace showed up to the demonstration as a part of the World Figure Skating Legacy Fund, which has donated $100,000 to the project.
“Our purpose was really to get the ball rolling,” says Pace. “We figured that… the corporate community would step up and we are delighted that they have. So that is outstanding.”
Later that afternoon, Halifax city council gave the demonstrators what they had been asking for. After four hours of debate on the subject, council approved the permanent operation of the skating oval.
Listen to John Gillis, the demonstration organizer, explain why he thinks the oval will benefit Halifax: Oval