OLDS — Council is considering creating two publicly accessible outdoor rinks.
That proposal is expected to come up for further discussion when council debates the level of service the town is prepared to provide for residents.
Several councillors suggested locating one in the north end of town and another in the south.
Mayor Mike Muzychka suggested one could be built in Centennial Park.
The idea for the public outdoor rinks came up when council considered how backyard outdoor rinks should be regulated. Some councillors said COVID-19 restrictions highlighted the need for publicly accessible outdoor rinks.
“We need outdoor rinks. COVID certainly proved that," Coun. Debbie Bennett said. "Most communities have at least one rink that is maintained and has lights. Probably a question for service level.”
Muzychka said he “very much” agreed with Bennett.
“It’s probably high time that we provide that service on a regular basis, and everybody can count on it, knowing year to year what we’re going to do, so it’s definitely a service level and a budgetary thing we need to discuss,” Muzychka said.
“We appreciate the fire department springing into action last year with COVID and everything and putting down temporary things, but we should maybe look at proper lighting, proper boards, things like that.”
“I think if the residents of Olds could count on one or two town-funded outdoor public rinks, then it may alleviate a bit of (these) backdoor rinks,” he added.
“Maybe people won’t feel it’s hugely necessary in their back yard and disturbing the neighbours.”
The advantage of locating a rink in Centennial Park is that nearby residents are already accustomed to some noise from children who play there, especially in the summer, he said.
Acting operations director Doug Wagstaff warned that currently the level of service the town provides only includes lights in the park to provide “reference points” along pathways – not lighting skating rinks.
"I understand what you’re saying. But I think it’s high time, it’s 2021, that we discuss this,” Bennett said.
“Of course it’s service level review and budgetary item, but when most communities have lighting and sometimes attended outdoor rinks for use, we are behind the times. We need to get up to speed.”
Coun. Mary Jane Harper liked the idea of publicly accessible outdoor rinks too, but didn’t think they necessarily had to be lit.
“Kids use it in the dark,” Harper said.
Coun. Mary Anne Overwater said it’s “very important” to provide public outdoor rinks.
“We found out that everybody likes to have outdoor those rinks,” Overwater said. “We want kids outside playing."
Due to COVID restrictions, youth spent a lot of time "moving their fingers” as they studied online instead of in classrooms, she said.
“Their fingers are in very good shape,” she said. “That’s what’s in shape with a lot of kids.”
Chief administrative officer Michael Merritt said town officials can bring to council a “business case” on what it would cost to create and maintain outdoor rinks.
That could cover the cost for one such rink “and then you can extrapolate that by the number," he said.