By ALLAN BOLSTAD, EFCL executive director
January 5, 2016 – About 15 community league representatives got to see a Zamboni in action and take home a wide range of tips at the EFCL’s Rink Operations Workshop, held at Killarney Community League this past December.
According to rink manager Terry Baumgartner, Killarney got a steal of a deal on a used machine, picking it up for $26,000 – far less than the $121,000 that NAIT just spent on a new model where he works. But like the machine at school, it is able to do a much better job of making ice than most rink workers can do with a hose. The simple reason is hot water freezes faster and makes for a much better seal, plus the machine is able to shave the bumps and lumps from the ice surface.
However, Terry was quick to point out the machine presents its own challenges. Not only does it require a storage shed with a good sized overhead door, but you need a removable section of rink boards in order to get the machine on and off the ice surface. It also needs to be serviced regularly (the blades need sharpening every 20 hours) and that generally means a trip to the dealer, as it is requires someone who knows what they are doing.
Zambonis are also quite limited in the amount of snow they can remove. At Killarney, Terry said he has to get out the snow blowers as soon as there is more than half an inch of the white stuff on the ground.
Pond hockey, skating parties and more
Guy Ambrosio from North Glenora described the pond hockey program that they ran last winter. Guy noted that his league bought 20 sets of equipment (sticks, skates, helmets and gloves) through a grant they obtained from Hockey Alberta. Once the equipment was in place, they lined up four coaches to provide basic hockey school lessons once a week for kids of all ages; last year saw 23 beginners put on hockey skates for the very first time. Each child was required to pay a fee of $50, which covered insurance and the registration fee charged by Hockey Alberta.
While on the topic of insurance, Barb Martowski from the EFCL told the group that their insurance policies would cover participants for any rink programs the league operated, but it would not for third party rental groups. Rinks are considered an extension of community halls and therefore renters need to provide their own event insurance. This not only protects the league, but also the third party event/program organizer.
This information came courtesy of Foster Park Brokers (the EFCL’s recommended supplier), who will be hosting a workshop at this year’s Leagues Alive Conference for Community Leagues on Feb. 6. Third party insurance policies, which can be obtained through Foster Park directly, will play a major topic in that workshop.
Ian Gray from Bonnie Doon Community League described how one family in their community started hosting informal rink parties each Sunday at the league facility. This soon evolved to where the parties were hosted by a different block of neighbourhood residents each week, with skating games, bonfires and other family activities. Donated equipment was made available to those that didn’t have any of their own and special invitations went to kids at the local Youth Emergency Shelter and area group homes.
Managing it all
Barb Busse from Britannia/Youngstown noted her league was also able to obtain a wide array of skates from Sports Central for all of those who didn’t have equipment, including children who just wanted to give skating a try. Her league also developed a $5 pass for any individual who wanted to use the rink for the season.
She, along with Killarney’s Greg Turner also talked to the group about staffing, volunteers and a number of other issues that crop up with operating a rink. This lead to a lively discussion with everyone in the room sharing their own experiences and tips to make it work.
Cost estimates to build and staff a rink ranged from $8,000 – $15,000, depending on the hours of operation. Many of the league reps said they generally paid $15-$20 per hour and kept the rink open each week night and all day Saturday and Sunday. For the most part, leagues generally closed their rink when it hit 17 or 18 below zero, although some went as low as 20 below.
It was a very successful night and the EFCL is looking forward to hosting more workshops like this, where leagues can learn from each other.