An artificial ice rink in Dufferin Grove Park is slated to be updated and replaced despite an outcry from local residents who say they need the outdoor public space now more than ever this winter.
The city says it has consulted the community, done an assessment on the condition of the rink and completed the tender process for the renovation work. It has yet to award a contract but says Dufferin Grove Park artificial ice rink will not be open for use this winter.
"In order to maintain this facility in a state of good condition, the rink and equipment must be replaced imminently," the city said in an email to CBC Toronto this week.
"A condition assessment of the rink itself was completed, and indicated that since it is at the end of its 25-year life cycle, there is a realistic chance of equipment failure."
Ian Merringer, a resident who lives near the park, said the timing could not be worse, given that the city is in the middle of a pandemic, and residents don't believe the rink is in a state of disrepair.
Merringer said he has been taking his family to the rink for the past 12 years. The rink has two pads, one usually used for pleasure skating, with the other usually used for shinny, and the frozen surfaces are some of the busiest in the city.
"This has been the heart of the community every winter," Merringer said.
"Where are people going to go to have the release, the escape that they need, or the exercise, or just the bare social interaction?"
In an email, Merringer said: "Skaters come from all over the west end to glide across the ice, night and day. There is an innovative skate rental system and an always open café. Any night of the winter you can see neighbourhood kids whizzing around, new skaters trying to keep their feet from flying out from under them and hockey players on the shinny rink dividing up sticks to start new games."
According to Merringer, residents were told that construction was supposed to start soon after last year's skating season. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that work didn't get underway.
Merringer said he thinks it makes more sense to wait until next spring to start the rebuild.
"There's nothing to say that it couldn't serve this community for another three, maybe four months."
He said dozens of residents have written letters to the city, asking for a stay of demolition of a few months so the skating pads could be a place people can exercise and socialize during a winter when options for doing either inside will likely be limited due to the pandemic.
According to the city, if work on the rink replacement begins this year, the work will be completed before the 2021-2022 skating season. But if the work is delayed until March 2021, the rink will not be completed in time for it to open for next year's season.
The city said staff will create and maintain a natural ice rink at the location beginning in January, weather permitting.
Coun. Ana Bailao, who represents Ward 9-Davenport, said there is no question that the rink needs to be replaced.
"There's two reports that say that rink shouldn't even be operational anymore," she said.
Bailao said she has pushed her staff to examine every option, but at the end of the day, there are just too many safety risks to reopen the rink.
"There are professionals here at the city that are engineers, that review those reports, I am not an engineer, I have to rely on the information and the safety parameters and concerns that staff put in front of us," she said.
Merringer, however, has said he has also read those reports and doesn't believe the safety risk is as great as the city is suggesting.
"The health risk is having this closed, not having it open."
WATCH | CBC's Greg Ross reports on Dufferin Grove Park artificial ice rink: