Council ponders future of outdoor ice rink in Drayton

DRAYTON – Mapleton council discussed the future of the outdoor hockey rink on the PMD arena grounds on July 12.

Councillor Michael Martin raised the topic, noting the rink was created during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to offer people an outdoor recreation option.

“It seems to have morphed you know, lights going up now, more investments in the rink … I’m sure a concrete pad or something else will come in the near future, or be proposed,” said Martin.

“Is further investment in an outdoor rink something that we want?”

Martin suggested opening up the arena ice surface for free skating during off-peak times could be an alternative.

“If we’re paying people to maintain it, I just wonder if that’s something we should have a discussion about … if that’s something, moving forward, that’s in our long-term plans to have an outdoor rink?: he asked.

“I know it’s well used at times, that there are members of the public that certainly enjoy it. But maybe they get that same enjoyment on the indoor rink when it’s not being utilized?”

“Are you worried about the cost of this rink getting out of hand?” asked Mayor Gregg Davidson.

Martin replied, “I don’t think we’ve ever really had full costing of what this outdoor rink costs the community.

“When we have an indoor rink, 100 feet away, that’s not always being utilized … if we’re going to keep putting extra resources and money into an outdoor rink, I just wonder if it wouldn’t be a conversation to be had?”

Public works director Sam Mattina said it cost about $6,000 to set up the rink.

“It’s a one-time cost, because the materials are in … We’ve got some lighting costs now, but pretty well for the future, we’ll be just creating the ice and just keeping it usable. But all the structural costs are in,” he explained.

“The staff are already in place at the arena … There’s no extra costs for staffing to do to do the outdoor rink.”

Mattina added, “We do have incidental snow removal costs that that are in addition to normal costs.

“But I would say, if you’re going to weigh that against the popularity of the rink, they’re minimal.”

Davidson noted the outdoor rink is available for use when other events are held on the indoor ice surface.

“The outdoor rink is always available,” he pointed out.

Councillor Marlene Ottens said, “I do think that a community the size of Drayton warrants having an outdoor rink, if Moorefield and Alma can have one for their much smaller populations.

“I think now with more COVID restrictions gone next winter, the indoor surface will probably be booked even more. So then that gives the people who aren’t on the indoor ice an opportunity to skate.”

Ottens also noted, “lighting seems a good idea because it does get dark so early in the winter.”

Martin pointed out the difference between outdoor rinks in Drayton, Alma and Moorefield is that volunteers from local service clubs run the latter two.

“In Drayton, we pay for it, right? Whether people are being paid anyway or not, the allocation should go to, it cost this amount of money to maintain the rink,” he stated.

Ottens suggested the township could consider asking a Drayton service club to assist with maintenance of the facility in that community.

“I think we have to be careful with how much money we spend on it right now because of what’s coming down the road,” said councillor Dennis Craven.

“And we’re also asking people to pay for [a new] water tower and raising the water rates. So we have to be a little bit careful about how much we ask people for money.”

Davidson pointed out, “It doesn’t look like there’s going to be any more future costs. The lights are already in place and the gravel is in place and it’s just a matter of reducing or removing snow sometimes if we get a heavy snowfall.”

He added, “I don’t think we should go doing concrete pads and boards and getting any further along than we are right now … My suggestion would be continue on with what we have.”

Davidson asked if some scheduling and organized activities should be considered for the outdoor rink to avoid conflicts between users – for example people wanting to play hockey on it while others are skating.

Recreation manager Amy Grose said the township “could look at doing some fun days, getting some activities and events going on out there.

“But to have something consistently competing with what’s happening with the indoor rink might not work out so well.”