Old skate park repurposed into outdoor skating rink
By Sue Tiffin
Published Dec. 24, 2018
About a year ago, Steve Roberts, then president of the Rotary Club of Haliburton, and Walt McKechnie, Dysart et al’s Ward 5 councillor, had the same idea at the same time: repurposing the leftover cement pad at the old skate park by converting it into an outdoor skate pad and ice rink.
This week, that idea moved closer to reality when, through the collective effort of the Rotary Club and the township, rink sideboards were installed at the old skate park, located on Maple Avenue near the library.
“It was my idea through Rotary and Walt’s idea through council, and we all came together to make the project happen,” said Steve.
Steve said he thought of the idea when wondering what to do with the cement pad that was left when the old skate park was replaced by the Haliburton Junction Skate Park, located near the A.J. LaRue arena, a project that Rotary contributed $25,000 toward. In the winter, the rink can be used for skating or hockey, and in the warmer months, it can be used for ball hockey, with Steve noting the possibility could be there for basketball or lacrosse use as well. Municipal staff might also develop programming that can include the rink in more formal opportunities for play.
“I knew the space was there, and I grew up playing pond hockey and street hockey,” said Steve. “This would be another space in the town for the youth to use.”
Walt, who played for almost two decades in the NHL, said outdoor rinks help kids develop skills.
“When I was a kid, I always played on an outdoor rink,” he said. “We always had a place to play, whether it was two or 10 or 20 kids, we made it work.”
Sourcing the boards to put the rink together resulted in discussion about options available, whether the set-up should be wooden or metal. Ultimately, the option of a galvanized steel set was chosen.
“We wanted it to be available for use year-round,” said Steve. “That’s why we decided to go with the steel [set]. A wooden frame would only last about 15 years and then would have to be replaced. This is a long-term [solution].”
While sourcing materials to build the rink, Steve found a deal on a set of slightly used arena boards that had been used at home by a man in Burlington, reducing the cost from about $40,000 for a new product to $15,000.
“This is a good product,” said Steve. “The steel frame will last forever, you can’t go wrong buying slightly used boards that will last for about 20 years, maybe longer.”
“Steve did a great job in tracking down the gentleman that wanted to sell it,” said Walt. “It sure fits the bill for us.”
“It’s a very unusual thing to purchase,” said Mayor Andrea Roberts, who is married to Steve. “It’s not like finding a used car on Kijiji. And it was the right size.”
Andrea said the outdoor skating rink fit with what the municipality needs.
“Rotary has just been phenomenal,” she said, noting some of the other projects that Rotary Club of Haliburton had partnered with the township on in the past, including the town docks and the bandshell. After the Rotary Club’s $12,000 contribution, Dysart et al paid for the remaining third of the outdoor rink project, about $5,000.
“It’s just so good for our youth, to get them all outside, playing a good ol’ game of hockey,” said McKechnie.
Due to mild weather, it’s likely the ice itself won’t be available for use until after Christmas Day, but the boards were completely installed in one day last week. Municipal staff will flood the rink as soon as possible and will maintain it through the season, although shovels will be on hand for kids or residents to help clear the ice, which Walt said he and his friends did back in the day.
“I think it’ll all work,” he said. “We all used to do it, we were all called rink rats.”
The municipality’s parks and rec staff will be adding netting to the rink to protect traffic from stray pucks and balls and possibly benches so skaters can have a place to sit and tie up their skates. Additionally, Steve and Walt discussed the future possibility of adding lighting to the area for nighttime use, and an overhead roof cover, similar to what the outdoor rink in Buckhorn has.
The entire project totalled $17,000 plus tax.