Toronto residents have made more than 32,000 reservations for time slots at the city’s outdoor artificial ice rinks since the facilities opened on Saturday.
At a city hall news briefing, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the city has opened 49 of its artificial ice rinks for leisure skating. The free leisure skating is part of the city’s Welcome T.O. Winter parks plan launched by Mayor John Tory a week ago.
“Since the outdoor rinks opened on Saturday, more than 32,000 reservations have been managed via the online reservation system,” Pegg told reporters on Wednesday.
City spokesperson Brad Ross said the artificial ice rinks are enabling Toronto residents to get outside and enjoy skating in the fresh air while the city remains in the grey lockdown zone under provincial COVID-19 restrictions. He said the outdoor rinks opened only last weekend.
“The City has continued to find new and creative ways to help residents get fresh air and exercise throughout the pandemic,” he said.
“As colder weather arrives, more ice will become available. We have no reports of crowding at rinks at this time,” he added.
Up to 25 people are allowed per ice pad or rink at one time. Additional walk-on spaces are available for people who are unable to reserve online. People are allotted 45 minutes for a skate and reservations can be made on the city’s eFun website.
“People are using the online registration system as designed, but we have set aside some spots for those who show up without a reservation,” Ross said.
City staff are managing any lines that form at the rinks, he added.
Under the lockdown, all indoor recreational programming run by the city has been cancelled. That includes the city’s indoor pools, time slots for which were in high demand before the city entered the lockdown.
Lawvin Hadisi, spokesperson for Mayor John Tory, said the winter plan is providing safe outdoor recreational opportunities for residents during the pandemic and the outdoor artificial ice rinks are a major part of that plan.
“City staff have worked hard — with Mayor Tory’s support and encouragement —to provide safe winter recreation options during the pandemic,” she said.
“We have worked to make sure all the City’s outdoor artificial ice rinks will be open this year while complying with the provincial public health restrictions. We are working with community groups to help create natural ice rinks in many parks, and we have even brought back ice monitoring on Grenadier Pond to help support skating there.”
The plan, which enables people to get exercise outside while observing public health protocols, includes tobogganing on 23 hills across the city as well as snowshoeing and walking on trails at the city’s five golf courses.
In a news release last week, Tory said: “Torontonians made great use of the City’s parks and other recreation activities over the summer and we expect that interest to continue through the winter.
“While the public health advice has been clear — people need to stay home wherever possible —we do want to encourage people to safely get fresh air and exercise to maintain both their physical and mental health.”
Skaters at the city’s outdoor ice rinks are expected to maintain physical distancing from other skaters who are not members of their households. The city recommends that skaters wear masks or cloth face coverings on and off the ice. Masks are mandatory when people are waiting in line.
The rinks, open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., are weather dependent.