Weather permitting, the Emera Oval skating rink on the Halifax Common will be open to the public by Dec. 15, nearly two weeks earlier than it did last year.
“We really feel we’re going to be on track for (Dec) 15; the ice is looking great,” said Rhonda Dea, co-ordinator for aquatic and leisure services with the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Last year, the oval didn’t open until Dec. 23 and in previous years it was as late as a few days before New Year’s Eve.
The oval closed its summer skating track, which is open from May to October, on Oct. 30. Staff started making the ice last Thursday.
Dea said they need a month to transition from the summer season to winter season to bring in new equipment, swap out the roller skates for winter skates and set up the mats and vendor stations.
Dea hopes to see 130,000 skaters use the ice this year. This target was almost reached last year, but due to unexpectedly warm weather in February the rink closed earlier than expected.
“If we open early this year, which is Dec. 15, I’m sure we’ll hit that target no problem at all,” she said.
Josh Baxendale works for Nustadia Recreation, the company that looks after the rink in the winter. He’s been working at the Oval for the five years it’s been open.
To prepare for the rink, the track has to be cleaned, the chilling system has to be turned on and a quarter inch of water starts the foundation. Sensors are then put in the base lines and a water truck is brought in to start thickening the ice.
Baxendale said once the ice is 2.5 to three inches thick, it’s good enough for skating.
“Hopefully we’ll almost have it ready to run by (Dec.) 10 or 12,” he said. “It completely depends on the weather.”
Skating at the Emera Oval is free to the public. People can rent figure or hockey skates, skating aids and attend skating lessons, which are offered Saturday mornings.
“It’s not just one age group that’s accessing it,” Dea said. “It’s multigenerational.”
If the weather co-operates, the rink will stay open until March Break.