Sens, Watson open Rink of Dreams

Mild weather may have caused the Rideau Canal to shut down this week, but it didn’t stop the city from opening its new $2.1-million refrigerated Rink of Dreams.

Standing with officials from the Sens Foundation and the Hockey Canada Foundation, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson opened the rink to the public Wednesday evening, just hours before the NHL all-stars were expected to touch down in the city.

“It’s finally here and we’re so delighted,” Watson said. “Most often people come to city hall to pay a parking ticket, but now they have a reason to skate at the beautiful Rink of Dreams.” Young skaters, volunteers, city councillors, and members of the Ottawa Senators organization crowded onto the 12,500 square-foot outdoor ice surface outside city hall to participate in an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The city contributed $250,000 to build the rink, and will spend $200,000 annually to maintain it. The Sens Foundation covered the rest of the approximately $2 million construction budget, which increased from $1.25 million when workers faced unexpected delays after beginning construction last October.

“Giving back, investing, and creating new resources in this region is something that we care very much about,” said Danielle Robinson, president of the Sens Foundation.

Robinson said the Sens Foundation plans to build 19 more non-refrigerated outdoor rinks in needy neighbourhoods around eastern Ontario and western Quebec to mark its 20 year anniversary. Each new rink will cost $200,000, and the foundation plans to build one at Jules Morin Park in Lowertown by the end of this year.

Although no major events are scheduled on the ice surface – which is about three quarters the size of a regular NHL rink – it will host family skating and team mascot festivities during the All-Star Game weekend.

Located on Laurier Avenue, the artificial ice surface features an underground refrigeration unit that allows people to skate on it even when temperatures reach 10 C.

“It will be a city-wide asset that will help revitalize our downtown core,” Watson said. “It will offer predictable and reliable skating for both children and adults from November to March, completely free.”

Mayor Watson says in the summer months, the ice surface will be converted into festival space.

“The Rink of Dreams will be a fantastic legacy project that truly was built by the community, for the community,” said Cyril Leeder, president of Senators Sports and Entertainment. “I know I look forward to skating on this rink, my children will skate on this rink, and hopefully my grandchildren will have an opportunity to skate on this rink one day. I want the community to enjoy this.”

Others in attendance for the ceremony included Senators general manager Brian Murray, Senators head coach Paul MacLean, Senators players Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, Hockey Canada Foundation Vice-Chair Claude Allain, and various city councillors including Somerset Ward Coun. Diane Holmes.