Work is underway to open the two outdoor rinks in Hay River, and this year there will be a major change.
The former outdoor rink in Old Town is being abandoned in favour of a new larger rink being set up nearby, although with no boards for this winter.
“What we’ve done is we’ve moved over to where the old ball diamond used to be and we’ve done just snowbanks for boards this year, but it’s a really big rink,” said Stephane Millette, the recreation director with the Town of Hay River. “I think it could end up being over 100 feet by about 80 feet.”
Millette said that’s an impressive size for the outdoor rink, which is in the area of what is now a playground.
“I think people are going to like the size of it and the fact that the shelter is directly on the ice and it’s blocking the north wind,” he said. “I think it’s a good setup and I think people are going to enjoy that new site.”
Unlike the existing rink in 553, the new rink in Old Town will not have lighting this year.
Millette noted the former rink in Old Town, which measured about 90 feet by 45 feet, was starting to get run down, noting the boards were in rough shape.
The Town of Hay River is applying for funding from the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program for what would be a $300,000 project in 2021 to revitalize the Old Town playground, including developing the new outdoor rink.
“For the most part, it would be the outdoor rink, expanding the playground, trying to get a permanent structure there, some additional recreational opportunities and other things that we’re exploring right now,” said Millette.
The recreation director said the new outdoor rink in Old Town should be ready for use around Christmas.
The other outdoor rink in the community – the Ray Benoit Rink in 553 – is expected to be open sooner, most likely this week.
“Work has started,” said Millette last week. “It’s been ongoing for a few weeks here between snow removal and trying to get floods in as often we can. It’s always weather dependent, and recently we’ve had intermittent snow. So that always slows things down there because you can’t flood if there’s snow in the forecast or if it’s currently snowing.”
Millette explained that the 553 rink is always ready a bit earlier than the one in Old Town because it is easier for town workers to get there in between their normal tasks at the Community Centre.
“So it’s harder to get out to Old Town,” he said. “That’s just the reality, because they have to drive the tractor all the way out there. And if we’re doing proper floods, we have to get the Zamboni all the way out there, which just takes more time. That’s a reality. So the Ray Benoit Rink gets prepared earlier and then the Old Town rink is always a couple of weeks behind.”
Most of the flooding of the ice is done by Keith’s Water Service, but occasionally it is done by the Zamboni from the arena, meaning the ice-resurfacing machine has been driven all the way to Old Town in the past.
The Ray Benoit Rink, which measures about 130 feet by 60 feet, is also in need of some repairs to the boards and asphalt slab in the next few years.
Millette noted the Town of Hay River’s recreation department opens the outdoor rinks to offer healthy and safe activities to members of the public, including those interested in skating or playing hockey.