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Canada Games Oval in Halifax, Nova Scotia Boosting Speedskating Interest

timv's picture

Good article about a long track ice oval in Nova Scotia that roadskater blogged about when it opened last month and its effect on local interest in speedskating:

Nova Scotia's speedskating community says the new long track speedskating oval on the Halifax Common is boosting local interest in the sport.

Close to 300 people took part in marathon speedskating races at the oval last weekend.

That piece doesn't recount the entire story of the track but drops a hints that it wasn't meant to be kept around forever:

She predicts the sport's popularity will grow even more if the city decides to keep the track.

"What happens in cities that have a speedskating oval is that you become a magnet for training for speedskaters," said McGinn.

A little bit of leg-work reveals that Halifax Common, an urban park in Nova Scotia, has been converted into a 400m track in order for the city to host the Canadian Masters Championships and the Canadian Winter Games. It's scheduled to be dismantled in March, but many local voices are asking the city to make it a permanent feature.

Good info from The Coast includes the fact that six refrigeration units are needed to maintain the frozen track, three of them bought by the city at a cost of $300,000 and the remaining three purchased by the Canada Games organizers.

On-going operating costs and benefits are also discussed:

Operating and maintaining the oval is pegged at $110,000 per season, and something like 150,000 person-days will be spent at the oval this winter---less than $1 per visit. Compare that to one-day megaconcert events that brought maybe 10,000 people to the Common, costing the city $100,000 per concert, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in hidden provincial costs ($600,000 for Paul McCartney) plus the disruption of the Common for weeks at a time---all for the private profit of one promoter who closed down shop owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to local businesses.

And the intangible benefits of the oval are immense: the health benefits alone probably pay for themselves; people are happily, excitedly coming downtown for fun; winter has suddenly lost some the perpetual gloom that hangs over this town; and the Common has been reclaimed at night---it is now a safe destination as hundreds of people become the eyes and ears of shared community.

I found a lot of YouTube videos of skaters enjoying the oval. I'll link to one of them. Follow the suggestion video links to see a whole bunch more.



eebee's picture

Very Nice!

Wouldn't it be great if all recreational skating 'rinks' were that size! I hope they decide to keep that oval. 

"And the intangible benefits of the oval are immense: the health benefits alone probably pay for themselves; people are happily, excitedly coming downtown for fun; winter has suddenly lost some the perpetual gloom that hangs over this town..."

Well said!

I did check out some of the other videos and this one made me want to get up and skate, I think it's a race for regular people:


There's one person skating really low & slow, working on technique.

Halifax looks beautiful on Google Street View - especially out near the water.

timv's picture

Smaller, slower, closer to home

Now I feel bad about not having been to our local temporary outdoor skating rink:


I didn't see that story when it aired. The organizer seems like an interesting character, and there are more good details in there about the mechanics of making something like this happen. It doesn't look big enough to do much in the way of speedskating and I haven't seen much evidence of skating technique in any of the video from there but I hope it isn't a one-time-only deal.

The interview suggests that it might become an annual affair. I was assuming that it was directly connected with the 2011 US Figure Skating Championships which will be here in a couple of weeks, but it sounds like it was something of a coincidence--though I can't imagine that it hurt a whole lot when it came to selling the proposal.

Incidentally, you might notice the permanent bandstand at one end of the rink. I've watched a number of performers including many good friends play on that stage. And the red brick building with the odd cantilevered third story in the other direction is the Cultural Arts Center, where I learned ballet. I'd been wondering exactly where they'd put that rink, and now I now.

I just wish it was a little whole lot bigger!

[Edit: I just rewatched the video above and noticed that it doesn't show the actual Greensboro rink. I had looked at several on YouTube and the others all did. Here's one from Elon University's student TV news with some nice views of it:]


roadskater's picture

January 15 at the Downtown Greensboro Ice Rink

From the front page of http://www.greensboro-nc.gov/, a note pointing to discount coupons available at a promo event for the US Figure Skating Championship. 

Beginning at 9:30 am Saturday, January 15, US Figure Skating Championship competitors will perform and sign autographs at the Winterfest skating rink at Festival Park downtown. Throughout the morning, discount coupons will be given away to the January 22-30 US Figure Skating Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum. For more information, call 207‐5216.


roadskater's picture

Dartmouth's Lake Banook Skaters Talk of Old Days, Halifax Oval

The story of the Halifax Oval holds great interest for those of us who would like to see a 400m skate track anywhere succeed, in hopes that this might catch on as a trend to encourage physical activity...especially the kind that can take place on a larger track as opposed to a tiny rink.

I love that the folk of Lake Banook have a great free place to skate and that they work together to keep their outdoor "rink" in shape. Free is awesome! The article had a couple of interesting historical tidbits, too. One person noted an exciting past entertainment...

"Winter horse racing was a popular at the lake around the 1950s. People skated on the track when the horses weren’t racing."

Ice horse racing!? Another pointed out that while they love skating on the lake, he hopes there are lots more ovals...

"The lake is great but it would be terrific to see more ovals in the area with ice-making systems and extended seasons."

What could possibly go wrong with ice horse racing? What are the hidden potential costs of a free lake oval?

"I believe it was in 1957 when a bulldozer brought in to clear a path for horse racing went through the ice. You do not have that risk with the Zamboni at the oval in Halifax."

I am obviously in favor of creating lots of 400m skating ovals, ice or not. Down here in the south of the USA, we're seeing many ovals converted to surfaces that are not wheel friendly. That's a shame in my view, of course. Anyway, go Halifax! I hope you keep your rink. And I might very well try a trip there someday if you keep it. Lots of people would, and many who didn't come for that would have wonderful memories...and photographs...of their time at the Halifax Oval. It is great all the way around, even for those who don't skate but just come out to watch, talk, eat and get to know each other.


timv's picture

Yeah, what could go wrong?

Literally LOL at "What could possibly go wrong with ice horse racing?" What could possible go right is lots of horsey sirloin and horsey T-bones when they fall on the ice and break a leg, methinks.


But yes indiddly, 400m ice ovals everywhere. It must happen.

roadskater's picture

St. Moritz White Turf Lake Snow Horse Racing Skiing Formula 1

OK. I guess they really must've had some snow out there for the horses to grip, or else studded horse shoes. The karters use studded tires to kart on ice, so perhaps it's possible. But it's more likely that these people were reenacting the over-a-century-old White Turf snow and ice lake races of St. Moritz...


Not all goes well, even though the not well is interleaved with inverviews of the doing well thanks...


With BMW as a sponsor, of course they needed a way to hook in some motorsports, so what could be better than Formula 1 driver Nick Heidfeld driving and doing snoughnuts?...


It went better than this Heidfeld demo...once was enough...what could go wrong?...


roadskater's picture

Interesting Commentary and Decent Photo of Halifax Commons Rink

OK. Now I understand even more. The use of the rink is free, including borrowing skates! Just show up and skate! This is totally incredibly awesome. This article may have been mentioned, not sure, but it has some interesting analysis and comparison...some good, some weak...but a nice reminder that it could be free and NOT advertising subsidized. I hope nobody in the US government reads this...we'll have corporate-naming-sponsored tax credits in no time!

Never once has it been suggested that the tax rebates given middle-class parents should be paid for via advertising or naming rights---no one has suggested that we call it the Pepsico Healthy Living Tax Incentive...


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