ESTEVAN - The two outdoor rinks in Estevan have been open to the public since late December and have seen a lot of action.
Rod March, the city's manager of parks and facilities, said that while the city employees are running the facilities adjacent to the rinks, the ice surfaces themselves are maintained by the local service clubs.
"We rely heavily on the volunteers for both of those outdoor rinks that are running this year, Rusty Duce, the Lions Club volunteers in that area, and the Hillside Park area, the Kinsmen and Kinettes Clubs are the major volunteers there. They get the ice up and running with support from the city. And once it's up and running, then we open and close the buildings, keep the washrooms clean, and that sort of thing to keep it maintained and keep the lights going," March explained.
Preston Majeran, the president of the Estevan Kinsmen Club, said that since they put in the ice at the Audrey Fichter Memorial Arena, he checks it every day to ensure the best experience for the public.
"I go in and check just to make sure that there are no big holes, or if it needs a snowplow. I will go and clean it and give it a flood and get it ready for the weekend so that the public can use it," Majeran said.
Kinsmen Club members ensure there are no snow build-ups and flood the rink every so often to ensure the ice is good to skate on. Majeran said there is a lot of people using the rink, which makes them happy.
"We got our ice on and we got our second ice surface for the kids all done up. The ice is getting used and that's the most important thing we care about is the public getting to use that," Majeran said.
Ed Sinclair, the president of the Estevan Lions Club, which maintains the outdoor rink at the Rusty Duce Memorial Park, said they were happy to get the ice in and also see a bit milder temperatures, allowing the public to comfortably use the facility.
The Lions Club tries to flood the rink once a week or every two weeks, as needed. They usually lock the gates until the ice settles, and Sinclair said the public has been good with being patient and waiting for the process to be completed. It takes the volunteers about eight hours every week to maintain the rink. And the public appreciates all their efforts.
"There is a lot of activity. Every time I go to flood the rink, there are kids trying to get on it," Sinclair said.
He added that quite often Lions also get help from the community.
"I appreciate the help that we get from the community. I know there are a few gentlemen around there that do go out and shovel when their kids are out there," Sinclair said.
March said that the ice is the clubs' responsibility. Sometimes they require a bit of assistance from the city, for example after a big snowfall. But in general, the city employees oversee the buildings, and the volunteers take care of the ice.
The lights are on timers, coming on at 5.15 p.m. and working until 9.45 p.m.
"That's all intentional because we still got to get people over there to lock up the buildings and make sure there are no issues with the water running or broken pipes or anything like that. We need time as well. That goes on the entire season. And it just melts out basically and the Lions Club takes down their boards in the summertime so that we can go ahead with the parks maintenance side of things. They get their volunteer base to help with that. And Kinsmen, that rink stays up at Hillside," March explained.
The provincial public health orders are in place inside the adjacent facilities, and the information is posted inside the buildings.
The city had some staff shortages over the holidays due to COVID, but after the New Year they were able to get back into their routine, and now the two rinks are regularly open for the public to use at their convenience. March said the warmer spell Estevan experienced lately was not enough to melt the ice, as the ground remains frozen, which allows the public to enjoy skating comfortably. But volunteers keep an eye on the ice to ensure it's safe.
The Estevan's third outdoor rink, Westview, is not in use this year. There is a good volunteer base in that part of the city that sets up the rink and maintains the ice every year, but the city had problems with the facility at that location this year.
"What happened, is as part of the pathway project, we're trying to build a washroom facility down there. But we're having some issues with gas lines in the ground and they shut down the gas down there, which means we couldn't run water and we couldn't have a little building open this year. And SaskEnergy was not available until January to even look at it," March explained.
He added that last year they put all new boards and backstops in, and they hope to see the rink up and running again next season.
On top of two outdoor rinks currently open, the city has a crokicurl rink set and ready to be used by the Affinity Place and two gorgeous indoor skating arenas – Affinity Place and the Power Dodge Arena.
The outdoor rinks will remain open to the public, weather permitting, until it's no longer safe to skate on them. The city will put posts on their social media when the decision to close the rinks for the season will be made.