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Outdoor rink worth every dime


One night last week, a little after 10 p.m., when most people were either winding down or heading off to a night's slumber, a figure skater was practicing her spins. She was not on the ice inside a well-lit stadium. The temperature outside was bitter and lowered even more by a brisk wind from the east. Drivers heading down Cromer Avenue towards their nightly coffee could see her in the dim light of what once was a landing pad for helicopters and where players throw three-pointers and attempt slam-dunks in the summer.

One night last week, a little after 10 p.m., when most people were either winding down or heading off to a night's slumber, a figure skater was practicing her spins.

She was not on the ice inside a well-lit stadium. The temperature outside was bitter and lowered even more by a brisk wind from the east. Drivers heading down Cromer Avenue towards their nightly coffee could see her in the dim light of what once was a landing pad for helicopters and where players throw three-pointers and attempt slam-dunks in the summer.

The solitary skater was on ice at Grand Falls-Windsor's outdoor rink.

Later in the week, again, framed by the light of streetlights, a handful of hockey players passed pucks and deked imaginary goaltenders as they played shinny on the sheet.

Many say the outdoor ice is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The naysayers moan that there are too many other things we should be spending that $22,000 on.

We already have two money-losing stadiums, they say, why would we build another one outdoors?

The list of negatives is always capped with a remark that in the old days, "we went down to the pond and scraped it off and stayed there for hours."

Those naysayers have valid points.

No, the stadiums in Grand Falls-Windsor are not moneymakers. Nor do they exist to make money.

Most likely, the rink in Bishop's Falls doesn't, either. And it is doubtful that the box office or rental of the Botwood location is in the black.

The reason for being for any recreational facility in any municipality is not to bring revenue to the town, although it is nice if it at least breaks even.

It has an even more important function than bringing in bucks.

Its builds community.

It brings people together.

It keeps kids from roaming the streets causing trouble.

It gives families a place where they can enjoy each other's company without the interference of televisions, computers and refrigerators.

In the case of an outdoor facility, users are able to breathe in the fresh air we have been blessed with and can soak up some much-needed vitamin D in our often-dreary winter months.

Physical activity, of course, makes for better health. Better health, in turn, lessens the need for heath care. So, in the long run, the bit of money spent on this rink will be saved in spades if a few people use it towards making a healthy lifestyle for themselves.

You might wonder why, if a person wants to go for a leisurely skate, they don't just amble into the Joe Byrne Stadium and hop on the ice.

Well, chances are, the ice is being used. Either that or there is no rink attendant on duty to watch over you.

The community rink on Cromer Avenue never closes - except when the weather is not kind - and you don't need to wait for the Zamboni to clear the ice.

How about those ponds? Why don't we use those?

Well, like it or not, we live in an age when the convenience of being able to drive up to a location outweighs slogging over bogs to get to it.

The accessibility of the Cromer Avenue rink combined with the safety of visibility from the street and not having to worry about the thickness of the ice makes it something that should be the envy of many other municipalities.

The initial outlay of money for the infrastructure needed to build the rink is significant, but it is an investment.

For the solitary figure skater on the ice last week, the teenagers who spent a couple hours playing shinny instead of texting or surfing the internet, of the family able to share some fun time together, the rink is priceless.

David Newell

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