December 13, 2013 - Halifax skating oval slated to open Sunday, chilly forecast could be silver lining - Metro News

There might be a silver lining to the run of chilly weather forecast for the Halifax area over the coming week. If the below-zero temperatures hold, people may be able to lace up their skates and hit the ice at the Emera Oval as early as Sunday. The popular outdoor skating facility, located on the Halifax North Common near the intersection of North Park and Cogswell streets, is scheduled to open to the public the morning of Dec. 15.

That is a full 10 days earlier than last year’s Christmas Day opening, though HRM spokeswoman Janet Bryson said this year’s date is still weather-dependent. “There has to be consistent weather below freezing to maintain the ice,” she said on Monday. Workers have been on scene since last week putting in lines, laying ice and preparing the facility, she added.

The oval is Canada’s largest outdoor, artificially-refrigerated ice surface this side of Quebec City. It was built when Halifax hosted the 2011 Canada Winter Games. Following the event, city officials responded to public demand by converting the oval into a permanent, year-round attraction. It has since become an all-season fixture for the city, with skating in the winter and rollerblading/roller skating in the summer.

“It’s really nice to see it used in different seasons,” said Bryson. “It gets people out and active. … People are drawn to it.” This year, for the first time, the oval will lend out speed skates. Officials have also organized a New Year’s Eve celebration.


December 11, 2013 - The iceman cometh in Oval film - Chronicle Herald

In anticipation of the upcoming opening of the Emera Oval and to celebrate the holiday season, Journeyman Film Co. of Halifax is releasing a short film about the rink. “It’s Journeyman’s Christmas gift to the city,” Mathew Welsh, the firm’s owner and executive producer, said in a news release.

The five-minute film was made in February 2013 and screened at the Atlantic Film Festival in September. Jamie Tiernay shot, directed and edited the film, which features Brooks Carmody, the man who drives the ice resurfacing machine.

“We’re excited about the oval opening,” said Welsh, in the release. “We love the city, and promote it in our work. We believe in revealing this town and its special places through the experiences of its people.”

The film can be found at

People are encouraged to share the link and their own stories of the oval on social media (#ovalstory).


February 14, 2013 - Ideas get tossed around over make-up of permanent building at oval site - Metro News

About 100 people hovered around tables and tossed around ideas at a meeting Wednesday meant to better define the public’s vision for a permanent building at the Emera Oval site.

Residents young and old sipped coffee and tea and jotted down ideas on Post-it notes in a conference room at the Atlantica Hotel in downtown Halifax, just a few steps away from the oval on the Halifax Common.

The ideas, which were posted on a large sheet of paper, ranged from concrete notions of how the building should be used to adjectives such as “attractive” and “inviting.”

Many hoped the roughly 3,600 sq. ft. building would incorporate environmentally friendly aspects, such as solar panels and natural materials.

Nearly everyone agreed that the building should provide breathtaking views of the oval, which is used year-round, and incorporate a family-friendly lounge area.

Halifax resident Kate Johnston said as a regular user of the oval, she wanted to participate in the meeting to help ensure the building is a “beautiful space.”

“People want to see open spaces and light, bright family spaces and places where they can enjoy the indoors and outdoors,” said Johnston.

Each table was equipped with large white boards that included the building’s rough plans on the site near Cogswell Street. Residents were asked to lay out its amenities using labeled pieces that represented different rooms, like storage, washrooms and a lounge.

The consultation followed a public engagement meeting last April and an online survey, said John Henry, manager of aquatic, recreation and outdoor services for the municipality.

Now, staff will gather the ideas and a building concept will be presented at another public meeting in April, said Henry.

Construction is slated to begin late this fall and will be ready for the summer of 2014 or that year’s skating season, said Henry.


November 26, 2012 - Oval organizers hope for pre-Christmas opening - Chronicle Herald

Halifax officials hope to have the Emera Oval open for skating before Christmas, but Mother Nature has to send colder weather first. “We are anticipating opening up before Christmas, in time for the festivities of the holidays and all that good stuff,” John Henry, Halifax Regional Municipality’s oval operations manager, said Monday in a phone interview. “However, we can’t start producing ice until (the temperature) drops and maintains below zero.”

Although the rink does have the equipment to maintain the ice during warm spells, Henry said oval workers need temperatures to stay consistently below freezing for a few days to create a good surface at the Halifax Commons outdoor rink.

“The temperature is changing, there is no doubt about it.” But it will still be a while before icemaking can start. On Monday, the long-range weather forecast was predicting the mercury will rise on Sunday to 7 C, Henry said. Last year, the oval opened Dec. 23, and Henry hopes to have the facility open by then this one. Despite the uncertainty, Henry said oval workers are busy planning events for this winter.

The first will be New Year’s Eve, with various public skates beginning in the late afternoon and continuing until midnight. There will be fireworks at 8 p.m. Of course, that event also depends on Mother Nature’s co-operation. Because of a downpour, last year’s Dec. 31 festivities were postponed until February.

Plans are also in the works for a triathlon and marathon to be held at the oval, as well as live music performances. Last year, the oval hosted about 130,000 skaters. will have all events and skating schedules posted as they are finalized, Henry said.


September 21, 2012 - Low bidder for oval work endorsed - Chronicle Herald

Turfmasters Landscaping Ltd. was the lowest bidder for work on the Emera Oval in Halifax. City staffers are recommending Turfmasters get the job with its bid of $1,081,410. “Public consultation has identified a number of priorities, including making the Emera Oval a 12-month year-round facility,” says a staff report that goes to council Tuesday.

“The construction of the plaza and common areas improvements will help to address this priority. The plaza will give the public an opportunity to come together for a number of recreational, sport and cultural activities. The scope of work for this award is restricted to the plaza and common area improvements.”

Dexter Construction Company Ltd. bid $1.33 million on the work. Ocean Contractors Ltd. put in a bid of $1.464 million.

The work will involve the construction of a plaza and common area improvements including the placement of gravel and concrete unit pavers. It also entails building concrete walls and a 3.5-metre-wide sidewalk on Cogswell Street. The contractor will have to deal with placement of existing stockpiled topsoil, sod and shrubs. Installing electrical conduit and light bases is also covered under the project.

“It is anticipated that work will commence within one week of the tender award and take eight weeks to complete,” says the staff report. “The schedule for this work is for completion prior to the winter 2012 skating season.”


March 13, 2012 - HRM asking for public input into Oval summer use - CBC News

The Halifax Emera Oval was a wintertime hit, but now the city wants to know what should be done with the skating attraction during the summer.

Crews spent Tuesday scraping the ice from the Oval surface because last week's warm temperatures closed it for the season.

After the crew is finished its work, the city will be left with a concrete pad bigger than three full NHL-sized rinks.

Some of the options for fair weather use include biking, in-line skating, or roller-skating.

Many HRM residents told CBC News they'd like to see something that allowed for the Oval to stay open all-year long.

"There seems to be a great deal of desire to incorporate this facility and continue it as a large place, a place for the community to gather 365 days a year," said Peter Bigelow, general manager of Real Property Planning for Halifax Regional Municipality.

Bigelow said it's unlikely any of that will happen this summer because of landscaping, and the construction of permanent buildings for the Zamboni and skate rentals.

"At this point, we don't know how much of the Oval is going to be restricted in terms of closed off from access. Certainly there's going to be a lot of construction going on around the Oval," said John Henry, manager of Community and Recreation Services.

The city aims to have the Oval ready for year-round use by the summer of 2013. In the meantime, the city is looking for ideas from the public.

"We actually left it open, so that we could watch how people use the Oval, we could learn from it, and we could consult over the winter," Bigelow said.

Anyone can weigh in on the city's survey on what to do with the Oval until the end of the month.

For now, the only firm plans the city has for the Oval are to reopen it for skating on December 15.


March 9, 2012 - Skating oval closes for season - Chronicle Herald

The Emera Oval is closed for the season.

Weather fluctuations at this time of year make it too difficult to sustain good ice for skating, Halifax Regional Municipality announced Friday afteroon. Last year, the oval closed for the season March 4.

The city said in a news release that "the season was a great success,'' with about 130,000 people enjoying a skate since the oval opened for the season Dec. 23.

Crews will start dismantling work early next week.

The city said that it plans to hold a public information session in the near future to get opinions on further development of the site. An online survey for residents will remain posted until March 31.


December 23, 2011 - Skaters flock to the Oval on opening day - Chronicle Herald

It was snowing, there was hot chocolate and, most importantly, the temperature dipped just enough that there was ice.

Hundreds showed up Friday afternoon for the honour of being among the first to skate around the new permanent oval on the Halifax Commons.

“I would say it’s been about 30 years since I’ve been on skates,” said Ron Barkhouse as he laced up hockey skates on one of the wooden benches as the ceremonial ribbon was cut.

Barkhouse, 70, said he used to play a lot of hockey but somehow left skating behind. With his four granddaughters — the youngest only four — zipping around the ice already, he said he was in a hurry to catch up.

A few minutes later, Barkhouse had finished his first loop and was still on his feet and smiling.

“Now that we have the oval here, I’m going to get back into it,” he said.

“Here you are in the outdoors, fresh air, snow ..... couldn’t be any more perfect. And I think it’s a great thing for a community to have something that is fun, without technology and mechanical things — outdoor fun, not sitting behind a TV screen.”

Regular Haligonians’ certainty that they needed a skating oval after the Canada Games in February made Friday a day to celebrate, said Mayor Peter Kelly during the opening ceremony.

“This is your day, this day of thank yous. It was you that brought the idea time and time again to council to keep the oval for the long term. Council heard you loud and clear.”

Representatives from Emera and Molson Coors also spoke. The two companies contributed $500,000 and $400,000 respectively, with Emera’s contribution to be spread over five years and Molson Coors’ over three, according to a Halifax Regional Municipality news release.

The official name of the new facility is the Emera Oval, while Molson Coors has the naming rights to the entry plaza.

Kelly gave a grateful nod to Terry Gallagher, the project manager in charge of the oval’s construction, and to Dexter Construction, whose staff worked overtime to get the oval open before Christmas.

The $3.7-million project was finished on time and on budget, Kelly said.

The perimeter of fencing around the oval has come down, leaving it open along Cogswell Street and to anyone walking across the Commons.

Scores of children skated around the oval. Some, like nine-year-old Derek Kerekes, said they would be there every day after school if they were only old enough to get to the oval themselves.

But realistically, since his parents had to drive him, “I just skate when I can,” said Derek.

“I want to come two times a week or something. I like being outside.”

“It’s like running, but faster,” interjected 11-year-old Isaac McNeil, his neighbour on Connaught Street.

Hockey players, speedskaters and figure skaters were the first around the ice, carrying banners.

One young Canada Games long-track speedskater said she planned to spend many hours on the oval, which she said was kept well-groomed, with ice suitable for training.

“It will definitely promote a lot of skating sports, especially speedskating, because they’ll be able to see us doing our practices,” said Lindsay Devison, 16.

And even for less serious skaters, the fun of the activity disguises what’s actually great exercise, Devison said.

“When you look at the oval, it doesn’t seem like that much to skate, but when you start going around and around, you realize after like an hour you could’ve gone 10 (kilometres) and you might not have even realized it.”

Regional council saw several controversies over the past few months, particularly around corporate sponsorship of the facility.

But Friday, despite dozens of Emera toques and scarves in the crowd, and even a big cake emblazoned with “Emera Oval,” people at the event said the debates didn’t bother them.

“We just want to skate,” said Shannon Sterling, who brought her young children. “(We) just let them work it out.”

Around 100,000 people visited the temporary oval between December and March last winter, and daily attendance was between 3,500 and 5,000 skaters, according to the municipality.

With a refrigeration system under the ice, it can be maintained in temperatures up to 10 degrees. Weather permitting, the oval will be open for skating every day until about mid-March.

For updates, skaters can call the oval hotline at 490-2347.


December 15, 2011 - Skating oval set to open Dec. 23 - Chronicle Herald

Sharpen your skates, Halifax – the Emera Oval opens next Friday.

The first skaters can take to the ice at the Common, weather permitting, after a noontime ceremony, the municipality says.

Intended originally for the Canada Games’s speedskating events, the oval was packed with Haligonians last winter. Its popularity transcended the Games with citizens lobbying City Hall to make it a permanent fixture.

They succeeded last March.

And although the naming rights for the oval and the events plaza are spoken for, the municipality’s manager of real property planning, says two other corporations have expressed interest in becoming sponsors. Staff haven’t yet told council about those companies so Bigelow said he could not name them.

“They’ve made initial forays with us, but we have yet to have any detailed discussions with them,” he said. “Quite frankly, we’ve been trying to get the oval up and running.

“But there are other opportunities around the oval – there’s a whole second phase.”

That “second phase” includes turning the oval into a year-round facility with its centre being used for three-on-three basketball, ball hockey, concerts, or community festivals, Bigelow said. Staff will be looking for suggestions from the public about what they would like to see at the facility come summer.

Canadian Tire’s charitable foundation, Jumpstart, has signed on as a partner along with several of the chain’s local stores. Bigelow says the group may donate skates, helmets or organize skating lessons to make sure that anyone can take a spin around the ice.

Three other sponsors – Emera, Molson Coors, and the legacy fund from the 1990 world figure skating championships – contributed a collective $1 million toward the project.

It cost about $4.3 million to build the oval, with another $1.4 million budgeted for other buildings next winter. About $410,000 has been set aside to operate the rink this year.


December 7, 2011 - Oval sponsorship sold cheap, Halifax councillor says - Chronicle Herald

Open debate of the Halifax skating oval’s corporate sponsorship means the public now has numbers to chew on: $500,000 and $400,000, to be exact.

The $500,000, from Nova Scotia Power parent company Emera, will be spread over 15 years for naming rights to the main oval, Halifax regional council said during its Tuesday session. Molson Coors will contribute $400,000 over 10 years to name a plaza beside the ice.

But held up against the real-world value of publicity at the oval, some say those numbers just aren’t high enough.

“I think we should have been able to get much more money,” Coun. Jerry Blumenthal (Halifax North End) said Wednesday in an interview.

“I think we did a miserable job.”

Blumenthal has a point, according to an informal analysis of local advertising prices by The Chronicle Herald. A standard year-round billboard in downtown Halifax will cost a company somewhere in the ballpark of $18,000, according to numbers provided by a representative from Pattison Outdoor Advertising.

In comparison, Molson Coors will pay roughly $40,000 per year for 12 signs around the oval, and Emera will pay roughly $34,000 per year for nearly 30 signs.

In the relatively low-demand months of January to April, a typical Halifax billboard would run to about $1,300 or $1,400 per four-week period, said Sherry Kirwin, Pattison’s Atlantic region general manager. In the other months of the year, $1,700 is the maximum typical price. And Pattison recommends buying eight signs at a time.

Molson Coors did well with its $400,000 package, said Kirwin.

“They are getting a good deal, I believe.”

For comparison’s sake, Molson Coors paid something approaching $40,000 this year to sponsor Halifax Pop Explosion music festival and a related summer concert, M Fest, said Pop Explosion executive director Jonny Stevens.

Combined, the two music events took place over five days at several venues. (The festival also holds other concerts and events throughout the year.) The oval’s signs will be up year-round.

Though council didn’t announce it at the time, it gave BMO the 10-year naming rights to the new $40-million Hammonds Plains arena in 2010 for $500,000, said Blumenthal.

That was council’s first attempt to get into the advertising business, he said. This time, he would have liked to see the municipality trying to raise the stakes.

“You have to knock on doors and go to them. I’d hit every big bank and every big business within HRM to get sponsorship.”

Kirwin agreed that advertising prices are highly elastic.

“How many people were knocking down the door really determines the value of the product. ... If you don’t have a demand for people to sponsor the oval, and you’ve got some guy willing to pay $400,000, then that becomes its value. Then they both got a great deal.”


November 26, 2011 - Oval sponsorship: Council off Coors - Chronicle Herald

HALIGONIANS must be astonished to learn their city is so rich and their taxes so low that regional council could turn up its nose at a $400,000 sponsorship Molson Coors offered the popular skating oval.

Not that councillors were in any hurry to tell us they were self-righteously snubbing "beer money" at the taxpayers’ expense.

The 12-11 thumbs-down of Molson Coors’ proposal, which involved the right to name part of the facility, was done in camera and councillors did their best to keep it under wraps.

Only when the voluntary Save the Oval Association blew the whistle did the public get to hear what Nanny Council decided was best for them, without any public debate.

On our Opinion page today, Dr. John M. Gillis, spokesman for Save the Oval, calls on council to reconsider its decision, in an open forum, where all views can be discussed.

We agree with him entirely. Council has just cost city taxpayers $400,000 and has probably done immeasurable harm to future volunteer efforts to raise corporate funds for community projects. All without public scrutiny.

What message is council sending here? That it’s somehow offensive to run a brewing company in Halifax, where breweries have contributed to the economy since the city’s earliest days? That a brewery can’t be a responsible sponsor in community life? What about the Mooseheads hockey team? Or the Bluenose II, which wouldn’t have been built without Olands?

With everything youth are exposed to every day, through a freeway of digital channels, the idea that a logo at a rink will lure them into a life of binge drinking is just ludicrous. Give families some credit for fostering the judgment kids need to navigate a more challenging world than a brewery-sponsored skating oval.

Council agreed to make the temporary oval a permanent one on the basis of attracting private funding. Save the Oval volunteers enlisted Emera and Molson Coors to contribute $1 million between them. Now council has undone this community fundraising in a backroom fit of puritanism and financial irresponsibility.

Remarkably, Molson Coors is standing by its offer until it’s turned down in writing. Council should apply some sober second thought and accept. That would be best for the community and for taxpayers.


November 23, 2011 - Council mum on oval name - Chronicle Herald

In a four-hour closed-door meet­ing Tuesday, Halifax regional council chose which corporation will get to name the new skating oval on the Commons.

Or maybe it didn’t.

In its public session later Tues­day, council would not name the winning company or the price of the naming rights. Between the comments of different council­lors and Mayor Peter Kelly, it’s unclear what was decided, what is still up for discussion, how many companies bid, what struc­tures are available to be named, what will happen next, and why the earlier meeting took four hours.

“There was a decision," Coun.

Reg Rankin (Timberlea-Prospect) said after the first meeting.

“We had a discussion," said Coun. Lorelei Nicoll (Cole Har­bour).

Did the highest bidder get the rights? one reporter asked Kelly after the public session.

It “would be fair" to say that, Kelly said. But three minutes later, he said all council agreed to was “to continue to negotiate."

Various elements remain un­decided, he said, possibly in­cluding the price tag.

In its public session, council passed a motion to announce the oval’s name at its opening cere­mony next month, if construc­tion is finished by then.

Brewery giant Molson Coors put some funding toward the oval last year, as did Emera, the parent company of Nova Scotia Power, but it isn’t clear if either company is in the running for naming rights.

Kelly hinted that several names are for sale in the oval complex, though he couldn’t say exactly what needs to be named, how many companies are in­terested, and who they are. He said council will go back to the parties involved, who may or may not agree with the terms council has laid out.

“There’s many elements of the oval for discussion and for pos­sible funding, so more than two (companies) have come for dif­ferent components. So I don’t want to lead you astray that there’s not more than that," Kelly said after coming out of the pub­lic session.

“If the terms are agreed to, then council, as per the motion, will release that information."

There were also some hints Tuesday about what kind of debates could have consumed what Kelly said was the over­whelming majority of the earlier four-hour meeting.

Coun. Jim Smith (Albro Lake-Harbourview) asked for a staff report with recommendations on where famed ice dancer Rob McCall’s name could be used in or near the oval, mentioning in particular a building where skates will be stored and given out.

“It would be appreciated if this info was forwarded on to the corporation or whatever that received the nod for the naming rights, as they may consider some options as well," Smith said.

It’s Smith’s hope that that corporation might give some consideration to McCall, a Dart­mouth native who went on to become an Olympic medallist and Order of Canada recipient.

He died of brain cancer in 1991 at age 33.

“There’s some movement about to name the oval after him," Smith said. “Or parts of the oval perhaps, whatever we can do.

“Maybe we’ll be able to sug­gest to the entity that has the naming right that they’ll be able to incorporate his name into that name."

Council also passed a motion to get a staff report recommend­ing an approach to sponsorship policy in general.

Kelly did not put a date on opening the oval, which is tenta­tively planned for mid-Decem­ber.

Until then, in the words of one councillor Tuesday afternoon, their “lips are sealed."


October 27, 2011 - Warming hut an inspiring part of skating oval - Chronicle Herald

The Canada Games winter warming hut was almost as popular as the skating oval itself. .

“We put it up in a huge snowstorm,” says textiles artist Robin Muller.

“The minute it was open there was a line of people who wanted to get in,” says Sarah Bonnemaison, associate professor of architecture at Dalhousie University.

Muller, a professor at NSCAD University since 1979 and a specialist in computer Jacquard weaving, and Bonnemaison co-founded the Architextiles Lab or @Lab and received Atlantic Innovation Fund money to research electronic textiles in architecture.

The warming hut, nominated for a Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Award, was their fourth of five projects and their most public and popular.

“For me,” says Bonnemaison, “it was most rewarding to do something for Halifax that was really beautiful — not just a rental tent —and it really reflected what we do well, the mixture of art and science and design.”

“And handcraft, too,” says Muller. “Sarah has public exposure with things and I didn’t, except for art galleries. I’ve never been involved in anything so many people used.

“It was fun. We were part of a team; it was fun to share a feeling of teamwork at a sporting event.”

The idea for the warming hut came up by accident.

Muller and Bonnemaison were in their Pier 21 lab working on models of collapsible tent-like structures designed as portable, private booths for therapeutic massage at sporting events.

One day, Andrew Whittemore, HRM manager, cultural affairs, and a neighbour of Muller’s, stopped in, looking for Visual Arts Nova Scotia, which is nearby. He noticed the design for the massage tent.

“My architecture students had done a very beautiful model,” says Bonnemaison.

“Andrew Whittemore saw that model,” says Muller, “and he went, ‘Warming huts. These are warming huts.’ He thought it’d be fun if we made something similar as a warming hut for the oval.”

“But it’s winter,” says Bonnemaison, “It’s very different from a little tent.”

The two designed a hard shell to protect over 20 people from snow and howling wind. Working with commercial partner Maritime Canvas Converters, they designed an exterior covering in the muted colours of a Georges Braque painting.

The tall conical form of the hut was inspired by the heights of the teepees erected the summer before on the Commons for the 400th anniversary celebration of the baptism of Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Membertou.

Warmth, softness and a social space were the keys to the interior. Interior surfaces were covered with handcrafted textiles, custom-made jacquard weavings and burn-out laces in a wintry palette with wintry decorative motifs like frost flowers. The 12 seats were heated like car seats.

The centrepiece was a chandelier of organza snowflakes and fibre-optic threads. Alan Macy, an electrical engineer who specializes in biomedical electronics, lent them his heartbeat amplifier.

It recognized and amplified a heartbeat creating a sound effect like a low bass. The amplitude changed the colour of the fibre-optic threads for a pulsating chandelier.

“It was sort of like the idea of being around a fire pit, which we couldn’t do for obvious reasons,” says Muller. “The chandelier was the glow in the centre.”

When the warming hut, now in storage, is erected again this winter at the oval it will have everything except the heartbeat amplifier.

The team that worked on the Canada Games winter warming hut included Anke Fox, textile artist and technician at NSCAD University; Stephen Kelly, electronic artist and computer programmer; bioengineer Alan Macy; NSCAD graduate student Amelie Proulx; NSCAD undergraduate student Andrew Rabyniuk; architectural interns Adam Read and Melissa Schwegmann; Greg Sims, assistant professor at NSCAD and 3-D modeller for the hut; and Shane Yates, a masters in engineering graduate.

@Lab’s fifth and final project is a reactive acoustic ceiling. However, Bonnemaison with Muller are onto another project involving a Human Sciences Research Council grant.

In the fall of 2013 they plan a month-long installation about the history of kitchen design with dance by Mocean Dance, bioengineering devices by Macy and organza apron-like pieces by Muller that reflect different periods of history.

Bonnemaison, who grew up in Paris, was inspired by a visit to her mother in Marseilles. She had bought an apartment that was designed by Le Corbusier and the kitchen “was the original kitchen which is rare.”

This project “is a way of looking back at the history of design through a real place.”

One thing the warming hut did for Muller was lead her to put on a pair of skates. Originally from Virginia, she had never skated and took lessons at the oval.

“There were mostly adults. I was with a whole group of Iranian skaters one day and Afghani skaters the next, people who didn’t have the climate to skate.”


October 24, 2011 - Readers favour straight forward name for skating oval - Chronicle Herald

When blades first hit Halifax’s new oval in December, will skaters be doing laps on the Big O, the Commons Oval, or perhaps the Ovaltine?

The city won’t decide on a name for the new facility, now taking shape on the North Common, until closer to its opening in December.

In the meantime, those tasked with the decision may want to peruse some of the suggestions put forth by readers who recently offered up some serious and some not-so-serious monikers on the Chronicle Herald’s Facebook page.

Far and away the winning suggestion, which garnered more than 100 votes, was short and simple. Many people voted for the venue to just be called the Oval.

Next up at three dozen votes was the Commons Oval.

Coming third was the Big O, a name that’s unlikely to be chosen for the associations with its more infamous predecessor in Montreal.

Work is currently proceeding on a permanent long-track oval, a huge hit when a temporary rink was erected on the same site for the Canada Winter Games in February.

The venue was such a hit with young and old — who were able to use the facility before and after the games, a successful corporate and citizen campaign was mounted to make the rink a permanent fixture.

The infrastructure is being built now with the opening tentatively scheduled for mid-December.

As for the online name suggestions, if the new four-pad BMO Centre in Bedford is anything to go by, the BMO HRM Skating Facility might be closest to the mark.

According to a city spokeswoman, naming rights for the oval (insert corporate name here) are currently being negotiated with a sponsor.

While some readers’ suggestions were meant to be serious (the HRM Oval, Halifax Common Skating Oval), many others were clearly meant to elicit a smile.

Care for a spin around the Big Slippery Round Thingy? How about the Commons Crop Circle?

Others were playful with the language (the Coval, the Comm-on Oval), while others a bit cynical (the Kelly’s Oval, Debt Row).

One name you can bet won’t make it on the sign is the suggested Cornwallis Skating Oval.


August 24, 2011 - Oval a chance to make Halifax a hotbed of skating - Chronicle Herald

While the ink is barely dry on Halifax’s construction contract for a permanent skating oval at the Commons, sports officials are already putting some ambitious plans into action.

The city’s verdict on the oval was delivered after considerable public consultation and input. The oval was a huge hit for recreational skaters when it was built for last winter’s Canada Games. After that it became a focal point for debate about whether the city should have a permanent community-type skating facility.

A save-the-oval campaign garnered promises of generous funding from the private sector, and city council eventually approved $4.3 million in funding for 2011-12 and $1.4 million for the next year. It’s estimated the oval will also require about $400,000 in annual operating costs.

Halifax regional council awarded the contract for construction earlier this month.

When discussions began about the merits of making the oval a permanent feature, speedskating officials, such as Speed Skating Canada chief executive officer JohnPaul Cody-Cox, promised that the construction of a permanent oval would eventually establish Halifax as a major part of Canada’s elite speedskating network.

Work toward that goal has already started.

Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic, the federal arm that oversees elite sports and athletes in this region, and Speed Skating Canada put out a news release Tuesday seeking a speedskating technical leader to head up development of the sport in the Atlantic region. It’s the first step toward a much greater effort to eventually identify and groom potential top-notch speedskaters from this region.

“This is unique,” said Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic head Ken Bagnell of what he anticipates will happen to the sport in the province thanks to the oval.

“We really don’t have that many winter sports (in Nova Scotia) where we can excel. We’ve had good curling in the past, we produce hockey players — guys and girls — and snowboarders. Outside of that, we really don’t have that many core groups of winter sport athletes. Some are in very tough competitive fields like crosscountry ski and alpine ski. We can develop them, but they’ll have to move to appropriate locations.

“But this is a chance to develop a whole new type of athlete on the winter side. The facility itself makes it possible as only one of three long tracks (in Canada) in probably our most productive winter sport in history. It’s a good opportunity for Speed Skating Canada to draw talent from another area. And, at the end of the day, this is going to be as good for the howto-skate people as much as for the high-performance people.”

Once the oval is completed late this year, Bagnell and CodyCox anticipate it being used as a community facility for general public recreation as well as elite programs. They see that combination as important for producing new skaters.

Generally with a sport such as speedskating, which has so few national-calibre facilities, those cities fortunate enough to boast an oval also produce many of the future national team members and Olympians.

This potential was grasped early on and is one of the biggest reasons for elite sport bodies to support a permanent oval in Halifax.

“When the first rumours of the oval being permanent were discussed, we had a conversation in January with Speed Skating Canada saying this is a great opportunity for the sport,” Bagnell said.

“It’s a great opportunity to grow a sport (in a region) that hasn’t had those opportunities in the past.”


March 30, 2011 - Oval will be here a long time - Chronicle Herald

HALIFAX REGIONAL council Tuesday approved the permanent operation of the Canada Games skating oval.

Council’s blessing was given after a four-hour debate on such issues as cost, location, user safety and planned corporate sponsorship from a beer producer.

Cost of the outdoor ice rink on the Halifax Commons is likely to be factored into the municipality’s tax bill to property owners. The oval will be in the city’s draft 2011-12 budget, which council is to discuss in April.

The vote Tuesday was not unanimous. Dartmouth-area councillors had concerns, saying the municipality has other fiscal priorities.

But the oval backers on council won out. In a recorded vote, councillors ratified a decision of committee of the whole by a tally of 17-2.

Even though the oval project and its hefty price tag — expected to be about $4.3 million for 2011-12 and $1.4 million for the following year, plus $400,000 in annual operating costs — were not originally on the city’s slate for the coming year, staff told council there are options for covering the cost.

Phil Townsend, Halifax Regional Municipality’s director of infrastructure and asset management, said the “unexpected” startup costs of the oval can be dealt with over three years through a variety of actions, including accepting corporate and private funding.

“There is significant interest in financially supporting this,” he said. “Even without actively seeking support, almost $1 million has been offered to date.”

Townsend said there’s also a surplus of about $1 million in this year’s operating budget that council could tap into, or councillors could defer other projects, such as the $1 million allotted for new sidewalks.

Property taxes could also be hiked to cover the remaining costs, Townsend said.

“In an average household, at $282,000 of assessed value, that would amount to about $7 a year,” he said.

The sand base under the oval that was used for the Games will be replaced by concrete, said Paul Dunphy, the city’s director of community development.

“And the oval will be shifted a little bit to make a little more room on the Cogswell Street side,” he told The Chronicle Herald.

Dunphy said summer use for the site will include in-line skating and cycling. The infield will have grass and be available for recreational purposes.

The municipality owns three of the ice surface’s six chillers, Dunphy said, and the Canada Games host society owns the other three.

“We’ll be talking to them about purchasing them,” he said.

Dunphy said the provincial government initially indicated it would buy a couple of the chillers and distribute them to other municipalities, but that notion died.

Staff were looking for council to approve the continuation of the skating oval, which was wildly popular with residents over the winter, and to give staff the OK to accept donations to help fund it.

Coun. David Hendsbee (Preston-Lawrencetown-Chezzetcook) supported retention of the oval but wondered aloud if its popularity was just a fad. He also wanted it moved to another section of the Commons, across from Citadel High School.

Council is also to consider approving the selling of naming rights to the oval. And staff are pondering having all skaters wear helmets.

The 400-metre speedskating oval was built for the Canada Games in February but was open to the public from just before Christmas until March.

Over that time, about 100,000 people took a spin around the smooth ice surface.

Corporate donors like Emera, GoodLife Fitness, Molson Coors Canada and others have pledged financial support.

Coun. Gloria McCluskey (Dartmouth Centre) raised concerns about the cost of building the oval as well as operational expenses in coming years.

“We build, we build, but we don’t stop to think about the operational costs,” said the councillor, who also objected to a brewery sponsoring a facility that would be used by children.

Dunphy said no corporate sponsorships are etched in stone.

“Council actually didn’t give us any direction,” he said.

Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown) said not only did the community support the oval by turning out in droves through the winter, the public also sought out sponsorship to help offset the costs.

“A group (Save the Oval) got together because they saw a need for a place like the oval and they’ve raised over a million dollars,” she said.

Sloan said the venue brought much needed “social capital” to the downtown core.

Save the Oval held a small rally at city hall on Tuesday morning as councillors began their deliberations.


September 8, 2010 - Work on skating oval starts this week - Chronicle Herald

The first signs of winter have sprung up at the Halifax Commons.

A fence has been built that will enclose a construction site where a speedskating oval will be built. The oval will be used for a long-track speedskating test event in January and for the Canada Games the following month. It will also be open for public use before and after the Games.

Heavy machinery will be brought in Thursday or Friday to level the playing fields, said Terry Gallagher, manager of facility development for Halifax Regional Municipality.

“The big challenge from a civil engineering point of view is that you have to make that site flat,” Gallagher said in an interview Tuesday. “If you’ve ever built a skating rink, you know it’s not easy to build one on a hill.”

Dexter Construction has been awarded the contract to prepare the site for the installation of the track and refrigeration system.

The first step will be grinding up the topsoil and grass, Gallagher said. That material will be stored on site and used again in the final stage of the site preparation work.

Dexter also must install an underground system that will drain water back to catch basins. The southeast corner of the North Common is notorious for building up water, he said.

The ice surface and refrigeration system will be installed by Custom Ice of Burlington, Ont.

The construction work won’t interfere with the asphalt pedestrian paths that criss-cross the Commons, Gallagher said. But a grass path located in the construction area from the water fountain toward the Halifax Citadel won’t be accessible.

The project comes with a price tag of $2.1 million, which covers construction of the oval and subsequent operational costs. The Games, from Feb. 11 to 27, will cost the municipality a total of about $8.8 million, while the federal and provincial governments have each committed about $11.1 million.

The playing fields will be restored next summer and will be ready for use in the fall of 2011, according to the municipality’s website.


August 15, 2010 - Workers to start on speed skating oval - Chronicle Herald

It may be the dog days of summer but city hall officials are gearing up for a major winter project in Halifax.

Work on the Canada Games’ $2.1-million speed skating oval at the Halifax Commons should begin by early September, municipal staff said Saturday.

Paul Dunphy said the tender competition for the project closed recently and construction will start soon on the outdoor site at the North Common. The job should be finished by the beginning of December, he said.

“Which date it actually opens will be dependent on the weather and the temperature,” said Dunphy, Halifax Regional Municipality’s director of community development.

The refrigerated speed skating oval will be used for a long track speed skating testing event in January and for the 2011 Canada Winter Games the following month. Dunphy said it’s to be open for public use before and after the Games.

He said the site, which will have lights for night skating, will be supervised by municipal staff during public skates.

Metro and its environs are hosting the Games, February 11-27. The Halifax skating oval will be closed to the public during the event.

According to the city’s website, playing fields affected by the skating oval’s construction “will be reinstated over the summer of 2011 and are scheduled to be back, new and improved and ready for use in the fall” of that year.

Once the Games are over, the city intends to leave the oval open to the public until sometime in March.

“We’ll be programming some events there as well,” Dunphy told The Chronicle Herald.

These are to include music to skate by, he said, and some of it will include live performances.

Dunphy said the track will be dismantled after public skating ends in March. He said much of the equipment is to be used later at a permanent skating venue in the municipality.

Surplus gear will be sold to other municipalities, he said. Dunphy said a permanent skating site in HRM hasn’t been identified yet.