harbourfront toronto

The empty space that replaced Toronto's waterfront skating rink is now open

The former outdoor ice rink overlooking Lake Ontario from Toronto's Harbourfront Centre served as a boon for crowds of locals and visitors for many a winter. So, when the scenic site for date nights, social hangouts and solo skates was suddenly and permanently shut down last year, people were appropriately dismayed.

What made the attraction's loss even worse was not just the fact that it could have been prevented with enough funding, but what was set to replace it: a paved-over public plaza that the arts organization touted as an area for year-round programming, but which some saw as "useless empty space."

Now, the work has finally been completed and the space has recently opened to the public, for better or worse.harbourfront torontoWith construction fencing around the newly-refurbished plot down as of late last week, residents have already started using the square's extensive curved wooden bench seating to rest, take in the views of the water and, of course, sit and look at their phones.

Though the beloved rink is no more, Harbourfront Centre has said that these new grounds will be able to hold "temporary winter skating activations" in the future, as well as other programming.

harbourfront torontoWith the hub's recent financial woes, there was apparently simply not enough been money to make the necessary repairs to keep the rink going. The same goes for other infrastructure, like the Amsterdam Bridge that has fallen into great disrepair.

As with the rink, the centre told blogTO earlier this year that the cost to restore the bridge "is prohibitive considering our limited capital funds" and that "reopening it safely depends on the financial support of the City of Toronto."

harbourfront torontoThough the pre-existing rink did have some potential summer uses as a water feature, without the finances for upkeep and key refurbishments, this simpler, multi-use and multi-seasonal option serves the non-profit centre's basic needs better on the budget available.

Renovating the rink into the piazza we have today was ostensibly the less costly alternative that still ensures the area remains usable. But, some members of local government (and the public) have questioned the allocation of tens of millions in support that Harbourfront Centre recently received from sources like Heritage Canada.

harbourfront toronto

The new space definitely marks a refresh (albeit not the one residents wanted) with new multi-tonal paving stones set in a pattern, with the aforementioned seating curving in various places around it.

Views of the CN Tower and the water remain intact, though without any events actually going on, it does feel a little barren.

harbourfront torontoHarbourfront Centre has said that it still requires some $100 million to properly maintain and renovate the facilities on its 10-acre campus — which include an outdoor amphitheatre, marinas, eateries, theatres, galleries and other spaces — over the next 20 years.

Photos by

Fareen Karim

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