wallace emerson rink toronto

Toronto community is fighting to save their ice rink from a huge development

Developers have already embarked on redeveloping Galleria Mall with a mixed-use community home to thousands of new condos. The mall is already partially lost, and the adjacent Wallace Emerson Community Centre is next in line for demolition.

Though developer Almadev's community comes alongside a flashy new City-led replacement park and community centre into the site to offset the loss of the current neighbourhood amenities, those plans do not replace a popular local ice rink, a loss that has proven a stumbling block for area residents.

Plans do include a skating trail and a small leisure skate pad, but with no dedicated space for shinny hockey in the approved future for the space, residents of the community have organized around saving their local rink before it closes for good at the end of the winter season.

Residents in the Dufferin and Dupont area have been fighting hard to raise local awareness about the loss of the rink — now in its 40th season of operation — banding together to form an advocacy campaign in an effort to secure a new hockey rink for the rebuilt park.

Area resident Jared Westreich tells blogTO that prior to an article published last January, "the vast majority of rink users had no idea that the hockey rink wouldn't be replaced because no public consultations were held in the winter and the plans were not posted anywhere on site."

Among the actions taken by community residents, Westreich started a petition last winter that has since garnered over 4,300 signatures, while similar campaigns are generating traction using the power of social media.

It's an issue that's gained the attention of both the current and former city councillor for the ward.

Former Ward 9 Davenport councillor Ana Bailao earmarked $250,000 in area development fees (donated by the developer as a good-faith gesture) towards the design and construction of a new rink pending a feasibility analysis from the parks department.

It's a torch that's been passed on to newly-elected councillor Alejandra Bravo, who campaigned on a promise to keep a hockey rink in the community and has since been working with city departments to move these plans forward.

The fight has gone from an uphill battle to a confident one for locals, and Westreich tells blogTO that "rink users are confident that hockey facilities can be incorporated into the plans," citing a 2018 consultation summary that included a replacement rink in the mix.

Rafael Lazer, CEO of Almadev, stands behind the community's fight to keep a rink in the community.

He tells blogTO that "we fully support the community in working with the City, and last year we contributed funds towards the expansion of the rink, if the City wished to explore this option."

Lazer says that the development firm recognizes "how special four-season outdoor spaces are for our neighbours, especially here in Wallace Emerson," adding that Almadev has "conducted over 50 community consultations with all age groups," that identified the rink as "a cherished amenity in this community."

"We worked with the City to ensure there were plans for a skating trail and shinny rink incorporated into the vision for Galleria on the Park," says Lazer, stressing that the facilities "were fully determined by the City, and Almadev is supporting the project through its design, construction and partial funding."

He stresses that, for now, "there are no immediate changes happening to the rink," and that "The Wallace Emerson Community Centre will be in operation until the new community centre is completed, by the beginning of 2025."

The rink's future remains uncertain for now, though the community is planning a 40th-anniversary celebration for the local amenity this winter.

Whatever happens to the Wallace Emerson rink, its soundscape has been immortalized by one shinny player who recorded an ambient sounds album of a game at the rink.

Who needs those relaxing lo-fi study mixes when you can listen to the sounds of a morning hockey game while you sip on a grainy mix of coffee and powdered hot chocolate?

Lead photo by

Michael Monastyrskyj

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