Rink in the Bowl needs a second thought

By in Opinions

The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union intends to go forward with plans to create a free, outdoor, public-access skating rink in the Bowl — warm fuzzies aside, it’s not a great idea.

The rink in the Bowl was a campaign promise from USSU Vice-President Student Affairs Crystal Lau. Here’s what we know so far:

The project has secured $10,000 in funding from the President’s Office. The President’s Fund sponsors unique and creative activities and events with a strong connection to the U of S and a direct impact on students. Applicants are considered bi-monthly, and any student can apply online.

There are two plans being considered for the construction of the rink. The first would be temporary — lasting one season — provided by the campus carpentry department, at a cost of $7,986. The second option is to purchase ready-to-assemble materials that would be reusable, at a one-time cost of $9,500, excluding any incurred damages and regular wear and tear.

The goal of the rink is to promote physical activity and healthy mental practices, while instilling a sense of community among students. The project has also included outreach to promote the rink to the surrounding Saskatoon community. The rink is said to be a community project, employing volunteers to help with maintenance and upkeep.

The Facilities Management Division has agreed to help with maintenance in the event of a snow storm. Lau is also negotiating with Safewalk, Culinary Services, the Language Centre and the College of Kinesiology for support in the various working parts of the rink’s operation, like skate rentals and hot chocolate services.

The outdoor rink will be situated at the top of the Bowl, nearest to the Peter MacKinnon building. Hockey will unfortunately not be allowed.

And if something goes wrong? The USSU has $10 million in commercial general liability insurance, and university insurance will also extend to the outdoor rink area. Additional expenditures will be covered by the $2,500 USSU Executive Project Budget and what’s left over from the contribution from the President’s Fund after the rink is built.

It’s an impressive project, and Lau has been ingenuitive and determined in     fulfilling her campaign promise — but we would likely have forgotten about this promise pretty quickly if she’d never brought it up again.

Ultimately, the success of this initiative is a gamble. Should the U of S and the USSU be allocating these kinds of funds and resources to a feel-good project with a lot of room for error? There are a few things to consider before jumping on the rink-in-the-Bowl bandwagon.

First, the obvious — there are a lot of things that could go horribly, horribly wrong. Injuries, theft, property damage — and I’m sure someone is going to find a way to have sex on the ice. People are gross and stupid, and by putting the responsibility for the facility in the hands of the public, this project will invite a hurricane of human disaster.

Second, it’s worth considering that perhaps the rink will be exclusionary for people who are interested in physical activity and healthy mental practices but who can’t use the ice. For many, skating is really not that accessible, and the focus should be on activities that are inclusive to all ranges of abilities.

And if skating is your favourite activity, and you’re great at it? Good — there’s actually already a lot of public, free-of-cost skating spots around the City of Saskatoon. Check the elementary school closest to your house or the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink next to the Delta Bessborough, which offers an excellent view of the South Saskatchewan River.

We just don’t need an outdoor skating rink on campus, and there are far better allocations for the time, money and energy required to implement one.

The City of Saskatoon offers an online, interactive map with over 50 outdoor rink locations, many of them close to campus, at www.saskatoon.ca/parks-recreation-attractions/recreational-facilities-sportsfields/skating-rinks.

Emily Migchels / Opinions Editor

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor