Finally, after almost a year in the making, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union celebrated the grand opening of the Rink in the Bowl on Jan. 8. The USSU has secured resources to maintain the rink annually, beyond this winter.
When Crystal Lau, the vice-president student affairs of the USSU, was campaigning for her position, one of her platform points was to establish a rink in a central outdoor space. After being elected, Lau worked on the project proposal all summer and then received the go-ahead when the U of S Office of the President approved $10,000 in funding on Oct. 17, 2017.
Lau explains that she started crying as she cut the ribbon during the grand opening, because she was overcome with emotion at seeing her campaign promise fulfilled with the help of the USSU staff and various departments across campus.
“It was overwhelming,” Lau said. “I didn’t even think about it until I got there, and then, in the moment, I just couldn’t stop crying, because it took many months, and a lot of people … worked together, and then, finally seeing it happening, when there [have] been a lot of road blocks.”
According to Lau, the Rink in the Bowl will promote physical activity and improve the student experience. She has worked to establish sponsorships from U of S Alumni, Campus Rec and the Language Centre to offset the costs of the materials and labour for the rink. The rink will stay open for the rest of the winter season, as long as the weather permits.
Liana Farrell, a second-year international studies student and long-time recreational figure skater, explains that going to the gym can feel mundane, but the rink offers students a way to be active while also being social.
“I think it’s a great idea, because in winter, especially in Saskatchewan, it’s hard to find things on campus to do, active-wise,” Farrell said. “It’s kind of a nice way to spend the afternoon not in the library but still with your friends.”
Laura Zmud, a third-year arts and science student and recreational hockey player, notes that having a skating rink in the Bowl is more accessible to the campus community between classes, even if there are some outdoor rinks nearby, like the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink beside the Delta Bessborough Hotel.
“Maybe students can accept having a half-an-hour break, when you’ve only walked like two minutes to the rink,” Zmud said. “[With] other outdoor rinks that are kind of similar to that style, like the one at the Bess, … [the] ice quality [is] kind of not so great, but this rink, I was really impressed with.”
While in between classes, Farrell, Zmud and two of their friends arranged to try the rink the second week that it was open. Zmud explains that the group had some difficulty getting on and off the rink, because the entrance mats were slippery with ice, but otherwise, they enjoyed the Rink in the Bowl.
Tiana Kirstein, a second-year classical, medieval and renaissance studies student and member of the U of S Anne Collingridge Figure Skating Club, says that she frequents the Rutherford Rink to practice her stunts. She explains that the Rink in the Bowl is too small for her to practice stunts on, but she will likely make use of it for leisure time with friends.
“With rinks like this, you can usually only go in circles, and you can’t spin or jump or anything without endangering someone else,” Kirstein said. “Skating outside is still fun, when you can, because it’s a nice change from the typical indoor-training situation.”
Students can borrow skates from the Physical Activity Complex using their student ID cards. There is a collection of approximately 50 pairs of skates for use, and Zmud notes that they are in good repair.
“I think it’s awesome that, at the PAC, you can get skates for free,” Zmud said. “My friend got his skates from the PAC, and he said they were good, and they looked like they were in good shape.”
The Rink in the Bowl has not only attracted students to it but also faculty and staff. Zmud explains that even her mother, who works at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, and others at WCVM have been interested in using the rink.
“My mom works at the vet college, and they’ve all heard about it, and a few of their staff have gone out during their lunch hour. So, it’s hitting more than just students,” Zmud said. “It’s hitting faculty and all levels on campus, which is nice.”
Nykole King / News Editor
Photos: Heywood Yu