Leaside Gardens: welcome to the new normal

Leaside Gardens
Leaside Gardens.

If you had a million dollars, would you buy me a house, or maybe a nice Reliant automobile, or how about an ice rink? Well, 32 years ago when the Barenaked Ladies released that song (If I Had a Million Dollars) they didn’t go for a rink, but nine years ago the Leaside community did! And 100 issues ago, the headline on the cover of Leaside Life’s inaugural issue screamed, “Million bucks kicked off fundraiser.” Thus, launching the campaign that ultimately delivered the Dr. Tom Pashby Play Safely Rink: the first (and last) new hockey rink built by the City in almost 40 years. The expansion doubled available ice space and the facility is a symbol of how our community can come together in an organized and creative way to solve a problem. In this case, it was a shortage of ice.

COVID-19 brought hockey and figure skating to a standstill

If life was tough back then with only one rink and more demand than we could possibly fulfill, COVID-19 brought hockey and figure skating to a complete standstill as of mid-March and as none of us could have predicted, for more than five months after that. We’ve had no ice at Leaside Gardens, until now: the facility will reopen on August 24th and ice on the Dr. Tom Pashby Play Safely Rink will be available to our primary user groups.

Reopening is good news, however, what will be challenging is getting comfortable with the ‘new normal’. So, here’s what visitors can expect when returning to our facility.

As I write, an incredible amount of preparation is underway to ensure the facility is safe and ready to welcome back the community in anticipation of a return to play. Leading the charge is new Leaside Gardens General Manager David Hamilton. David joined the Gardens on April 6th after serving as the director of operations at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. In a trial by fire, David has quickly and competently stepped in to lead Leaside Gardens’ reopening effort, which has been no small task given the number of moving parts. In a nutshell, the new normal at the Gardens includes: one rink opened, health questionnaire screening upon arrival, no spectators, one parent per child to drop off/pick up, players to arrive in full gear (except skates), mandatory masks, separate entrance and exit, lots of stickers reminding us of safe distancing, protective plexiglass shields and barriers in client-facing areas, and signage.

The new normal

The entire facility, including the pool, has been professionally cleaned and disinfected for public access to the level stipulated by City of Toronto Public Health, a process that will continue regularly. Users, visitors and staff will appreciate the steps Leaside Gardens has taken to ensure that health and safety come first.

Speaking of which, no discussion or initiative concerning safety at Leaside Gardens would be complete without a shout-out to the Dr. Tom Pashby Sports Safety Fund. The Pashby family works together with the Leaside Gardens board, through its safety committee, to champion safety initiatives with the goal of creating one of the safest recreational facilities in the country. The safety committee, with the support of the Dr. Tom Pashby Sports Safety Fund, recently produced a COVID-19 safety video that describes the new procedures in place when the arena reopens. Also, the safety committee will host – online this time – their second annual concussion education seminar on September 30, 2020 – Rowan’s Law Day – an event that will be open to our user groups and the community at large.

Mark your calendars for the September 30th seminar and be on the lookout for Leaside Gardens’ new safety video: links to both will be on the Leaside Gardens website, www.leasidegardens.com. Given that the current rules prohibit spectators in the facility, another Leaside Gardens initiative that will help alleviate concerns for families is the introduction of live and on-demand game streaming at Leaside Gardens via GameOnStream. Once hockey resumes, parents and grandparents can still enjoy games while keeping safe.

“On behalf of the board and staff of Leaside Memorial Community Gardens I am delighted to welcome skaters, players and their families back to Leaside Gardens,” says Leaside Gardens Chair Kathleen Mackenzie. “The reopening will be a great opportunity to reconnect or connect with friends old and new! Several months have passed since our facility and others were closed as a result of COVID-19 and the safe reopening of our facility is giving us all hope that we are returning to a semblance of normality – or perhaps the new normality!”

Do you feel it will be safe to return to play at Leaside Gardens when the new ice hockey season begins? Have you been to the Leaside Gardens pool since its reopening on July 20th? Do you have suggestions for the Leaside Gardens’ safety committee that will help achieve the goal of becoming one of the safest rinks in Canada? Let us know at .

About Glenn Asano 59 Articles
Leasider Glenn Asano is a partner and principal consultant for the strategy and business development practice at Centred Performance. He is also an Instructor with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.