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Skating Under Robson


Friday, December 15th, 2006 — 9:42pm PDT
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The appeal of the heinously overpriced Rockefeller Centre Ice Rink [wiki] is not just to those who like to ice skate. It’s the experience and just being able to say you did it, like all those people you see in the movies falling in love amidst the twinkle of falling snowflakes. Little do some know, Vancouver used to have it’s own outdoor ice rink in the heart of downtown, just under Robson Street [wiki].
RIP Robson Square Ice Rink
In 1979, Arthur Erickson [wiki] designed the city’s new courthouse and Robson Square [UBC], which would soon become home to Vancouver’s only outdoor ice rink (if you don’t count the one atop Grouse Mountain). It became a seasonal staple for tourists and locals alike. Open 10:00 am to 10:00 pm (minus skate rental facilities) Vancouverites could get a little taste of the Canadian winter-time activity, even in the rain. Despite its popularity, the rink flirted with closure for years.

[Coun. Tim] Stevenson said as an NDP MLA, he fought successfully to keep the rink open when the former NDP government decided to close it in 1999…

“The NDP had planned to do what the Liberals have done and chop it, but I managed to get cabinet to change its mind. It really is a very important rink-there are no other outdoor rinks and it is right in the heart of the city,” Stevenson said. “After we saved it, I started going there to check it out and it was well used by a variety of people and it was good for the businesses around there.” [VancouverCourier]

The rink finally closed indefinitely in 2004 due to budget constraints and it doesn’t look like it will be re-opening any time soon.

Kathleen Elliot, spokeswoman for B.C. Buildings Corporation, says besides the $50,000 cost to ice and operate the rink for three months, reopening the rink would require spending $250,000 to repipe the 21-year-old facility. She said the repiping is needed because the underground pipes are directly above the computer labs in UBC’s section of Robson Square. [VancouverCourier]

There is talk, however, that the rink could be a part of Olympic celebrations and brining the spirit of the games into the downtown core for 2010. This has not yet been officially proposed or announced but the idea has been floating around.
RIP Robson Square Ice Rink
Until then, the space will be used for tango and square dancing [dancesportbc] on hot summer evenings and as a midday destination for those out on their lunch breaks.

It’s time to bring back the ice rink, especially since Vancouver’s started to abolish its “no fun city” reputation. Of course there are many more pressing issues that could use the government’s attention but if there are any funds allocated to recreation, tourism and getting people downtown to do something besides shop (for over-priced fuzzy boots or jewelery that comes in a neat little blue box…) well … this is one thing I’d support.

Update: I followed up on Metroblogging, the rink should be open by Winter 2008.

Update: Giant wooden umbrella to cover Robson Square? [The Vancouver Sun]

Update, November 2009: GE Ice Plaza at Robson Square is now open!

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  1. Chris says:

    I agree. An outdoor skating rink downtown would be great. I hope someone at City Hall champions this idea.

  2. DaveO says:

    I used to really enjoy the occasional hand-holding winter-time skate there … I think it is a real centre piece of the downtown holiday experience.

  3. Stu says:

    Vancouver has a long way to go in order to shake it’s “No Fun Zone” reputation, but this really would be one that brings together a real family-freindly activity. I hope somone at city hall or in Victoria starts to think about what the people who elected them want, instead of just what they want

  4. dory says:

    Bring back the rink!!!

  5. FYI …

    For all of you looking to build your very own backyard ice skating rink … If you are looking for an easy to use, quick to set up kit, check out a product known as Porta-Rinx @ http://www.PortaRinxandBambini.com and for any of you that already has a rink … check out The Bambini and Ice Mower for easy to use Ice Maintenance equipment, to help keep great ice all winter, also at http://www.PortaRinxandBambini.com Thanks again, Have a Great Day! Damian

  6. Chelsea says:

    Just wondering if anyone knows if Robson Square Ice Rink is back up and running… I heard some rumours that it might be.. so I just wanted to double check…

  7. Miss604 says:

    It’s not open yet, I think it was supposed to be running within the next year.

  8. Jackie says:

    As part of the sponsorship agreement, GE will contribute $1.6 million over the next three years for the naming rights of the rink, which will become the GE Ice Plaza. When the GE Ice Plaza is not in use, the facility will be called GE Plaza. The GE Plaza is expected to open in the spring of 2008 for public events, and the GE Ice Plaza will begin operation in the winter of 2008.

  9. Nicole says:

    I’m so so so so glad to hear that the Robson Ice Rink will soon operate again. I skated in this rink all the time as a child. And I sure would like my children to skate there as well. So many fond memories!!
    Yipee!

  10. […] the larger, more world-class events that Vancouver used to host before it became dubbed the “no fun city“, from which it’s still trying to bounce […]

  11. Haven’t been there for years but it used to be deserted…

  12. thaboss says:

    is the ice plaza open yet?

  13. missinit says:

    Every Christmas eve from 1980 until the rink closed
    the family and extended family would go for a Winter
    skate at Robson square, MISS IT TERRIBLY

  14. Leonardo says:

    I have e-mailed UBC @ Robson Square back in November 08 and had given me a proposed openening date on Feb 12, 2009.
    I’m really looking forward for it to reopen again .

  15. […] 2006 I profiled the rink, which was in limbo — looking for sponsors and ways to reconstruct the skating surface […]

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