Did you know that of the 52 ice pads in Toronto, only four of them recently have broken even or made money – and Leaside Memorial Community Gardens is one of those four? Quite an achievement!
As you know, Leaside Gardens has a board of management who hire a general manager – in this case, Henry Stachelbeck, who has been with the Gardens for 25 years. Under him are Anna Donadio, the banquet hall coordinator/staff support assistant (18 years) and three arena pool operators – Jim Swartz (30 years), Ed Newell (26 years) and Mario Zinga (23 years), along with 17 part-timers who are everything from rink guards to bartenders.
They and the Leaside Gardens board of management, under new chair, Ray White, are completely in charge of the arena and the William Lea Room, and the Leaside pool, which the city’s Parks and Recreation Department rents for their programming of the pool.
For dedicated swimmers, there has been a recent problem at the pool, with structural damage to the ceiling needing to be repaired.
Last year, the William Lea Room had 237 bookings. This winter, because of the construction of the second ice pad, it has become part of the construction site with the lobby and women’s washrooms entirely gone. Quite apart from the inconvenience there is the profit loss from rentals for this year.
The bright light is the current arena. Prime time ice is 100 percent rented for the year. Day-time ice is 82 percent rented. Leaside is in first place as the most used single pad rink in the City of Toronto. The building opens at 5:30 a.m. for the first skaters to be on the ice at 6 a.m. The last ones are leaving around 1 a.m. The major user groups are the Leaside Hockey Association, the Leaside Skating Club and the Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association.
Years ago, I spent many hours as a parent in the arena. I was glad to see that the seats are more comfortable now, and the heaters work. And yes, it really is an orange and white Zamboni.
Looking at the display cases along the wall, what should I see but a photo of John Candy wearing a Leaside Hockey Association jacket and a gladiator helmet. It turns out that Candy actually did play hockey at Leaside when he was in high school, and chose to wear his LHA jacket for this particular Saturday Night Live skit.
I really tried to figure out the significance of the hockey sweaters hanging from the ceiling – some of the names were familiar, others really not to me – P. Mahovlich, Selwood, D. Gardner, Edur, P. Gardner, McEwen, Caffery. Can you guess? Turns out all of these played in the NHL, but also played minor hockey out of Leaside.
There is still a concession for skate sharpening, but it’s run by Grant Krisman, not Peter Mahovlich Sr. The plaque in the office hallway honouring Peter eloquently says, “Every ice rink should be blessed with such a warm spirit.”
This is what is means to be a community facility.