Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Save The Oval!

If you live in Nova Scotia and you haven’t heard about Ovalgate then I must conclude you’ve been living under a rock, or in a cave maybe, and have no access to electricity or even a radio. In fact, you probably won’t even be reading this post. I will admit that upon first hearing Halifax’s proposal of building an outdoor rink for the 2011 Canada Games I wasn’t exactly jumping out of my seat - actually I was, but it was for a different reason; I thought it was a stupid idea. There was something about the idea of ruining The Halifax Commons, digging it up and cementing a section for some speed skating competition, and then tearing it all down, just didn’t sit well with me. It felt like the city was selling out to the Canada Games. I know, it’s a typical Nova Scotian response - don’t be selling out to the big guys. And NO, I’m not on the Heritage Trust.

Thanks to the Atlantica for this great picture
I passed by the Oval everyday on my way to work. I watched them bulldoze, put fences up, lay down the piping and cement, and everyday it stirred up all sorts of negative emotions inside of me. I couldn’t believe they were actually ripping up the commons for Speed Skating, of all things. I would just sit and shake my head in disgust. I believe the Commons is meant to be Halifax’s COMMON SPACE. It was given to the city in 1763 by King George III and it’s Canada’s oldest urban park. Its history goes way back to the creation of The Citadel and this city.

But then, when it was all done and the first sheets of ice were starting to build, I thought, “oh, it does look pretty cool,” but then the other voice inside of me said “grr.. it ripped up the commons!!!” None the less, I was more intrigued everyday. I even vowed to myself that I would actually try it out when it opened to the public for free...because, you know, I couldn’t do anything about it now, it was there, so I might as well give it a try.

When it opened up in December, something miraculous took place. Maybe it was because it was Christmas time but I think my heart must have grown three sizes. As corny as it sounds, watching the people skate and the joy on their faces was heart warming. People from all over the city were excited to try out this new oval. It was everyone’s favorite topic of conversation. People couldn’t wait to get their skates sharpened and get on that sheet of ice and it has inspired many people to wake up from winter hibernation and participate in an fun outdoor activity. HRM has even included a SkateHRM section to their website to keep everyone up to date on the activities and schedules of the Oval. (Or you can just follow them on twitter or facebook. To date, over 65,000 people have visited the Oval. It’s gotten us moving and, best of all, it seems to have united the city in ways that no concerts or large events has ever done in the past (or at least to my recollection). It was not just an sheet of ice in the form of an oval anymore, it became something that means just a little bit more...

Now here comes the heart-wrenching part...... the Oval is scheduled to be dismantled in March when the Canada Games are finished which would leave Halifax without an outdoor skating park once again. But fear not, we are a passionate city and we will fight for the things that mean the most to us. I will admit, there are some of us who want the Oval gone for a variety of reasons, like cost and wanting to preserve to The Commons for... umm... the people who like to sit on the grass (??). But those are few and far between. The majority of people in this city believe in the Oval as a much needed change.
Support has been pouring in from all areas in an effort to help save the Oval after the Canada Games. Several interested citizens and business owners decided to build their own website entirely dedicated to the cause and post an online petition to help Save our Oval, its called.. ba dap ba... SaveTheOval.ca. On Tuesday January 26th, they presented the petition that has been signed by over 9,000 residents in efforts to save the Oval. Other business have also been getting involved, and Goodlife Fitness was said to have pledged upwards of $200,000 for the naming rights. The 1990 World Figure Skating Championship Legacy Fund has pledged $100,000, no strings attached, to help provide funding. Until hearing that, I didn’t even know we held the 1990 World Figure Skating Championships in Halifax (hey, I wasn’t very old at the time).

Rick Mercer has said that the Oval is Halifax’s feel good story of the year and I believe he’s right. Not only has it brought the community together to rally for a common cause, it has caused an excitement about the upcoming Canada Games beyond what anyone could imagine. It has ignited a sense of pride that will probably be looked upon as the greatest legacy that the Canada Games 2011 will have left us.

To learn more about the Oval, ways they are hoping to save it, how you can donate towards funding, and to sign the petition please check out Savetheoval.ca.  But if you really want to show city counsel that the the Oval is worth saving, the best way is  to get out there and use it.

Do you think Halifax should save the Oval? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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