July 30, 2023
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Temporary Skating Rinks in Kitchener and LaSalle Encourage People to Get Outside — and Stay a While

Municipality: City of Kitchener

Canada’s winter weather often forces us inside, isolated from each other and our communities. One of the few winter activities that draws us out of our cozy homes is ice skating. So, to encourage residents to venture outside, connect with one another and support local businesses, the southern Ontario communities of LaSalle and Kitchener added skating rinks to their main streets.

As part of the Government of Canada’s $23.25-million investment in My Main Street through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) is leading the Community Activator program to support projects that revitalize urban spaces. The Town of LaSalle received a My Main Street contribution of nearly $75,000 to support its Holiday Lights and Heritage Nights festival, and the City of Kitchener received a contribution of over $80,000 for the Kitchener Market placemaking ice rink.

Holiday Lights Heritage Nights
Glice Rink at Holiday Lights Heritage Nights


The annual Holiday Lights and Heritage Nights event features an outdoor holiday light display at and around the LaSalle Civic Centre from November to January, with weekend activities

occurring each week leading up to the holidays. In 2022/23, activities included live musical entertainment on Saturday nights, a night market inside the Town Hall and in Council Chambers featuring local vendors and businesses on Sunday nights, food trucks and local restaurant booths, and a scavenger hunt called “The Very Merry Hunt for Berry,” wherein participating businesses were given an elf to hide and then visitors who found it were entered into a draw for prizes.

The big draw that year was a temporary synthentic ice rink and warming stations that were funded by My Main Street and made available all winter. Located in a parking lot next to City Hall, the LaSalle skating rink project generated a significant increase in foot traffic, with 5,000 participants over the first three weeks. Many pop-up vendors benefitted from the foot traffic, with the festival supporting 32 local businesses in all.

While the rink achieved the goal of attracting people, the warming stations encouraged them to stay and connect with friends and neighbours, as well as spend money at nearby vendors. Patricia Funaro, Director of Culture and Recreation for the Town of LaSalle, says it was like sitting around a campfire. In many cases, visitors stayed till the bitter end, when the fires had to be put out.

“The ice rink would not have been possible — and I know for sure that the warming stations would not have been possible — without the funding, and I think the warming stations definitely added the atmosphere and extended people’s stay, which I think was a big thing.”

Kitchener Market - Winter Artisan Market
Kitchener Market - Winter Artisan Market


The Kitchener Market placemaking ice rink project included several improvements to the Kitchener Market, with the goal of making the market more than simply a place to shop, but a central gathering place. The funding supported beautification of the outdoor space, portable staging, sound equipment, furnishings that can be used year-round to support programming, and an artificial ice rink on the Piazza with comprehensive lighting and projection equipment to increase the sense of safety. The rink was complemented by warming stations and Muskoka chairs, creating a cozy atmosphere.

Cameron Dale, Manager of the Kitchener Market, says the rink was a big draw, especially popular with people of all ages learning to skate. It was also used for curling during parties and events.

“It's been a great resource to have,” says Dale. “And we look forward to continuing to use it in all the years and making it part of our part of our winter programming.

As a result of the rink and other improvements, with the Kitchener Market experienced a 50 percent increase in foot traffic compared to the same period in 2020 — an additional 5,000 visitors per week, with a total of 24,000 visitors throughout December. Fifty new local small businesses participated in the winter market programming and many expressed interest in future events, and 110 local businesses both inside and adjacent to the Market benefitted. The rink also generated $45,000 to local brick and mortar shops near the rink, representing a three percent increase in sales.

About My Main Street

My Main Street is a $23.25-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to support the recovery and revitalization of main streets and local businesses in southern Ontario. The Canadian Urban Institute and the Economic Developers Council of Ontario have partnered to deliver My Main Street through two program streams. Learn more at www.mymainstreet.ca.

About FedDev Ontario

For 13 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.


My Main Street is operated by the Canadian Urban Institute and funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

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