Great reviews for outdoor rec pad

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First impressions are important, and the J.L. Scott McLean Outdoor Recreation Pad has been getting great reviews in its first weekend after opening Friday.

“So far, so good,” said Josh Walters, who was on the ice for the first time Sunday night – under the lights. “We don’t have one back where we come from.”

“We’re new to the neighbourhood so it’s cool to see something like this in such a small community, for sure,” said Tiana Weeks.

Coming from the Guelph area, Walters and Weeks recently moved to Mount Elgin, a short drive north of Tillsonburg.

“He was driving around earlier and he’s like ‘The outdoor rink… they have boards!’ Weeks recalled, laughing. “And I was like, ‘What?!’”

“We’ll definitely come back,” said Walters. “Now that the weather’s permitting, we’ll be out here a whole lot. I’d be out here every day if life allowed that, but it doesn’t, so… probably at least two times a week.”

“As often as we can,” Weeks nodded. “It’s fun, for sure.”

With the thermometer hovering around -13 to -14 C Sunday night, it was cold enough to get your attention if not bundled up.

“We’ve been out here roughly 20 minutes,” said Walters.

“Long enough for the toes to be cold,” Weeks smiled.

Both Weeks and Walters had grown up playing hockey, and they were familiar with Guelph’s outdoor rinks, which do not have boards or set up as a permanent outdoor recreation pad.

“They’re more like man-made rinks, if someone did the work,” said Weeks. “When it rains, it’s gone.”

“They just pop up every now and again in local parks,” said Walters. “There’s nothing set up like this.”

“Anything set up would be indoors,” said Weeks. “But then you don’t get to play hockey (unless you rent the ice).”

“In Guelph, at the Town Centre, there’s a rink for skating, no pucks or sticks allowed. It’s nice if you just want to go skating, but we always want to play some actual hockey,” said Walters.

“Yeah, after a few laps it’s like ‘where’s my stick?’” Weeks smiled. “And it’s quite small, smaller than this.”

The J.L. Scott McLean Outdoor Recreation Pad, located next to the Tillsonburg Community Centre, has the advantage of a modern refrigeration system, newly installed to work in conjunction with the Kinsmen Memorial Arena and Colin Campbell Community Arena in the complex.

Daniel Hamm brought his two sons out Sunday night to play some hockey on the outdoor pad.

“They love it,” said Hamm, enjoying his Tim Horton’s coffee while watching from the side boards.

“I wanted them to come at a different time but they wanted to come so bad. They’re out here having a great time, it’s pretty amazing.”

Hamm, who grew up in the Langton area, has used Lake Lisgar for skating in the past, but not this year.

“The boys are so busy with hockey this year they haven’t needed it.”

But the new facility, he said, takes it to another level.

“This is amazing – this is like real life hockey out here. There’s no pretending you’re in a real rink – this is a real life dream for the kids. Especially for the kids who don’t play hockey. They can come out here and feel like they’re a part of something, like they’re a part of hockey.

“This is the kind of stuff that brings communities together.”

Even with double-digit minus temperatures, the rink at 6-6:30 p.m. had 8-10 skaters – mostly hockey players – from adults to young children, and one skater. They weren’t playing shinny, but there was skating, passing, shooting and stickhandling. And laughing.

“If they come out here when it’s minus 14 or whatever it is, imagine when it’s minus two,” said Hamm.

“The possibilities here are endless. And in the summertime, too. I mean, look around, it’s going to be bumping in the summertime, right?”