Nfld. & Labrador

City hall scuffle turns out the lights — for now — at outdoor rink in St. John's

The rink Warren Norris built near his home hasn't even completely frozen yet but he's already been given a warning by the referee: the City of St. John's.

City hasn't asked Warren Norris to remove the rink he built but says its electrical work is a safety hazard

Warren Norris says he's gotten nothing but positive feedback on his outdoor rink, but the City of St. John's is assessing the rink because of safety concerns. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The outdoor rink Warren Norris built near his home hasn't even completely frozen yet but he's already been given a warning by the referee: the City of St. John's.

Norris says he has built a rink on a plot of vacant land near his home in the city's east end for the past two winters, as it seemed like the perfect place for a rink. 

"I just thought this space here is great for kids for outdoor play," he told CBC News on Sunday.

"Obviously with the space being that big and the lack of rinks here in the city, I just thought, 'Why not put a rink up and let the kids in Clovelly enjoy some fun time outside?'"

Norris says it's the third time he's built an outdoor rink on this vacant lot near his home in the east end of St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

After spending about three days working on the rink — building a wooden frame, flooding the surface for the ice, and running electricity from a neighbour's shed for lights — Norris said he was approached by a city official while checking his mail last week.

He said the city official wasn't sure if the piece of land belonged to the city, but asked if Norris had a permit to build the rink.

Norris said there were concerns about the electrical equipment he had set up for lights around the rink. He said the receptacles are weatherproof, but a cable runs over a fence to a neighbour's shed.

He said he has since disconnected the cable and plans to use a generator to power the lights instead, when colder weather makes the rink usable.

Rink personal for Norris

The rink is a special personal project for Norris, who played hockey professionally for 15 years, including with the St. John's Maple Leafs and more than a decade in leagues in Europe.

He's also from a hockey family — Norris's brother Dwayne played in the NHL and for Team Canada in the World Junior Hockey Championship, while his nephew Josh was drafted by the Ottawa Senators — and he wanted to have a place for his son to play outside.

"With hockey being such a big part of my life, it's a bit of a sore spot for me. For the regular Joe Blow who doesn't really like hockey, it's probably not an issue for them," he said.

"But it's just disappointing. I think we should be condoning this in the community. If nothing else, if the city comes by and says the wiring is not up to code — how about a solution about how we can get it up to code? That was never mentioned. It's disheartening."

The city says the electrical equipment on Norris's rink is a potential safety hazard. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Norris said people in the neighborhood have been supportive of the rink. About 10 passersby and residents of the neighbourhood expressed support for the rink to CBC News on Monday. 

"Everything's been very, very positive.… In the three days I was here [building the rink] I didn't hear one negative comment," he said.

"Some parents went as much to say, 'When are you gonna be on Hockey Night in Canada? When are you putting the seats in?"

In a statement to CBC News on Monday, the City of St. John's said it hasn't ordered Norris to take down the rink but the electrical hookup was deemed a safety hazard.

The city said it plans to complete another assessment this week.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton

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