The first section of The Bentway—the Skate Trail—officially opened to the public on Saturday, with special events held all weekend long. The 220-metre ice skating track loops around the towering concrete ‘bents’ that carry the weight of the Gardiner overhead. The track is just one small part of the 1.75 km stretch under the Gardiner—from Strachan Avenue to Bathurst Street—that is being transformed into public space.

The Skate Trail is located under the Gardiner beside the Fort York Visitor Centre, image by Stephanie Calvet

Designed by PUBLIC WORK and Greenberg Consultants, the Bentway re-envisions the underutilized area beneath the downtown expressway as a new public landscape and arena. This first phase provides a glimpse of possibilities to come.

The media got a sneak peek of the space on Friday afternoon. On the coldest January 5th on record, Julian Sleath, CEO of the Bentway Conservancy, Mayor John Tory, Toronto Councillors Joe Cressy and Mike Layton, Planner Ken Greenberg, and Toronto philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews were in attendance. Sleath, Tory, and Judy Matthews gave short addresses.

In attendance: Sleath, Cressy, Tory, Layton, Greenberg, Wil and Judy Matthews, image by Stephanie Calvet

Matthews described the community impact to a hardy crowd of press and dignitaries, “The dead of winter with this deep freeze is unusual, but 'unusual' defines much about this project. It is an experimental public space. Our goal is to create a place for the surrounding neighbourhoods, for many residents who don’t have front or backyards in which to play, and the whole city to come together and enjoy each other’s company and experience the outdoors. The Bentway is a work in progress and it comes alive with all of you. Even after its official launch in June 2018 it will continue to grow and evolve.”

Matthews and her husband Wil’s $25 million gift to the city is making a big difference to the public realm. It will help transform this urban dead zone into vibrant community spaces hosting a range of cultural year-round programming – creating a new ‘outdoor living room’ for the 70,000 residents in nearby neighbourhoods and for visitors. 

Skate Trail rendering by The Flat Side of Design

“From the beginning, focusing on winter was really important to us because creating a place that encourages people to connect outdoors through all seasons is an invigorating and important part of our Canadian culture. As we charge ahead, we will be trying all sorts of things, to see what works and what doesn’t work. Please be a part of our experiment.” 

Matthews encourages all to share their thoughts on the space. “As neighbours and Torontonians, your opinion is crucial to us. Come for a skate, get on the website or social media. Tell us what you think and help us make this place great.”

Attendees were then treated to a demonstration of ‘Ice Breaking’, a unique hybrid of break dancing and freestyle ice skating, by the Toronto Ice Skate Group. 

Toronto Ice Skate Group presents their unique style of dance: freestyle ‘Ice-Breaking’, image by Stephanie Calvet

Hundreds braved the cold for the opening weekend’s festivities, which included musical performances, pop-up curling, and the Mayor’s Skate Party on Sunday. While there is still work to be done on site—public art installations are underway, cladding of the Zamboni storage building continues, and construction fencing has yet to be removed—the Skate Trail is open for business. 

Weather permitting, The Bentway’s Winter Season will run from Jan 6th through mid-March. Ongoing programming will include: 'Beats and Bents' Friday night skate parties with a rotating cast of DJs, skate instruction and Ice Breaking workshops, and free Monday night skate rentals. A skating village, designed by +tongtong will house warming stations and a variety of seating options, and on view will be the exhibition, “Constructions of the Everyday,” featuring installations by local visual artists.

For a full schedule of events, additional seasonal programming and hours of operation, visit

Toronto Ice Skate Group presents their unique style of dance: freestyle ‘Ice-Breaking’, image by Stephanie Calvet

We will return with updates as construction of The Bentway progresses. In the meantime, additional information and renderings of the project can be found in our database file, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.