Feature Article - July/August 2004
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Slick Setups

Programming, planning and promotional tricks that help heat up ice arena profits

By Stacy St. Clair


PARKED PROGRAMMING

The district, however, is not content to just pack its schedule. It wants to create programming options that continuously attract new customers and excite old ones. To that end, it will install a video wall, professional lighting and a high-grade sound system in its main rink.

The equipment will create a disco-esque feel during the public skate sessions. Industry experts encourage such design because the vibrant, lively atmosphere sets the facility apart from the gray, warehouse-like rinks.

"It's a huge thing right now that other people cannot do," Olafson says. "Most people want to do it, but they can't. We can."

The district also plans to use its fitness center as a marketing tool. The gym will overlook the rinks, giving patrons a chance to watch the ice activities while on the treadmill or climber. Industry experts long have encouraged such a design because it gives parents something to do during their children's practices.

Many experts also believe fitness centers with rink views encourage new patrons because they spotlight the aerobic benefits of hockey and ice skating. As patrons sweat it out in the gym, they may decide to try an ice sport.

At the very least, the view sets the gym apart from most facilities.

"When you're in the fitness center, you can see everything," Ditchman says. "It'll be pretty neat."

COMMUNITY CLIMATE CONTROL

Like any recreation project involving construction, however, the project has had detractors. Nearby residents have objected to the plans because it eliminates an adjacent park and brings the facility within 30 feet of residential property lines. Opponents argue it will destroy the neighborhood and harm their property values.

Projected revenues—thanks in large part to the Wolves' presence—allowed the park district to spend extra money to address the neighbors' concerns. They willingly upped the price tag by $1.6 million to move the arena ice chillers away from homes, add facility fencing and sink the rink.

"Ice-time demand has far exceeded our initial budget projections and marketing plans," Bostrom says. "These projected revenues enabled us to remain a good neighbor by allowing us to meet the sight, sound, security and public-safety concerns of our community since construction costs have exceeded our initial budget."

The park district also worked to make sure the neighbors realized the facility's potential monetary impact. At every step along the way, the park district has educated the community of the facility's value, constantly reminding the public of the potential financial boon in the town's midst.

In addition to the team's multimillion dollar contribution, the district is expected to pocket at least $352,546 a year from the rink after debts and expenses are calculated. That will mean roughly an extra $6 million over the next 20 years.

The local economy—hotels and restaurants, in particular—is expected to glean $1 million each year, according to the local convention and visitor's bureau. The money will come from overnight visits and meals prompted by the four youth hockey tournaments scheduled at the facility each year.

The facility is expected to serve a 20-mile radius, attracting otherwise unlikely visitors to Hoffman Estates. To the delight of local officials, many of those patrons are people who would not be spending money in town if not for the ice rink.

"This," Bostrom says, "is going to be a first-rate facility that will offer something for the entire community."