Feature Article - July/August 2006
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Adults on Ice

Grow your programming by appealing to grownups

By Stacy St. Clair

Got Skates?

For many rinks, the biggest challenge to starting and growing a speedskating program is the actual skates.

As anyone who has watched the Olympics knows, speed skates aren't like figure or hockey skates. Speed skates are made with gliding and skating for maximum force and power.

Many of the basic techniques can be taught on regular skates, inline skates or even dry land. Without the real equipment, however, program managers might find it difficult to inspire and engage new skaters.

According to the U.S. Speedskating Association, retention rates for introductory programs are 50 percent higher when speed skates are made available.

To that end, the association offers a starter plan to help bolster participation in fledgling programs. It is designed to be a "turn-key" package to get new groups skating with a minimal amount of setup time, knowledge, experience or upfront cash.

The starter kit contains 13 pairs of skates in an assortment of sizes. It also provides rinks with a sharpening jig, stones and oil to maintain the skates with good edges.

The need for sharpening depends on the amount, type and ability of use. Most skates can go for about 25 hours of use before requiring sharpening. The sharpening process takes about 15 minutes.

The skates themselves feature durable plastic boots with comfortable, replaceable padded inner liners and hardened alloy blades.

In addition to higher recruitment and retention rates, the program is designed to offer financial incentives. Participants are urged to charge a nominal fee to help recoup costs. They also are encouraged to have skaters become members of the U.S. Speedskating Association to cover program costs. Fee payments are deferred until the end of the year to allow participants time to do this and relieve the upfront financial pressure on the participants.

To join the program, an application can be found at www.speedskating.org. Upon acceptance into the initiative, rinks must pay a non-refundable $200 fee. At the end of the first year, the participant must pay another $200. A $25 credit is given for every new skater the rink has signed up for membership in the association. At the end of the second year, the rink must pay $400. Earned credit is given for both new association members and those who renew their membership for a second year.

After the second year, participating rinks have the option of returning the kit or buying the skates outright for $600.

For more information, contact Carol Bongers of the U.S. Speedskating Association at 440-899-0128 or cbongers@usspeedskating.org