Feature Article - July/August 2006
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Adults on Ice

Grow your programming by appealing to grownups

By Stacy St. Clair



Spice up Your Offerings

Hockey and figure skating are the backbone of every ice rink. Though they might keep your facility erect, you need more than that to make it lively. Thriving rinks rely upon a variety of programming to attract patrons—even those who are hesitant to lace on a pair of skates.

A successful facility generally should be able to program each sheet from 6 a.m. to midnight. If you only have enough business to fill one rink, don't build more than that.

But if you're looking to lure more customers, spicing up your schedule is the place to start.

Here are some tips for mixing it up:

FREE SKATES

Recapture the glory of the '70s roller rink with open skate times. Pump in some music, add disco lighting, and you've got yourself a party, not to mention a perfect magnet for Baby Boomers and increasingly nostalgic Gen Xers and their offspring.

Free skates allow the maximum number of people on the ice, meaning you're getting the most out of your sheet. It's also a sure-fire way to make concession-stand profits. Some facilities offer laser shows, music and karaoke.

FITNESS CENTERS

While a state-of-the art fitness center will make your facility attractive to competitive figure skaters and hockey clubs, it also might attract people who haven't skated since Eric Heiden wore gold spandex. Creative facilities also offer Spinning or aerobics classes for parents looking to burn time (and calories) during their children's hockey practices and skating lessons.

DANCE STUDIOS

The hippest ice arenas include dance studios where their competitive figure skaters can practice ballet and jazz to improve their musicality. Progressive-thinking rinks offer classes to parents looking to pass the time. To attract newcomers to the rink, consider renting out the studio for Pilates, yoga or martial arts classes.

BROOMBALL

It's the thrill of hockey for people who don't skate. Patrons run around the ice in sneakers, pushing a dodgeball with a broom. Promote it as an ideal group outing because it doesn't require participants to know how to skate.

COOL SUMMER

Consider turning a rink into an indoor playground during the lean summer months. Some facilities have turned their sheets into a day-camp location that offers activities such as kickball, soccer, chair hockey and inner-tube racing. The ice is not resurfaced—a condition called rough ice—so the children can run and play on it without slipping.

EXTREME SPORTS

With increasing frequency, facilities with underused sheets have melted the ice and replaced them with extreme sports. Others have dedicated unused space for X-games activities. One East Coast facility, for example, transformed its mezzanine into a two-story complex for inline skating, skateboards and scooters.