Feature Article - July 2007
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Skating Into the Black

Solid strategies to build revenue

By Jessica Royer Ocken

It's not just skating - it's entertainment

"You have to do more than skate around in circles to be successful," Hillgrove said. This means even your free-skate or public sessions need some added excitement. Open skating may be more appealing when it has a theme—disco party, hits of the '80s, family fun night, costume party on ice—or even just some special music. Bring in a DJ or band rather than playing the usual recordings.

Des Moines' Brenton Skating Plaza, an ice rink that's part of an ongoing downtown redevelopment, gears up for "Rock the River" on Friday nights. They "kick up the music" and aim to attract the city's youth, said Cahill, a liaison between the city, Rink Management Services and Principal Financial Group, which is funding part of the project. "Saturdays have a much more family feel," he added. Little kids and parents toddling along the ice together replace rambunctious teens. "It's a very versatile facility with a mix of all generations and generally a lot of smiles," Cahill added.

Currently, the rink's public skating sessions are so popular that they leave little time for other desired activities, such as broomball (a hockey variant that uses special sticks and a small ball), "but we're trying to get a little more time for the broomball folks," he said.

Another moneymaker in Brenton Skating Plaza's bag of tricks is corporate rentals. Monday nights are "Corporate Night" at the facility, when companies looking for a fun "teambuilding" activity for employees can rent the ice for a few hours or the entire evening, depending on their needs.

Don't forget about your off-the-ice options as well. The building that houses the York City Ice Arena also includes a second-floor community room. Through their affiliation with a local nonprofit organization—the York City Recreation Foundation—the facility holds a liquor license, which makes the room a prime rental spot for everything from bridal showers to parties to company events, and a small games of chance license, which means it's Bingo night twice a week. "Both of those [licenses] have helped us produce revenue," Gross said.

Even as you plan skating programs, remember that you're in the entertainment business, Martell said. "Ice skating just happens to be the medium." Therefore, your competition is not just the other ice rinks in your area, it's also the movie theater, the soccer leagues, the video games, "all the other activities out there for Americans to participate in," he said. "Your competition is all the people who are not thinking about ice skating because they're doing something else."

What about the off season?

If you've got an outdoor rink that's only useable during certain months, or an indoor rink that gets a little lonely in the summer, try attracting visitors by hosting other events. The Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor, Mich., has welcomed ice shows and inline skating tournaments (which involve taking down at least one of their two ice rinks), and their soccer fields are actually "multipurpose turf," so those can be used for other events too. See www.taylorsportsplex.com for more details and ideas.

If the time and expense of taking down your indoor ice is what keeps you from opening the doors to special events, technology has solved your problem: Select just the cover panels you need to keep your ice cold and protected while a concert or conference goes on just above this added layer. Many of these panels are interlocking for easy placement, and they come in a variety of make-ups to provide sound insulation, temperature insulation, no-slip surfaces and moisture resistance.