Feature Article - July 2007
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Skating Into the Black

Solid strategies to build revenue

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Hire some outside experts

Successfully managing an ice arena is no doubt a detail-oriented task, and one that requires quite a bit of special expertise. Depending on the other responsibilities included in one's job description, it could be that getting a handle on all the aspects of running an arena is not a feasible task. "It's a specialized body of knowledge," Hillgrove said. "There's a lot more to an ice rink than freezing water, and it can be more cost-efficient to hire a body of experts."

An ice rink is much more "suited to an entrepreneurial model" than the usual municipal government structure, he added. "The civil service system doesn't allow you to reward people [as rapidly] as you can in private enterprise." A private management company can also "react more quickly in the marketplace than a municipal government can. We are fanatics about numbers and analyzing where we are," he explained. "If we find a program falling behind where it should be, we can go out and do a media buy. Most governments have an approval process that's lengthy."

In some cases, when outside management takes over a rink, changes are immediately apparent. However, "generally we ask for a full cycle, a whole year," Hillgrove said. "It's a skill set that we've honed and continue to hone. The key is programming and scheduling. Everyone wants prime-time ice, and how do you extend the season of a rink?"