Feature Article - September 2015
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Greener Practices, Smarter Operations

Trends in Ice Rink Management and Maintenance

By Chris Gelbach

Skating Under the Stars

While Hentze is seeing more call for spaces that can be converted for lacrosse and concert use in the offseason, Martell is seeing more facilities in the United States opt for year-round operations. An increasing number of municipalities are also considering seasonal ice skating structures in high-traffic areas to attract patrons for outdoor skating over the holidays and under the stars.

"More and more people are becoming aware of the fact that there's this new venue of skating, this new type of side industry to the skating industry," said Byron Sharp, president of a Miami-based company that sells, rents and manages these kinds of portable, seasonal facilities. "And because of good press, the market is picking up year after year."

Sharp recommends that municipalities considering such an option try the idea out by renting a portable rink for a season instead of purchasing it initially. Beyond the rental costs, Sharp recommends that municipalities budget for things like holiday decorations, advertising and promotion, and a minimal snack bar to help make the experiment a success. "People need to be aware and understand that the rink itself if a draw," Sharp said. "People will come if they know it's there. It'll have the best chance of success if you advertise and promote it."

Sharp's firm also offers ice slides, which can be an option for spaces that are too small for a full rink, or for spaces with room for both offerings. Given the limited number of users that can be on a slide at a given time, it can often work best when used as a draw in tandem with an outdoor rink.

In all skating environments, success also depends on finding and training staff with the expertise to maintain the ice properly and provide quality programming. For this reason, Sharp often sees his seasonal rinks do best when they're located in proximity to year-round skating facilities from which both a base of skaters and experienced rink employees can be drawn.