How can Ice Arenas Increase Revenue?

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper.  Like everyone I can’t wait get back to working at a regular pace. Since business has slowed, I’ve started blogging and realized that over the past 13 years in business I’ve learned a great deal from my customers and how they generate extra revenue.  In order to increase revenue, ice arenas must either gain new customers or sell more to existing customers. Below are some suggestions that may help your facility increase revenue.

Offer Value-Added Service

Selling a value-added service to an existing customer is easier than getting a new customer.  The Skate Helper is an example of a value-added service. Some of my customers have gone to local businesses like orthodontists, lawyers, hospitals to secure funding and in return have put their logo placed prominently on the front of the Skate Helpers.  Other ice arenas have purchased the skate helpers and in turn rent them out to their customers so they pay for themselves in a season or two.

The Skate Helpers can also be used in adaptive skating programs. Ice arenas can offer inclusive programs enabling people with balance issues or autism the chance to experience ice skating in a safe way. Older adults could also benefit using the skate helper as adults can use two stacked together. Offering adaptive skating programs to the community may help create a new customer base.

A few months ago, I visited the Chicago Blackhawks to see their First Stride program in action. Every day 60 kids come to the arena to participate in skating and learn a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program.  Perhaps ice arenas could offer something like this on a smaller scale and work with local school boards. Bring kids into the arena for skating and then perhaps an hour of educational instruction.

The Chicago Blackhawks use the skate helper as part of their First Stride program.

Hire an Expert or Find One In-House

You’ve got to spend money to make money.  An ice arena may benefit from hiring a marketing, social media or event planner. This may be one person or three different people depending on how big your facility is. All three are extremely important in building your brand and awareness of your facility. There are many freelancers that can be hired on a contract basis. Having someone dedicated to creating, executing and managing events make that person invaluable. Your arena is more than just an ice rink.

If money is really tight, look inward and see what kind of talent you have at your disposal internally. You may be surprised at the potential of creative thought and innovation if you simply ask for it. For example, I know that students and part-time help would love to be asked their opinions.

Customer Experience

Visiting the ice arena should be an enjoyable experience. As a hockey mom I’ve spent a lot of time at various ice arenas.  Maybe there’s an opportunity to enhance food and beverage services. Partner up with a local business to offer healthy snacks, quality coffee and tea and perhaps smoothies. Sell fruit and other healthy alternatives to junk food. The ice arena should be a wellness center just like community centers and gyms. You can promote health and wellness by hanging inspiring artwork or posters, and pictures of your management team. You could book an appointment with an interior designer to come in and offer advice on how you might refresh the arena interior with paint and furniture.  In short, make your space feel inviting and warm! Customers pay attention to details. Would a customer believe that your staff are well groomed and presentable? Are they trained in customer service and are they friendly and outgoing?  How clean is your facility?  Look in the lobby, locker rooms and restrooms. Your facility represents your brand.  So many times, I left the rink to get a coffee or sandwich. Other times I just sat in my car and looked at my phone because my car was more comfortable.

What about partnering with a local gym and offering some kind of membership deal along with skating passes?  Could you put a couple of recombinant bikes in the waiting area sectioned off as “Adult-Only” so parents could ride them while waiting for practice to end.  How about creating a children’s play area in the lobby or a lending library area for families?

I remember being in the Calgary Airport and you could hop on a bike and see how much energy you were generating. It was better than just sitting there waiting for my flight.

Offer customers comfortable seating with charging stations and put televisions up so you can broadcast your upcoming events. If you make your customers feel more comfortable, they will feel positive about the experience at your facility. They will then be more inclined to spend money on food and beverage, rent a skate helper or sign up for other programs your facility is offering.  There is power in Word of Mouth referrals.

Other Ways to Generate Revenue:

  • Use your rink year-round. Your arena is an event space. Market to customers who may need a big event space for wedding fairs, farmers markets or trade shows.
  • In the off season take the ice out and use the floor surface for indoor sports like volley ball, ball hockey, lacrosse or basketball. This may be a great reason to hire a marketing professional who can market the rink in the off-season and sell to new customers.
  • Partner with a gym or personal trainer and run athletic training camps for kids, teens and adults. Make your facility more than just an ice arena – it is a community wellness center.
  • Sell advertising in your facility. Get local businesses to sponsor your scoreboard or dasher boards. Look to local businesses like banks, local restaurants, account ants, realtors, car dealerships etc. Any businesses that your customers go to regularly should be on your contact list.

Stay Safe and Healthy

Heather from Skate Helper

Small Business Tips During Self Isolation

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper. Like most small businesses, mine too has slowed considerably. Normally, during this time of year things are slow but never this slow. Governments have offered funding and that will help but there are other things small businesses can do during this time.

What can you do?

One thing I’ve done is contact my accountant to review taxes and cash flow. I also contacted my insurance provider to see if my policy includes anything in terms of lost income or business interruption insurance.

Communicate with your Customers

I’ve reached out to all my customers to check in and see how they are doing. I gave them an update of where I’m at with my business and when I’m hoping to resume at a normal pace. I think now more than ever you need to be transparent with your customers and your employees.

Marketing and Social Media

I’m looking at my marketing and social media strategies. Now is great time to hire a freelance social media person or website consultant. I believe you need to continue to put your brand and message out there and align your company with your values and beliefs.

This is a perfect time to look at revising your website, start a blog, add new pictures to your photo gallery or Instagram. Refresh and update anything older than a couple of years. When are you ever going to have this much time to really think hard about your business and what changes you may need to make?

Prepare an online marketing strategy so you stay connected with your customers throughout this time. In my industry, direct mail still works really well. I plan to mail brochures to every ice arena in North America.

Explore Options for Government Funding

Be sure to talk to your suppliers and lenders and look into applying for any government funding that may be available to you.

Research your Industry

Now is a great time to do any research or reading on your industry. Find out what your customers are doing. Connect with them through Facebook and Instagram. Find out how they are coping during this unusual time.  Be proactive not reactive. Is there another area where you can expand?  Is there another service you can offer your customers?

We are at a time where innovation and creativity will guide society to change the way we do business. I’m sure the government leaders will be looking at innovative ways on how government services are structured and delivered. So many areas need to be reviewed. The old “normal” way of doing things may not work anymore.

Our New “Normal”

Once we get through this, I hope businesses keep the plexi-glass shields up, keep educating people to wash hands and sanitize regularly. Keep up social distancing until a vaccine is available. Keep working together, caring about one another and helping one another get through this.

Stay safe and be kind.

Heather at Skate Helper.

The Ripple Effect

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper. For me, every day seems like Groundhog Day and that’s a good thing. I don’t want anything to change my family’s routine until the curve is flattened and we are allowed to get back to business. I truly believe we will get through this.

Random Acts of Kindness

In the last few weeks, like many people, I’ve been struck by the random acts of kindness happening all over. One person’s act has an amazing ripple effect of spreading positive energy out into the universe.

I was recently inspired by Facebook posts. My friend Suzanne is sewing cotton masks at her home and will be donating them to her local hospital’s emergency dept. My other friend Sarah posted that her husband’s company is now manufacturing plastic face shields for local hospitals. My friend Randy put up positive signs in his living room window.

Random acts of kindness are everywhere. I see inspirational rocks when I walk through my neighbourhood. That inspired my daughter to paint several rocks of her own with messages and place them to be enjoyed by others.

It makes walking everyday fun and seem like a treasure hunt. Many people are banging pots and pans thanking hospital staff, first responders and essential staff during shift changes. Acknowledgement is very powerful!

How to Start a Ripple Effect

The social isolation may last well into the summer. Below are some suggestions that will put positive vibes out into your community and start a ripple effect.

  • smile and say hello to people out walking – at least 2 metres away of course
  • connect with old friends, check in and see how they are doing
  • continue to donate blood
  • donate to the food bank
  • order take-out when you can from different local restaurants
  • choose to support any business that is open during this time
  • write thank you letters and mail to hospitals, police stations, fire departments, grocery stores, gas stations, politicians, etc
  • bake cookies or muffins and give to elderly neighbours who may be stuck inside
  • pick up garbage in your yard, or in your neighbourhood

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”    Desmond Tutu.

Stay Safe and Be Kind.

Heather at Skate Helper.