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Featured Rink Life

Attendance is Up at Roller Rinks.

So is the cost of entry.

As roller rinks slowly open up around the country from COVID-19 restrictions, which varied from state to state, we’re seeing a trend. Roller rinks are attracting a whole new legion of skaters, and hitting their 25% capacity, with some turning away customers at the door, or selling out through advance ticket sales. That’s great news for the skating industry, which has been slowly rolling along for years.

But that’s not the only thing that’s on the upswing. Rising attraction prices, which includes roller skating. Before you accuse rink owners of greed, please understand first why the prices have to go up. It’s a matter of life and death for these small businesses. If you’ve ever lost a roller rink in your home town, you get it. And currently we’re in the double digits for the number of rinks that have died due to COVID. These are rinks that will never re-open again.

For those rink operators who did everything possible to not throw in the towel, thank you.

It has been a long shut down through what is typically the busiest time of year for the industry, and operators had no choice but to raise prices. Here’s why. Many had to take out PPP loans, which involved a lot of paperwork. Before COVID, some of the rinks were paid off, and they had no debt. That’s how they were able to stay open on $5 a head. Now, these same owners have a payment that wasn’t in previous operating budgets.  With no revenue coming in, there were still expenses going out. Insurance, taxes, utilities, and association dues, to name a few. Additionally, there were pandemic-related items to purchase, including masks, partitions, cleaning supplies, gallons of hand sanitizer, and custom floor stickers to enforce social distancing. And let’s not forget that tables in the snack bar had to be distanced, with fewer places to sit. On top of that, there are future concerns of a higher mandatory minimum wage, or another lockdown/shutdown.

While rinks were closed in 2020, there was a lot of cleaning and renovating going on. You’ll notice rental skates are a lot cleaner, arcade games are routinely wiped down, and a new coat of paint in some facilities. This also adds to the budget.

Please don’t be hatin’ on the rink for raising prices to cover these unexpected expenses. Prices are going up everywhere. Plus, let’s take a look at the value you still get from indoor roller-skating rinks. An AMC Movie Ticket is $13.69 to watch a major motion picture. That doesn’t include the $5 sodas and buckets of popcorn.

Bowling alleys charge more than $5 per game (per person), although some charge by the hour: $25-$35 per hour per lane. Shoe rental averages $4.

Have you seen what it costs to go to a trampoline park? $17 per hour, per person. Plus, you’ll need a pair of grip socks for an additional $2 a pair, which are yours to keep.

A four-day ski trip for a family of four at a top ski resort can run $2,500-$3,000, including lodging, lift tickets, and kids’ lessons, but before transportation, meals, or equipment rental. At that price, you can bring the family roller skating every weekend for a whole year. A lift ticket, alone can cost up to $150 a day (per person).

Roller skating truly is the perfect family staycation. With each visit, you can get some exercise, improve your skills, and meet new friends. We’re lucky to have the rinks that are open, even if there has been a price increase. Please remember that the next time you plan a trip to your local skating center. It still a great value.

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Featured

In 5 States, you still can’t skate indoors due to COVID-19

Open, open, open. That’s all 138 rink operators want to do.

Six months into the pandemic, it is hard to fathom that roller skating rinks situated in 5 states, remain closed. This includes Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, California, and North Carolina, although, that state finally got the green light to open shortly but with a capacity of 30% and mask mandates for those over the age of 5.

California appears to see no light at the end of the tunnel, as the state has now labeled opening phases by color, and to advance from one phase to the next, takes 21 days. Most of California is currently labeled “purple”, with non-essential businesses forbidden from opening. Purple is considered widespread which is defined as more than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents, or 8% or more positive test results. From there, the chart transitions to red, orange, and yellow as the case numbers decrease. Skating rinks are included in the yellow phase— which requires fewer than 1 daily new case per 100,000. “We may not open for a very long time,” lamented a concerned rink operator. “Perhaps not even this year.” That’s 84 days of counting down the days to the next phase on the chart. And that’s only if cases decrease and remain that way.

Meanwhile, students in Massachusetts and New York are returning to the classroom, yet rinks in both states remain closed. One theory is that the schools will serve as the canary in the coal mine. If the virus wanes, then rinks will open. But if there’s another wave, rinks will have to wait even longer. And that could be devastating to all who love indoor skating.

That’s why the Roller Skating Association launched a national fundraising campaign to help keep struggling rinks from shutting down due to financial distress caused by COVID-19. RSA board members, as well as a legal team, jumped into action for The Great American Skate, September 25-27, taking place at roller rinks around the country. If your rink is still closed, you can donate by clicking on the QRCode within the flyer. If half of us contributed just a dollar, we could have a significant impact on the future of roller skating rinks.

So far, rink suppliers have stepped up to the plate with their own donations. Many vendors had booked and paid in advance for booth space at the April RSA Trade Show which was postponed twice. Now, members will meet virtually online this month. And because the fee was lowered significantly for suppliers to purchase a digital booth, instead of one in Las Vegas, companies such as Player One and Golden Horse Skates have asked the RSA to donate their overpayment to the fund to help struggling rinks.

Please keep these rink operators in your thoughts and prayers, and support them any way you can.

Further, keep an eye on our Facebook page for further details as we get closer to the Great American Skate.

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Featured Recreational / Session Rink Life

The Case for Indoor Skating

Don’t forget the roller rink.

If anything CoVID-19 has taught us, it’s that you quickly realize how much you miss something when it’s no longer there. For us, it’s the roller rink. Never in our wildest dreams could we imagine our rinks abruptly shuttered due to a pandemic. But it happened. So far, I’m told we’ve lost 6 rinks across the USA since the outbreak started.

That’s why it’s up to us to keep our rinks open and thriving. COVID19 got people outdoors, practicing social distancing. And it also accelerated the sale of outdoor gear, from skates and protective wear, to softer wheels, helmets, wrist guards and other necessities. Roller Skating suddenly started trending with a whole new crowd.

Meanwhile, roller rink operators were forced to close during their busiest time of the year. Most spent their time on rink upgrades, such as painting, floor resurfacing, restroom facelifts, knocking out walls, rearranging the space, installing new lights, and making the facilities look brand new.

And God Bless those who had to deal with Governors who didn’t understand how to classify a rink when it came time to reopen. Is a roller rink considered a fitness facility? An entertainment venue? A restaurant? Community center? And why are ice rinks open, while rinks remain closed?

In Tennessee, rink owners couldn’t get an answer from their state leaders. So, they got together in a Zoom Meeting with the Governor and pleaded their case along with a set of guidelines they promised to follow. Those rinks, along with Georgia and Texas are already open. Ohio and North Carolina are next.

Rink operators in California, have been chomping at the bit waiting to get permission to reopen with no date on the horizon. It’s been a frustrating ride for everyone.

Now that rinks are re-opening across the country, I urge you to visit one near you so we can keep them around for the future. They offer many advantages over outdoor skating, such as:

Your car is always close by. You can go for miles in a skating rink, and your car is never far away. That means you won’t be stuck 2 miles up some trail with a sprained ankle in the pouring rain or hot sun; or facing down a wild animal while wishing you were already in your car.

They’re safer. For example, there are no hills. Hills are fun when you’re 20. Then you realize how expensive a trip to the hospital is. Roller rinks provide a smooth flat surface and sweep it often. Indoor skating surfaces are free of rocks, branches, seed pods, and small sticks that can trip you up when skating outdoors.

There’s no pollen. If seasonal allergies are a problem, indoor skating is your solution. What good is skating outdoors if it leads to sneezing, coughing, or a wicked headache?

In case of injury. Let’s be honest. Roller skating, especially outdoors can be dicey at times. Who hasn’t fallen? In a skating rink someone is always close by to quickly evaluate your situation and call 911 if needed. Response time could be a lot longer out on the greenway.

The atmosphere makes it fun. Skating to a Live DJ who understands how to entertain skaters is another plus. The lights and music, along with a crowd of good skaters is something you won’t find on a bike path.

You’ll make new friends. Skating rinks are the original social media. Regardless of your age or skill level, you can always find another person who shares your love of gliding on wheels.

You’re encouraged to have fun. How many times have you seen signs outdoors stating “No roller skating”? At an indoor rink, they want you to skate and have a great time.

So, when the quarantine is finally over, don’t forget our roller rinks. Change your wheels and skate indoors.

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Featured Recreational / Session Rink Life

Re-opening Roller Rinks amid the COVID-19 pandemic

While the CoVID-19 Pandemic caused sessions at roller rinks to come to a screeching halt, some states are already making plans to lift the ban on social gatherings. That means a few, like those in Georgia have re-opened again, but with caveats. Some are only allowed 25 people in the building. Most are requiring a state health inspection to ensure cleanliness and sanitizing methods are clearly enforced. And there will be changes that employees and customers will need to be aware of.

What they’re doing

When rinks were first shut down by state governments, the brass at the Roller Skating Association jumped into action to advise rinks on how to weather the storm. The majority of skating rinks are privately owned, and operate on a shoe string budget by family members. Some had already put back savings to handle such an event, like a hurricane, or major catastrophe that would close the business for a period of time. Others were caught flat-wheeled. Because of social distancing rules, and the myriad of touch surfaces that kids have their sticky fingers all over, rinks were deemed “non-essential” businesses and unable to conduct business.

RSA Executive James McMahon has the perfect experience to lead the rink operators through this. He’s a former government politico able to help rink owners navigate the Payroll Protection loans, the SBA loans, and other funding available to small business owners at very low interest rates. As of this past week’s town hall meeting, many rink operators have reported that funds have been received. That means a lot of rinks will be able to re-open when the time comes thanks to the RSA jumping into action early and guiding them through this.

Also note there are a number of renovations going on at skating facilities throughout the country. When rinks open back up, it will be like walking into a brand-new business. Floors are being refinished, carpeting installed, painting, repairs, new lighting, and sound too. It’s exciting to see the progress posted on social media. If you’re not following your favorite rink, I urge you to do so!

Operational Changes

Before skating rinks can reopen, a plan needs to be in place regarding constant cleaning and social distancing. Gone are the days of staying open all day Saturday to accommodate rink rats who hang out for 8 hours straight. Instead, the FECs will have to abide by new regulations. Expect to see more “close and clean” session lineups. An example would be: open from 12-2:30PM then clear all patrons from the building, close, and clean to reopen at 3PM until 5:30 PM. Close and clean from 5:30 to 6 and run that session for 2 hours. Skaters will have to get used to a new session lineup and plan their rink trips accordingly.

Close and clean is a good thing. For one, the building will be sparkling clean for each new session. Typically, for rinks that remain open all day, it usually looks like a bomb went off by 4PM with overflowing trash cans, and harried employees having to restock restrooms during a busy public session. Now employees can focus on cleaning the building without customer interruptions, and customers don’t have to deal with spray cleaner odors, vacuum noise, and large bags of trash being emptied in front of them.

Another plus, the parking lot will get cleared every 2 to 3 hours for a new group of customers. Rinks will find it easier to remain in compliance of social distancing, while optimizing revenue opportunities, so they can stay open for us. You can’t make a lot of money with only 25 people in the building if they won’t leave.

Also note, there will be no sharing of rental skates. All rental skates will need to be disinfected between use. Skaters will most likely be required to wear a face mask, although that could vary among state authorities. And there will be hand sanitizer stations everywhere. Don’t be surprised if drinking fountains are shut off for the time being as well.

What’s to become of the play smart soft play zones? That hasn’t yet been determined. Since they are high contact, it is likely they will remain closed for the time being. Chances are also good that moms won’t want their kids in there anymore, anyway.

Show some love

More than anything, we need to remember to thank rink operators for remaining steadfast and vigilant during this crisis. They miss us as much as we miss them. The old saying is true, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” As our economy hits the reset button and we’re free to skate again, never forget the sacrifice rink operators made to return to business. We may see the rates go up. Do not complain! There is nothing worse than not having a rink at all to skate at. We learned that during the past 6 weeks. Pay for what you love, and show the owners some gratitude.

See you at the rink.

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Featured

We’re all in this together

All Skate, just not right now.

As the COVid19 continues to shut down our Country and our beloved roller rinks, owners and customers are devastated.

Today, members of the Roller-Skating Association gathered online for a Town Hall Meeting to not only discuss the effect it is having on skating businesses, but whether the National Convention and Trade Show will occur in late April. Just yesterday, Nevada’s Governor shuttered all casinos within the state for the next 30 days. The RSA Convention is scheduled for April 26-May 1 at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Billboard Music Awards, which happens concurrently just across the street from the RSA Convention, announced their cancellation a few days ago.

According to Jim McMahon, the RSA’s Executive Director, he’s been trying to get the Convention postponed until late August. This will help rink managers get back on their feet from being closed for an indefinite period of time. For another, the global shutdown could affect the supply of skates, and novelty items that are made in China. Most of the rink operators responded they would happily attend Convention in August in Las Vegas.

As for rink operations around the USA, many owners have abruptly shut down after their state lawmakers mandated it. For others, they are staying open, letting the customers decide. Some are reporting single digit numbers in their customer counts which is providing the writing on the wall. Those that have remained open are receiving hate messages on their social media walls, while other customers, especially those who need a place to bring their kids because they have to work, were ecstatic the rink was open. If only for a short time.

Like many small business owners, Unemployment Insurance is not an option. And as far as Business Interruption Insurance, chances are it’s not covered, because nuclear disasters and health pandemics are usually included. Plus, it won’t cover lost revenue, for example, several thousand dollars a typical Saturday session brings in. But it can cover the expenses, like utilities and employee salaries. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

The Small Business Association will have some loans to offer at very low interest rates, so there’s a blessing as well. However, for those rink operators not accustomed to debt, that means payments that were never in the budget.

If there’s any silver lining in this uncharted territory, rinks are getting cleaned and sanitized, and that has needed to happen for a long time. While they were open, I saw several rinks assign employees the title of “Sanitation Managers,” constantly walking around and spraying down tables, gaming consoles, door handles, rental skates, skate mates, and any other high touch surfaces within the building. And for those closed rinks, operators are taking the opportunity to install new carpeting, resurface the skate floor, make upgrades, and finish those projects they were too busy to address in the past. After all, the skating business was going gang busters until just a week ago. Just like most businesses around the world.

Additionally, the music licensing companies, like ASCAP, will have to lower fees because no one is listening to their music when the building is dark.

However, it’s all going to come at a cost. With higher unemployment looming and our budgets getting thin, please think about your favorite rink. As it is, there are just under 1,200 rinks in existence, down from 5,000 during the heyday of skating in the 50s and 60s. We can’t afford to lose anymore.

Here are a few suggestions on what can we do to make sure our rinks will survive these turbulent times. Buy gift certificates. Go skate in your driveway or your Greenway and post videos online. Stay in the best skate shape possible. If you take lessons, ask your skate coach for a virtual lesson. Stay engaged with your rink’s social media page. And when they re-open, go skate, buy food in the snack bar, and get a new pair of skates if it’s in your budget. Support what you love so the rinks can stay open.

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And for those rinks that are allowed to remain open right now, please don’t hate on them. It’s not an easy decision to shut down a business, or stay open during this emergency. Please be nice.

Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year. All we have is hope and a prayer at this point. And hopefully we’ll all come out of this just fine, if not stronger. We’re all in this together. And we will skate again!