Featured Gear Rink Life

Why Rinks are Changing their hours and Drop-off Policy

Several roller-skating rinks around the country are closing earlier and enforcing strict policies regarding kids under a certain age from being dropped off without adult supervision. The cutoff age for unaccompanied teens is typically younger than 16 for a Friday or Saturday night. There is a caveat, though. If the dropped-off kids (regardless of their age) have their own skates, they can stay without their parents in tow. A handful of adults have complained on social media. One cried out that it’s a slap in the face to “poverty-stricken” families (their words, not mine). She unfairly accused a rink operator of being greedy, assuming the reason for the skate policy is to sell more skates from their pro shop. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s break it down.

Prior to COVID-19, rinks were in a bit of a slump. Few, if any reached full capacity, or even 50% on any given night. Admission prices were always low, even though theaters, trampoline centers, and amusement parks charge much higher rates. It’s amazing to me how many rinks have stayed in business all these years with low prices and few customers to support it.

COVID-19 Changed Everything.

Fast-forward to 2020. Rinks got locked down along with the rest of us stuck at home. Those of us who skate consistently went a bit stir crazy. Kids without regular activity started getting restless as well.

As rinks were given the green yellow light to open, most had to start with either 25 people, 25 percent, or some other arbitrary number issued by their state governors. One Ohio rink owner consistently sold out of advance tickets online and had to turn people away at the door because of the limited capacity. This led to a lot of arguments as well. No one wanted to see this happen. But what choice do they have? They were forced to do so by the health department.

Staying Alive.

You can’t make the mortgage, pay the utilities, insurance, employees, and other expenses on 25 people. That’s why loans were taken out in order to remain in existence. According to Ginger Mathews, aka The Skate Critic, 1,234 rinks are still in operation. And that number is dwindling.

This month, as more COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, people are headed to roller rinks in droves. In my 40+ years of watching the industry, I have never seen such excitement. Last weekend there was a line wrapped around the building at my local Skate Center with people eager to get in.

Lockdown and emotions.

For diehards like me, I’m happy to see others come to the rink. However, teens driven by emotions and hormones have been causing some trouble. These are the ones who show up, don’t skate and get into fights. The video goes viral and then no one wants to skate there anymore. It’s been problematic at trampoline parks, too. Even Bath and Body Works had an incident this past week with violence erupting between 2 adults waiting in line. The lockdowns have us all pent-up, and we need an outlet.

Why rinks are changing policies.

These new policies at roller rinks are a step in the right direction. People who show up with skates are there to skate. Non-golfers don’t hang out on the course. Kids who don’t practice karate don’t loiter at the dojo. And non-skaters shouldn’t be hanging out in roller rinks. In fact, a North Carolina rink operator with 3 locations explained on their Facebook page that 99% of the problem kids do not own their own skates.

Cutting out the drama.

Parents who accompany their kids provide added supervision in the rink. Kids are usually better behaved around their parents. Those who are not civil tend to be the drop-offs that the parents want to get rid of for a few hours to get away from them for a needed a break. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has to deal with their kid’s bad behavior, and it’s the business owners who bear the brunt when their other customers are chased away. Those who love to skate are not there for the drama. Plus there’s the negative publicity that comes with it when videos start circulating on social media and end up on the evening news.

For skaters, owning is better than renting.

As for the poverty-stricken mom whining about the “price” of buying skates, she should look at the big picture and do the math. Shelling out $4-5 to rent skates once a week for 52 weeks adds up to an additional $200 per kid (which can instead be invested in equipment.) Owning a pair will not only save money every time they go skating (and make them better skaters), they can resell those skates or hand them down to a sibling once they outgrow them.

Renting generates more revenue for rinks

If you think rink owners make more off selling skates vs. renting, then you are mistaken. The markup is really slim and is taxable to the business. The skate pro puts in the time to ensure a good fit, place the order, and adjust them to the skater’s needs. Once they sell a pair of skates, they’ll never receive rental income again from that person.

It’s not greed that spurred this policy. It’s emotionally-driven out-of-control teens and the goal of keeping all guests safe.

I wish all rinks would implement this policy. So far it’s working to maintain civility, enhance safety, and provide a better experience for those who want to skate. Rink owners are reporting positive results as well!

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.


Why Your Skates Don’t Fit

I’ve been watching a lot of buy and sell action going on within Facebook groups that help people find a pair of skates. Before COVID19 hit, banter was mostly among experienced skaters with high-end equipment that was refurbished and sold. Now the traffic is mostly hawking “brand-new, worn once for 20 minutes” cheap brands that were purchased online and don’t fit.

Many of these sellers hopped on the re-surging quad roller skate bandwagon, causing demand to outstrip supply in what was once a quiet marketplace. One seller offered up used rental skates for more than $100 that were 40 years old, and needed a complete overhaul before they are safe to use again. In fact, the plate may be the only thing salvageable. The buyers will have to shell out another $250+ for boots, laces, toe stops, wheels, bearings, wheel nuts, pivot cups, cushions, and possibly axles. And don’t forget the mounting hardware and probably a Dremel tool to saw off the old boots.

Your skates don’t fit for a few reasons. One, the sizes among the different brands vary. And the only way to determine your best size is to trace your foot. You can’t rely on “oh, I usually wear an 8 medium in a lady’s shoe.” There are so many variables. How high is your instep? What is the span between the ball of your foot and your heel? What are the total overall inches from the tallest toe to the heel? And don’t forget the width from the widest part of the foot. I often see new faces at the rink wearing gear that wasn’t properly sized. And I know why they won’t be skating for long. The skater’s feet weren’t measured and sized by a professional skate tech. Yes, it matters. And now those $150 skates they bought online will be up for sale.

Sales have exploded for colorful brands, such as Moxi Lollies, Beach Bunnies, Sure Grip Boardwalks, and others like Chaya and Impala.  Skaters performed in them on Tik Tok and people stuck at home decided they should start skating. They bought what these Tik Tok influencers were promoting. Good skaters understand how a skate is supposed to fit and will give them a test run before buying them. Purchasing skates online is risky. For one, if they don’t fit, they’re a hassle to resell to someone else. For another, if they weren’t mounted correctly (it happens more than you think) or something breaks, you could be seriously hurt. Plus, rink operators are going to charge you quite a bit to fix the skates, if they can even source parts for them. Some of these emerging brands are using different sizes for wheel nuts or have a design that doesn’t allow a standard toe stop change.  Once they fail, you’re out of luck.

Your feet are as unique as your mouth. In dentistry, there is rarely a one-size, fits-all solution. Whether it’s a filling, or an implant, someone had to make it to fit you or it’s going to not feel right in your mouth. The same should go for your skates. If saving $20 grand on a broken arm puts it in better perspective, then take heed. Investing in a GOOD pair of skates at $600 and up costs a lot less than a trip to the emergency room. You’ll skate better and be more relaxed. And in the event that you do fall, you lessen the impact when you’re relaxed.

Your local roller rink or an experienced skate tech should be your “go-to” source when it comes to roller skating.  The pro will ask you how you skate, where you skate, how often you skate, measure your feet, and make a recommendation based on your budget. Don’t expect a quality skate for less than $250. But $600 and should get you a nice set up in just about any brand. And don’t forget the real cost if you go for the cheapest brand. A broken bone is very expensive and will ruin the skating experience.

There is something else to consider. During the pandemic, many indoor skating rinks are limited to the number of admissions they can allow in their building. You can help by purchasing your skates locally from your roller rink. Together, we will skate through this.

Thank you for supporting rink owners and skate manufacturers.


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.

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.