Categories
Featured New Rinks

Building a Sustainable rink

I see a lot of skaters on social media chatting about how they badly want to own a rink, and when they win the lottery they will make it happen. Sounds awesome. It’s always good to have goals, and unlimited funds can make that reality a bit easier. As someone who has been in a lot of rinks and written about them for a trade publication, I thought I would share my blueprint on what I think would make a fabulous facility. No matter how much you have to spend on the initial project, you need to keep in mind that the business must have long term sustainability to keep the doors open so utility bills and taxes don’t exceed your monthly revenues.

My list of suggestions.

  • A wood rotunda floor is the Cadillac of roller rinks, and we haven’t seen one installed in a few decades due to the initial high cost at a whopping $300,000. Consider this as an investment. There are several rotunda wood floors in rinks around the USA that are still going strong after 5 decades. Concrete may be cheaper, but it cracks and the sealant bubbles. Plus there’s more broken bones with concrete surfaces than with wood.
Ginger Mathews, aka The Skate Critic shows us a rotunda floor.
  • Float that floor. Depending on your elevation and location, there’s always a chance that floodwaters can ruin a rink. Oaks Park in Portland solved that problem by adding pylons under the floor that allows it to float above rising waters.
  • Use ICF building blocks for your exterior walls.  Not only do they provide better insulation (energy bills are 75% less), but they provide a sound block, are resistant to fires, floods, hurricanes, leaks, and wood boring insects. They cost a little more, but you’ll reap savings on utility bills and insurance.
  • Solar Covered Parking. Not only will your customers appreciate a shady spot for their vehicles, but you’ll be generating your own electricity. In Arizona the monthly summer power bill can run upwards of $3,500 without solar. With solar, anything you don’t use, can be sold back to the power company. Plus you might be eligible for tax credits. https://powerssolarframes.com/carports.html
  • Skylights. Research has proven that natural light improves the moods of employees and elevates their productivity. That’s why you see them now in big box stores. Plus you’ll get free light during the daytime hours. https://pacificwestroofing.com/blog/why-install-skylights-in-your-office
  • Lease space to complementary store fronts. When the rink isn’t open, you can still generate income by leasing out space to a local baker, party retailer, coffee shop, and other restaurants. Similar to a mall food court, these retailers can also open a window inside the rink, allowing skaters more variety from a few different vendors. By renting out the space, someone else can deal with the health department, hiring, food inventory, etc. The revenue will help pay for taxes and building upkeep. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/walmart-target-fast-food_n_2433365
  • Consider large restrooms with a non-slip floor and some locker space. Ice rinks do this well.
  • Add an upper deck for spectators to enjoy the view from above, or those who want to walk laps while their kid is in lessons
  • Include a well-stocked pro shop with apparel, skates, parts, laces, stickers, skate cases, and anything else that a skater would want. Shoppers prefer to see and feel in person what they are buying. And they spend more.
  • Ventilation. A common issue with roller rinks is the smell of dirty socks. An exhaust fan in your rental room should be mandatory.
  • Offer your rink as an emergency evacuation shelter should the community have to deal with a natural disaster. This would require a commercial generator (probably locomotive size). It could be financed as a private/public partnership with FEMA or other government agency (or grants) to keep it stocked with cots, diapers, canned goods, and water, that can be stored in a basement or a climate controlled room. It promotes good will in the community and will bring the media to your door if there is ever a disaster.

Keep the party area and cafe close to one another with some behind-the- scenes hallway access. There is nothing more disconcerting than seeing pizzas being delivered to the other side of the rink, with party hosts navigating through a crowd of people (some with long hair).

The rental counter should be close to the front door so Grandma doesn’t have to walk far to help the little ones get their skates. Also, avoid gravity racks to store rental skates. Use cubbies, and take renter’s shoes so the rest of your customers don’t have to trip over shoes during their visit.

Be sure to include several TV screens in the lounge / eating area with low frequency radio stations assigned to each TV so viewers can tune into a game with ear buds and hear the action. Health Clubs know how to do this. They print the frequency underneath every TV. And it costs around a hundred bucks to set up. https://wholehousefmtransmitter.com/tv-fm-transmitter-in-gyms-and-fitness-centers-for-treadmill-bike-elliptical-and-rowing-machine/

If you had several million to build a rink, what would you add?

Categories
Careers New Rinks

United Skates is Hiring.

Looking for a career in rink management? United Skates is hiring. With 20 nationwide affiliated rinks, its newest in Clovis, California, USA has roller rink and family entertainment center (FEC) operations down to a science.

Internal Promotions

Karen Palermo is the current President of the affiliated rinks and is based in New York. She understands the culture well, launching her career at the admissions window at age 16 and working her way up to President. “We have a tremendous amount of tenure in our company and we’re incredibly focused on promoting from within,” she said, adding “One of the reasons I stayed so long was the financial information I learned, such as Cost of Goods, payroll percentages, how to control the different costs and maximize revenues.”

Palermo became hooked on the company while she was still in college. “I was thinking of going for my psychology degree. Instead, I looked into a sales job (with the company) and got it because I asked for it. Once I started doing sales, I loved reaching out to our customers.” From there she moved up to Vice President, Executive VP — and more than two decades later — President.

Freedom with Accountability

Palermo isn’t the only employee who has stayed with the company for 10+ years. She attributes the long-time loyalty because managers are given the freedom to run their facilities as they see fit. Not that there isn’t accountability. Every Monday, the managers check in for a company conference call to go over the week’s numbers and cover a topic of the week to keep the rinks running optimally. And the company’s policies and procedures are internally generated. “We take the best practices from one rink and use them across the organization. Although some of it is trial and error,” Palermo admitted.

From Floor Guard to Sales Manager

Cheryl Thomas has spent nearly a decade with United Skates of America, starting part-time when she first moved to Phoenix 9 years ago from Sacramento. She was originally hired as a floor guard at Great Skate Glendale, and then moved into all of the other rink positions over the next 18 months: admissions, café, party host, DJ, and rental counter. After that, Thomas was promoted to session manager and is now the General Manager of Sales and Marketing at Great Skate.

The STEM Field Trip Program demonstrates the principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and how they apply to a roller skating rink.

Her day-to-day job duties involve selling school field trips (fun and STEM educational) and fundraisers to PTAs, booking private corporate parties, and placing 40-80 calls per day to stir up business in the rink. She’s also on hand to help with the mad rush of rink guests, alleviating backups in the café or stuff shop. Usually after 30 minutes, the lines are gone and she’s back at her desk selling parties and field trips.

Thomas says she likes that someone at USA Corporate is always there to help and only a phone call away. “They provide great communication with the staff, excellent training programs, and beyond. I knew nothing about sales and they taught me.” She also credits her success to her passion for the roller skating industry.

Company History

United Skates of America was founded 45 years ago by Norm Traeger. “He took his kids for a roller skating party and the experience was terrible,” Palermo revealed. “But there were a lot of people there.” He figured if a business can do that well giving a bad experience, then a clean, fun, friendly and safe facility can do even better. His first two rinks were opened in Columbus, Ohio: United Skates on Refugee Road, followed by Skate Zone 71. Both are still in operation.

Career Progression

United Skates Clovis
Floor Guards have to be good skaters. They usually get promoted to DJ.
Image provided by United Skates of America

For the entry level positions, no experience is required and USA puts every employee through training. The key is finding the right team. DJs are typically promoted from Floor Guard. Floor Guards have to be good skaters and be able to assist our smaller guests and approach adult guests that may be breaking rules. A 16-year-old who isn’t timid or shy. “They need to be able to tell an adult to remove their hat on the skate floor,” said Palermo.

Smiling Snack Bar employees
Most party hosts are promoted from the snack bar. Image provided by UnitedSkates.com

Being a Party Host is often times a promoted (and well paid) position, according to Palermo. “They’ll work in cafe first to learn the system.” Palermo emphasized that party hosts must have an absolutely fabulous personality and be incredibly organized to keep the parties straight. “They get tips and can earn a lot for more than their hourly wage,” she added.

The Process

USA hires their entry-level team members through group interviews. After submitting an application, if you’re qualified, you’ll get a call back telling you the time and place to show up for the interview, how long it will last, how to dress, and an emphasis that you must be on time or you won’t be allowed in late.

At the interview, you’ll meet a panel of managers who will introduce themselves, talk a bit about the company, and describe the different positions that currently need filling. Then they ask the candidates to stand up and introduce themselves in front of one another. Because this is an entertainment business, you can’t be timid or shy, because you’ll be talking to a lot of different people on a daily basis. That’s why they’re interviewing you in front of 10 or more strangers.

Managerial Positions

Those applying for management jobs at a USA Rink won’t have to undergo the group interview. And even though USA prefers to promote from within, they do recruit outside the organization when that isn’t feasible. “I’m passionate about adding great people to our team and focusing on their development. We especially prefer those with a guest services or restaurant management background,” said Palermo. As far as compensation, USA claims they are competitive and the GMs of each facility earn bonuses for surpassing revenue goals.

Online Reviews

The online reviews from current and former employees of USA are mixed. Some revealed the environment can be hectic, and were quite happy working there. Others were not so pleased with management at a few of their locations. Determining the legitimacy of these reviews is difficult, as some could be coming from a bitter ex-employee who didn’t take well to being fired. With some sitess, such as Glassdoor.com, there has been some pushback because reviewers aren’t verified. Your best bet is to go visit the USA rink you’re interested in, check out the staff, ask why they like working there and how long they’ve worked there and decide for yourself if it’s a good fit for you.

Here are the reviews we found:

Also note, USA rinks are typically open on all holidays, so you will be scheduled to work on some of them.

 Where to apply

United Skates lists their job openings on their rink websites. Their nationwide affiliated family entertainment centers include Arizona, Florida, California, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, and Rhode Island.

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Susan Geary is a multi-certified resume writer at 1st Rate Resumes and SRSTA Certified Learn to Roller Skate Instructor in Roanoke, Virginia which is home to 3 roller rinks with wood floors.

Categories
Featured New Rinks Rink Life

This new rink is keeping pace in its 1st lap

When 5 passionate skaters get together to open a roller rink, dreams can come true. In Southeastern Tennessee, an exciting story is unfolding at the Bristol Skateway, a small town rink that is gaining speed after its predecessor left the race. Bristol is famous for its Speedway. The new owners of the rink are laser focused on skating and are committed to furthering the sport.

The Pit Crew

The partnership (of WESK8) is made up of Debbie Williams and her significant other, Gary Easmunt who is the Master of Ceremonies during most of the sessions and a skate instructor and former champion. Debbie manages the snack bar and admissions. They are joined by Gary’s sister, Patti Enstrom, and husband and wife team, Grant and Jennifer Showalter. Grant handles social media. Jennifer’s an architect who oversaw the renovations of the shuttered bank-owned rink formerly known as the Skate Inn. The previous owner disappeared leaving an empty building that needed some serious love.

The Starting Line

The Bristol Skate Inn was bank owned when the WESK8 team stepped in to buy it.

The team of skaters had worked together at a Florida rink and had serious discussions about owning one for the better part of a decade. They looked for rinks that were for sale and found what they were looking for. After purchasing the Tennessee property in the first quarter of 2018, they totally rehabbed and rebranded the facility from top to bottom. It took some explaining to the finance company why the brand new wood floor cost more than the building. And since the previous owner got off track and abandoned the place, there were no records either. Without paperwork, their new business was considered a start-up. They had their work cut out for them, but they had the experience and passion to pull it off.

Gracie the pug supervises while Gary Easmunt & Debbie Williams insert the final pieces of new wood floor.

On Track to Win

Bristol Skateway, located in Bristol, Tennessee, reopened in late September of 2018.

They persevered and opened their doors in late September of 2018 with much publicity and eager fans. Now the Bristol Skateway averages 250-300 skaters every Friday night, along with with midweek sessions and an Adults only session on Saturday evenings. “I get some flak from parents who want us to be open to all ages on Saturday nights,” said co-owner Debbie Williams. “I remind them that when their kids turn16 they’re going to want someplace cool to go. They don’t want to skate around younger kids when they get to that age.”

Driving Guest Loyalty

The first week they were open, they sold 18 pairs of skates, and continue to gain speed. Debbie said they can’t keep skate catalogs or paper schedules in the building. Their frequent guests have also asked for discount program, which prompted them to offer loyalty punch cards. For every 10 admissions, skaters get a free pass to come back again. “We had 500 printed up and quickly sold 400 of them for $1 each to cover the cost of printing.”

A Baby Rink

They added a home school session on Wednesday mornings which started with 2 skaters, and has grown to 90 kids. In two months, they will open a baby rink for the smaller skaters just getting started. “We don’t have skatemate trainers,” remarked Debbie. “They don’t teach kids how to skate, and they give up too easily out of frustration. Instead we tell them about our lessons and get them into our classes.”

Expert Lessons

Recently the partners convinced World Class Instructor, Paul Hinton to come to Bristol to steer the lessons program. “We flew him up for a week from Florida and had him check out the rink and the town. He went home, quit his job, sold his condo, and joined us in March,” said Debbie. She added that he’s one of 5 World Class instructors in the nation and the skate classes are growing in attendance. They offer an advanced group class, semi-private lessons (4 to a class) and private lessons. His skaters will soon be competing in regionals in Greensboro, NC, with a future goal to host a meet at the Bristol Skateway.

World Class Skater Paul Hinton is now coaching at the Bristol Skateway.

The Concession Stand

Over in the snack bar, all food is made to order and delivered to guest tables within 6-8 minutes. Some of the items on the menu include barbecued pulled pork, pizza, macaroni and cheese, churros and funnel cakes. And they also offer gluten-free items.

The Sideline

Additionally the Skateway generates other income-producing activities. For example, when the rink is normally closed, local vendors, such as those selling their wares online can rent the parking lot. These people bring the items they sell online and hang out for few hours to wait for their buyers to show up. The 60-80 participants pay $3 a car to use the lot which includes access to the restrooms. “Many buy food from our snack bar to eat here or take home,” Debbie said. While the parking lot swap meet brings in extra income to the rink when the building is normally dark, it also brings potential customers who may not have heard that the rink is open again.

The rink provides a place for locals to exchange items bought and sold online.

Winning the Race

It takes a lot of time, energy, focus, and passion to reach any goal in life and that includes successfully operating a roller skating rink. Debbie shared their team’s priority with the RollerSk8r on their strategy, “We’re a roller rink first.”

Editor’s Note: Find more pictures of the rink’s rehabilitation on their Facebook page.