Building a Sustainable rink

Epic Rollertainment Beach

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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