Re-opening Roller Rinks amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Stay Positive Roll Through It

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.