Through the years, there has been debate about windows in a roller rink. They seem like a good idea, but I’m not so sure, so I asked a few rink operators about them. As a skater, I have dealt with them during day and at night, and here’s my take on the practicality of windows in a roller rink.
The Pros of Rink Windows
Several roller rink operators told me the original idea of putting a giant window in a roller rink was to spur interest among drivers cruising by or idling at a traffic signal outside. Seeing the lights and the crowd inside skating around and having fun would surely get people to want to come skating. It’s like being in a restaurant and seeing a delicious looking meal or dessert being served at a nearby table. Who hasn’t said, “wow, that looks good!” and then ordered it?
Free Daytime Lighting
During the day, when rink managers are busy accepting deliveries, cleaning crews are handling janitorial duties, or school field trips are filling the schedule, there is sunshine to light up the inside and provide some natural light.
Natural light is a mood lifter, which is why you see skylights in Walmart, Costco, casinos, and other businesses. Having happier employees and customers means a better atmosphere for everyone. Happy employees are more productive and friendlier. Happy customers spend more and come back.
The Cons of Rink Windows
I don’t know about your habits, but when it’s dark out, I draw my drapes for privacy. I don’t need my neighbors watching what I’m doing, and I certainly don’t want to invite a Peeping Tom to hide out. It’s just too creepy. If you want to watch me skate, pay admission and come inside, so I’m aware you’re there.
Sad to say, drive by shootings, and other calamities can and do happen. Burglars have easier access when you’re closed. And high winds can permeate the building much easier at the weakest point, which is why you see them taped or boarded up when there’s a hurricane warning.
It’s no secret that the cost of heating and cooling is literally going through the roof. Windows are the leading bleeder of heat. Plus, during the winter, there can be frost issues if you turn down the thermostat too low when you’re closed. In the summer, with the A/C up high, there can be condensation. The glass transfers heat faster than anything else on your walls.
Even if your windows face north (the least sunny), you’ll still get glare. Glare happens when the light bounces off your shiny skating surface and is blinding to skaters. Unless they are skilled enough to skate backwards on that section of the floor every time they hit the curve and head back toward the window, it’s just plain annoying. This is a big issue if you run all day competitive events, matinée sessions, or other activities during the day.
A Muted Light Show
In order for a rink to be exciting, fun lights and mirror balls are the norm and necessary to entertain a crowd. That means you need to have a dark environment in order for your lights to be most effective. It’s not a problem at night, but those Saturday birthday party customers want the full effect, and they won’t get it if the lights are muted by sunshine.
Windows are Expensive to Maintain
Dust stirred up by traffic, raindrops, streaks, and springtime pollen means the windows will need to be cleaned often, which can add to your maintenance costs. If you live in hurricane prone areas, they require the protection from high winds with temporary plywood boards, so consider the time and expense to handle that when you’re facing an impending storm.
There is the temporary solution of window blinds or shades, however they will require regular cleaning to remove the dust, and they also will need replacement at some time in the future, so factor in that cost.
Moreover, window glass can break. Whether it’s a bird or a rock that flies into the window, that’s one more headache to deal with. Boarded up windows don’t give a good look while you’re waiting on repair. Especially if there hasn’t been a storm to warrant it.
Why new Facilities lack windows
Most newer rinks don’t have windows, for the reasons I outlined above. Bowling alleys and nightclubs, have either nixed the windows or covered them up with advertising if they choose an existing location that already has them. When planning your rink, you should, too.
A quick fix
There are some rinks with windows that run closer to the ceiling to allow for natural light without the glare, however, due to higher energy costs, they’ve been covered with thick vinyl curtains to maintain indoor temperatures. If the facility was built years ago, and it comes with windows, this is one solution to cover them up.
As for skylights, I once thought they would be perfect for a roller rink, but it turns out I was wrong, and here’s why. The music speakers that hang from the rafters vibrate heavily for hours at a time (all day sessions) which can compromise the seals around the frames, and cause leaks during the rainy season, which in turn can ruin a gorgeous skating floor.