If there is one thing that I have learned through my years and years of education that we all have been forced to undertake, is that everything goes in cycles. It ranges from our bodies, the economy, fashion, music, sports, etc. Let’s take fashion for instance. You take a look back at what your dad was wearing in his high school yearbook, and you might find that his style is seen throughout high schools and colleges across the nation. That frat bro look that so many guys are going for right now, including myself, isn’t just some new thing. Our parents were rocking ray bans and sperries long before we were. But anyways, as most of us know, the skating rink business has been on a downward spiral ever since the late 90s. Look back at the 80s and early 90s and skating rinks were slammed every single weekend. It was a cheap and affordable way to have fun and go kick it with your friends while listening to good music. And this ultimately led to having huge speed skating teams. Even since I started skating (1999) the numbers at meets have gone down and down. I can distinctly remember going to a meet in Fayetville, NC and the whole place being packed (probably close to 500-600 skaters). Now a days, the biggest meets of the year are the Blue Ridge Challenge in Roanoke, VA and Indoor Nationals. We’re very lucky to see 500 skaters at either of these meets. The rest of the competitions boast a meager 100-200 skaters on average, some even lower. But fret not rink owners, coaches, and fellow skaters. Because like I said at the beginning of this post, everything goes in cycles. If speed skating and the rink business are like everything else, sooner or later they are going to bounce back to their huge success rate. Some time or another, we are going to get people back in the skating rinks, and people will see this awesome sport that we partake in and want to join the fun. So here are some tips for rink owners and coaches, that, in my opinion, could help get the numbers back.
1. Don’t just market yourselves towards kids and birthday parties. You have to get the older teens and adults back in the rinks. Have an adult night where the music is poppin and people can let loose. Have a disco night where everybody comes in rocking 80s attire. I saw this at a rink here in Utah, and they are able to market themselves towards the surrounding colleges.
2. Keep an up to date playlist of music. Don’t play Miley Cyrus from last year. Make sure your DJ is a music gooroo, who knows what people are listening to at the time.
3. ADVERTISEMENTS! Suck it up and post ads in the newspapers, radio, and television. Trust me, it is worth it. It puts the idea in their head that they might want to go to the skating rink in the future.
4. Have deals and specials. Take 2 or 3 Friday or Saturday nights out of the month and take a few dollars off the admission prices or food/beverage prices. This makes it even more appealing to show up.
5. Come up with new games to play for the kids. I mean come on now, how long has the lucky number dice game been a commodity at skating rinks now? Spice it up for the kids.
1. Have affordable equipment in the rinks. One of the biggest problems that speed skating has right now is that while the economy is slumping, the prices for equipment is still rising. Make it an option for these parents to buy their kids skates.
2. Be completely involved at the beginner practices. You don’t have to take the job of the beginner coach, but show and tell these kids that they can come skate for you if they stick with it.
3. Have pictures of your National medalists in the rink. Give these beginner kids role models and people to look up to.
4. Have your skaters go in and help out the beginner speed team. Give them something to look forward to if they stick with it.
5. And finally, ADVERTISEMENT! Go to the elementary schools and put up flyers for speed skating practice. This will get the kids interested in the sport.
If anybody has any more tips or success stories from their hometown rinks, feel free to leave comments. Let’s get some discussion going about this!