Earn a Living as a Skating Facility Owner or Operator

Consider Owning a Skating Facility for a Career in Roller Sports

The majority of roller rinks, skateparks and skating centers are either owned or operated by current or former skaters. Owning and operating a rink of any kind is an important job, requires a range of both skating and business knowledge and demands a lot of advance planning. Just like a rink or facility manager, an owner-operator is directly responsible for operations, development and revenue opportunities.

But, the owner has the option of hiring managers and program directors to take care of the day-to-day details of running of running the facility and its activities.

Step 1: Finding a Location

The first big step in becoming a roller skating rink owner or skating facility operator is to find the perfect location. You may even decide to try a new city or state to find a site that needs a rink, indoor skatepark or arena. Finding an existing or new site and developing a solid plan for the facility is the beginning of the road to your rink kingdom.

Subscribe to roller sports trade publications to take advantage of their classified ads. Get in touch with sports centers and skating rinks near your area to find any leads they may have or opportunities to buy or lease that they may be offering. If you are professional and persistent, they will consider you if they decide to sell at a later date.

Look for Existing Facilities for Sale

There are many existing rinks and sports centers for sale that have all or most of the new skating center business start-up problems solved.

Subscribe to roller sports trade publications to take advantage of their classified ads. Get in touch with sports centers and skating rinks near your area to find any leads they may have or opportunities to buy or lease that they may be offering. If you are professional and persistent, they will consider you if they decide to sell at a later date.

Go to trade shows and take time to network with members of the various skating associations, because they may have information on rinks for sale in their areas of coverage that are not shown in trade publications or commercial real estate listings.

Find a Potential New Location

If you want a fresh start or want to fill a need in a new location, you must first find a building that could be converted into a skating rink or discover a suitable site where you could build a new facility. The size of the lot must be large enough to support a parking lot that is at least twice the size of the indoor structure. The location should be easy to access and needs to have good visibility from the street. Starting from scratch is tough, but allows you to build the rink of your dreams in the location and demographic desired.

Step 2: Your Business Plan and Finances

The initial construction or building conversion and ongoing facility maintenance is expensive. Determine how much funding you have access to for your roller sports center. This will include any money you have available for immediate use (cash on hand), any funds you can get loan approvals for and your credit line limits.

Develop a Business Proposal

Once you have zeroed in on a potential location (new or existing), develop a business proposal with a solid business plan to submit it to the bank to apply for a loan.

In these documents, you will need to clearly indicate what your business will be used for (skating rink), with a complete overview of more specific details. Will this rink be used for recreational skating, roller sports training activities, multi-sport training or a combination of activities? You need to know approximately how much it will cost to run the place (such as utilities, maintenance and employee payroll) and what amount of incoming cash will be necessary to make a reasonable profit.

Produce a business plan that demonstrates a need for your rink in its market. Rate and review other skating centers in your city, county and region and provide a list of these competitors to show market saturation. In addition to personal funds and loans used for the rink, calculate earnings from arcade games, snack bars and skate rentals to offset initial costs.

Determine the specifics of the business. Decide what the hours of operation will be, keeping in mind when people will most likely be interested in going skating. The best plan will be your own well thought-out and researched work, but there are consultants who can help you fine tune good ideas and troubleshoot weak areas.

Consider Demographics

To start a roller skating rink or indoor skate park, you must pay special attention to your area's demographics and their income potential to build a strong skating business. Demographics will help you determine which kinds of activities, programs, and sessions will be affordable and of interest to your customers. The target age group to build clientele with is the teen market, so be sure you have found a facility in an area that has an established family and school base. There are many things to do or take into consideration if you would like to own or operate a roller sports center, but this should be at the top of your list.

Step 3: Set Your Plans in Motion

Finding an existing or new site and developing a solid plan for the facility is the beginning of the road to your rink kingdom.

Design the Existing or New Building

Now it's time to decide what your facility will look like. Look at models of other skating facilities across the nation, and visit ones in nearby towns to get ideas. Do web searches for new ideas for skating rinks. Be innovative in your choices, but you must be realistic about ways to save money and get the most out of your square footage.

Match the building and skating surface of your choice. The most common surface used in skating rinks is polyurethane coated cement. This is a popular because of the low cost and easy maintenance. Cost efficiencies make cement practical for medium to large-sized skating surfaces. Smaller skating surfaces can consider polyurethane coated hardwood flooring.

It's a good idea for the construction of the skate surface to be hardwood, rather than cement, if the facility has plans to encourage skilled skaters and high-level competitions.

These floors are assembled with a specially treated hardwood that is coated with polyurethane to allow inline or quad wheels to roll fast and still grip the surface when needed. In recent years, there are also highly specialized plastic floors and multi-purpose synthetic floors that can be used for basketball, roller hockey, gym sports and other sports activities. If your dream facility is an indoor skate park, consult one of the skatepark planners like Suburban Rails who know how to design wood and concrete skateparks that make good use of your available budget and space. In addition to the building itself and the skating surface, you will need to install a lighting system, a sound system, rest and changing areas, spectator seating, vending or snack areas and restrooms.

Get Required Permits and Understand the Laws

Before you open for business, make sure that everything is legal by obtaining the proper business licenses and permits. You will need permits to build new or remodel an existing building or rink. You will also need business permits to run a skating rink, sell skating supplies or provide food on site. Contact your local government to find out what permits are required and make sure to know and follow all local laws and regulations before you start business.

Set Up Operations

Operations includes everything needed to do business beyond the physical building configuration. This includes electrical service, heating and cooling utilities,  water and sewage management, and other things needed to operate the facility. Support services are important. This includes a stocked snack bar, a pro shop and sufficient rental skates (200-300) in a range of sizes to start business. If your building will house specific roller sports activities, make sure that everything is in place for these activities, including basic replacement parts and supplies. Now you are ready to work on running a smart skating business.

Step 4: Run an Intelligent Roller Sports Business

As a skater you had to skate smart and use good sports strategy to achieve skating goals. Now it is time to have a smart skating business. Whether your building is targeted to public skating or competitive and team roller sports – or both – protecting the business and providing good, safe service will need to be planned, too.

Get Insurance

Before your doors open, be sure to get a comprehensive insurance policy. Your best bet will be to get an attorney who can advise you on safe coverage requirements. No one plans on accidents, but in a skating facility there are many opportunities.

Schedule Sessions and Activities

Now it is time to set up operation hours. Saturday and Sunday afternoon matinees and Friday evening sessions are the most popular times for public skating. Schedule weekend daytime family matinees for all ages, and plan on keeping your building open later on Friday and Saturday nights for teens and adults. Determine what type of music or music mixture will attract your clients and hire a good disc jockey if public sessions will be an important part of your income.

If your facility is not in the public skating business, make sure to set aside the right mix of hours and session lengths for the activity(s)your building supports. Pee-wee hockey can't skate a midnight. And most adult activities get better attendance in the mid-to-late evening.

Hire Employees

As part of the hiring process, you will need to learn about withholding taxes for employees, social security and health benefits, and how these things affect payroll. Get a tax professional and/or help from small business development specialist.

Promote Your Facility

Advertise your skating rink. Run ads in local newspapers and network on the internet to let people know when your facility will open. Have a huge opening day party with free admission, to let everyone get a feel for the place and generate interest in coming to skate. Make sure that every household, school and church in your community is aware of your skating facility. Be sure to include discounts and coupons to get the skating rink going right away. Print a monthly calendar of events to distribute among frequent visitors and neighboring businesses. This calendar should highlight discounted skate rentals, theme nights and special events for skilled skaters that can turn your skate rink into a popular place to hang out.

Use Good Business Practices

Once the doors are open, embrace good business practices. Make sure your customers and athletes have a good time. Don't skimp on necessities, charge enough to make a profit, pay employees and run a clean and safe facility. Create a variety of play lists and keep songs playing while your customers are skating. Find a variety of ways for people to come to the skating rink including private parties, birthday parties, team sports, fitness skating, school and church parties and special family skating activities. Come up with unique uses for the building that may or may not be skating-based.

Set Strict Rink Rules

Impose strict rules in your rink to avoid unnecessary maintenance, damages or injuries. Make customers aware of the rules by posting them in high traffic areas like the entrance, snack bar or rest areas. Some rinks have customers sign an agreement that makes them aware of their liabilities in case of damage.

Running a skate rink may be complicated, but a clean rink or arena with a nice skating surface and dependable service hours will attract existing and new skaters in the right location. With proper knowledge and preparation - and a good staff of employees, it is a great way for a skater or someone who loves skating sports to earn a living. Becoming a rink owner or operator may or may not make you rich, but it can provide a nice income for anyone who thinks that the good life is eating, sleeping and skating.

Join Roller Skating Association International

Make your new business venture as painless as possible by joining Roller Skating Association International as soon as you know you are serious. Most rinks and skating centers join the RSA to access the archive of start-up information, consulting, vendor information, rink programs, promotional tips and teaching tools available for rinks at any level of development. The RSA can help you develop your facility from concept to a functioning business and can help you avoid costly mistakes. If you are still pumped up after studying the materials available through the RSA, you should investigate locations and prepare your plan.