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Roller-skating is a traditional family recreation that includes people from all demographic sectors. Roller-skating rinks, the focal point of this activity, have evolved to include additional profit centers, such as food courts, video rooms and party rooms. A well-located, well-run roller-skating rink can be a community center that attracts good customers and earns healthy returns for the owner.
Planning Your Business
If you are planning to open a roller-skating rink, learn all you can from other rink owners. Find a couple of rinks that are far enough away that they will not compete with your proposed rink and get all the information you can from their owners. If there is a rink for sale, find out why the owner is selling. If it is a turnaround opportunity, consider buying it. At a minimum, you can learn from the owner's experience. Roller-skating rinks can be expensive to build; new construction can easily cost $1 million, although location affects the expense.
Selecting a Location
Research suggests that going to a skating rink is not an impulse decision. Most patrons plan their outings, so building a rink in expensive retail property is not necessary. Look for a location that is zoned commercial but is near heavily populated communities. Building in front of an industrial park would be suitable as long as the site is accessible and visible. Plan the parking lot to be twice as large as the building itself. According to the Roller Skating Association, you should attract 1.5 to 2 percent of the population within a 7-mile radius to your rink each week.
Equipment and Supplies
As you project your startup expenses, check with the Roller Skating Association for the names of suppliers for the skates you will sell and rent and other equipment you need. Laser lighting, ballroom lighting and a high-end sound system are necessities. Include a food court and video room in your planning; these profit centers will generate additional profit for you. Accidents happen so carry adequate liability insurance. “Skate at your own risk” signs may not keep you from being sued if someone is hurt. Plan on placing security cameras in the parking lot and hiring a security guard or off-duty police officer -- especially if you host late night events.
Building a Customer Base
Roller-skating is a family activity, although the appeal is mostly to children and teens. Build your customer base by appealing to that demographic group. Reach out to schools -- skate night is a common social event for many elementary schools. Church groups can also be good customers. Promote your party room for birthdays and other events. Customers who come with a group are likely to return with family or friends. Plan special events to draw more customers. A local disc jockey on Friday or Saturday nights, theme nights for Halloween and Valentine's Day, a beach party night and a New Year's Eve event will all draw skaters.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.