Roller skate rinks rose in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s as places where teenagers could have fun away from home. These rinks experienced a renaissance in the 21st century as communities encourage safe places for kids to get exercise, hang out and play video games. Entrepreneurs looking to run roller skate rinks have to appreciate the ongoing financial demands in this industry. From replacing roller skates to resurfacing rinks, skate rink owners have to be attentive to the needs of their consumers to stay in business.
Produce a business plan that demonstrates your rink's dominance in its home market. Search for roller rinks 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.
Join the Roller Skating Association International (RSAI, see Resources) to gain access to a tool that will build your rink in the early stages. The RSAI has a list of rink consultants available to members in need of initial assistance or help with remodels. The RSAI Industry Guide covers step-by-step how to operate a roller rink from day one.
Select your ideal skating surface and find a building conducive to your choice. The standard surface for a roller skate rink is concrete covered in a thin plastic layer because of the low costs of installation and maintenance. If your building is relatively small, invest your money in a wooden floor that will add an interesting twist to the traditional rink.
Work through a skate rink wholesaler to find supplies for your rental counter and snack bar. Southeastern Skate Supply (see Resources) and other wholesalers sell roller skates, cleaning equipment and snack bar tables at reasonable rates. Establish an account with your wholesaler to ensure that regular deliveries are completed each month.
Bolster your rental counter with used roller skates found in the community. Medium and large communities have secondhand sporting goods stores that may have functional skates in various sizes.
Establish strict guidelines regarding skate use in your rink to cut down on maintenance and repair costs. Use a simple rental form--including a statement about responsibility for damage to the rink and skates--that must be completed before skate checkout. Post a sign in your entrance with rules for outside skates, including cleanliness and overall condition.
Purchase used arcade games from regional vendors such as Vintage Arcade Superstore (see Resources) to keep patrons in house after they're done skating. Keep these games close to the snack bar and tables to encourage the transition from gaming to eating and vice versa.
Create a soundtrack of popular and classic songs that can run in the background at your rink. Use a mixture of best-hits CDs and MP3s from your rental computer to keep skaters entertained. You can create an interactive experience by keeping a list of requests at your rental counter and using a PA system to announce special messages from skaters.
Determine hours of operation. Your community likely has nightly curfews that will cut into your business if you stay open late. Consider keeping your rink open late on Friday and Saturday nights to appeal to teenagers, college students and adults.
Hire several part-time employees to man your snack bar and skate rental counter and to conduct basic maintenance. Snack bar employees take and prepare food orders, requiring hair nets and gloves to meet city health standards. Employees can split time between the rental counter, cleaning the skate changing area and watching the rink for inappropriate behavior.
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.
Prepare your roller skate rink to accommodate open skates, roller derbies and birthday parties. You can charge premium rates to hold class field trips, birthday parties and other events at your rink. The growing resurgence of roller derby leagues means you can earn some money by putting down colored tape and charging admission.
Follow health and fire codes in your community to the letter. Your roller skate rink falls under the maximum occupancy laws of your home city, which means that you can only allow a certain number of people into your rink at a time.
Rinks with snack bars have to maintain clean facilities and pass health inspections to avoid embarrassing closures.
- Photo by Neal B. Johnson (Flickr)