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Many people enjoy ice skating or participate in sports that take place on ice rinks. Ice skating rinks provide the public and teams with a place to skate, for which individuals and teams pay. According to IBISWorld, the ice rink industry brings in $618 million annually and is growing.
Who is this business right for?
Anyone who has a passion for ice skating may enjoy running an ice skating rink. While knowing how to skate won’t help balance the business’ financial sheet, an enthusiasm for ice skating and related sports can help business owners connect with customers.
What happens during a typical day at an ice skating rink?
A typical day’s tasks at an ice skating rink involve:
- Checking the ice’s condition
- Welcoming customers and taking admission fees (if paying on a per-use basis)
- Making sure teams and organizations renting ice time are properly set up
- Repairing any malfunctioning equipment
- Cleaning the facility
When not directly interacting with customers or working on equipment, business owners frequently spend time managing employees, scheduling teams’ practices, games and tournaments, promoting their ice rink, and paying bills.
What is the target market?
An ice skating rink’s ideal client is a sports league, such as a hockey, figure skating, speed skating or curling league. A league will need to rent ice time for multiple practices and games, which will provide a stable income for the season. Additionally, several players may rent additional ice time for individual training.
How does an ice skating rink make money?
An ice skating rink makes money by charging customers to use the business’ ice rink(s). Most rinks offer a combination of open skating, in which the public is welcome to skate for an admission fee, and ice time rental, in which teams and organizations pay in advance to rent an ice rink.
What is the growth potential for an ice skating rink?
Most ice skating rinks have one or two locations that serve a particular city or area. A single location can have more than one rink. Holiday & Leisure Rinks is an example of a large ice rink business that operates two locations, which each have two rinks.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful ice skating rink?
Successfully running an ice skating rink requires a knowledge of both the industry and how to properly maintain ice rinks. The U.S. Ice Rink Association offers courses in both of these areas. There are also two ebooks available, Ice Skating Rink Business Plan and Ice Skating Rink Facility Startup Business Plan, that may help business owners learn about the industry.
What are the costs involved in opening an ice skating rink?
The startup costs involved in opening an ice skating rink are high. One feasibility study for an ice rink in Europe placed the startup costs at €2.3 million (about $2.5 million). These expenses broke down as follows:
- $1.34 million for construction costs (e.g. foundation, walls, roofing, etc.)
- $523,000 for mechanical and electrical works (e.g. plumbing, heating, electricity, etc.)
- $109,000 for site finishing (e.g. landscaping, external fittings, etc.)
- $180,000 for equipment (e.g. an ice resurfacer, a scoreboard, etc.)
- $255,000 for design and project management (including salaries of project managers)
- $215,000 for project development costs
While it may be tempting to reduce an ice rink business’ startup expenses by making concessions on construction or technology costs, properly constructing a rink and using high-quality technology help keep ongoing expenses manageable. Reducing these upfront expenses can lead to prohibitively expensive ongoing costs because the ice will require more energy to be kept in proper condition.
What are the steps to start an ice skating rink?
Once you're ready to start your ice skating rink, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your ice skating rink is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your ice skating rink keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an ice skating rink?
When starting an ice skating rink, selecting the right location is key. In general, the Ice Skating Institute says a rink should have 100,000 people within a 5-mile radius, and 250,000 people within a 10-mile radius -- and there shouldn’t be any other rinks in the area. Additionally, a rink ideally will be close to all of the following:
- A major highway interchange, so the rink is easy to get to
- A school, which makes it easy to market to students and parents
- Hotels, so the ice rink can host tournaments and provide lodging options for out-of-town teams
- Health clubs, which may be willing to partner with an ice rink on cross promotions.
How to promote & market an ice skating rink
Most of an ice skating rink’s promotional and marketing efforts should be focused on the 5- and 10-mile radiuses it serves. Businesses can target ice skaters and sports teams within this area through social media marketing, direct mail and onsite signs.
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How to keep customers coming back
An ice skating rink can set itself apart from the competition by offering affordable rates for ice time and having a more updated facility. Offering low rental rates for off-peak hours can help a business gain more rentals during off hours, which might provide enough revenue to let the business lower its rates for peak hours slightly. Also, investing in small maintenance items, such as fresh paint and upgrading toilets, can make a big difference in how well customers perceive a facility to be.
How and when to build a team
An ice skating rink requires a team of employees and subcontractors. People are needed from the outset to welcome skaters, maintain the ice and repair any malfunctioning equipment. A rink may also want to work with coaches and referees to set up its own sports leagues and offer specialized clinics.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an ice rink. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, ice rinks should have their clients sign waivers. An example of an appropriate waiver can be found here.
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Certificate of Occupancy
An ice rink is generally run out of a large indoor space, though they can also be outdoors. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an ice rink.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your ice rink will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Ice skating rinks typically charge around $10 per person for an open skate, and many rinks charge an additional fee for renting ice skates if the customers didn’t bring their own. They’ll frequently charge over $100 per hour for renting an ice rink. For example, the Oakland Ice Center charges $10.50 per adult for open skating. Total Hockey Minnesota charges $165 per hour of ice time for rentals during peak hours, and $140 per hour during off-peak hours.
What are the ongoing expenses for an ice skating rink?
The ongoing expenses for an ice skating rinks are high. Ice rinks must pay for electricity, which is used to keep the ice cool, other utilities, maintenance and staffing. In some cases, the ongoing expenses are partially paid for by a municipality so that an ice skating rink is financially feasible.
How much profit can an ice skating rink make?
Ice skating rinks can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, but much of their revenue goes towards operating expenses. Many ice rinks aren’t profitable unless they’re debt free, which is why municipalities often run or subsidize rinks.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Ice skating rinks can increase their revenue by offering concessions, leagues and clinics. They may also offer events like birthday parties.