From the May/June issue of the Rinksider:

Celebrations and gatherings build your business

By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

Rink operators know that birthday parties bring in big groups which are great for business. Make group parties your top business priority for increased sales. Here are a few ideas on how you can bring in crowds throughout the year so your rink will have many more birthdays to celebrate.

When you coordinate an event with another organization–schools, sporting teams, scouts, and businesses–you tap into a new network and enjoy the advertising and publicity of that group. These are valuable partnerships that will bring in new customers.

“Our biggest challenges are competition, and being consistent in our planning and advertising,” said Frank Torries, co-owner of Skate Zone in Lafayette, La. “Staying on top with social media is a constant job but very important.” Skate Zone promotes and markets with social media, TV advertising, and in-rink flyers. Besides birthday parties, Skate Zone also holds parties for schools, churches, youth groups, teams, businesses, and Scouts. “We provide outings for Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, City Parks Recreation, Big Brothers /Big Sisters, and several day care centers. We do have a few company parties throughout the year but not as many as we would like. One of our biggest revenues is our birthday parties. Glow parties seem to be big across the country so we added that in March.”

“Getting the word out on who we are and what we do is huge on building corporate business,” shared Steve Rigby, owner of Rigby’s Entertainment Complex in Warner Robins, Ga. “We have an outside sales person who does it the old fashioned way–knocks on doors and shakes hands–in addition to social media and a website. It is hard to explain what a Rigby’s is. We have to get the companies in the door for a tour of our facility and then the party is all but a done deal. We work with companies in a 50 mile radius. Geico Insurance has more than 5000 employees and they are about 20 miles away. We are fortunate to have many large factories and offices in our area like the Frito lay chip plant.”


Appeal to students and schools

Teacher Appreciation Week is the first full week of May. Sponsor an essay contest at the high school and middle school. Ask students to write about their favorite teachers. Invite the winning teachers and the students who nominated them to a special event at your center. Read essays over the sound system and award the winning students and teachers with special gifts.

In May and June, host grad night parties, celebrate the end of finals, have a “school’s out” day. Give prizes for students on the honor roll or straight-A report cards. Maintain a close relationship with school principals and Parent Teacher Associations.

In August, September or October, create a back-to-school night. Encourage skaters to bring in school supplies for those less fortunate in exchange for free admission. Sponsor a fundraising event for a school. Host a school spirit night by showing the school’s colors in the decor of your center. Invite college fraternities/sororities to host pledge events at the rink.

Arrange with schools to have your instructors conduct a skating demo at a school assembly during October, National Roller Skating month.

The second week in November is National Young Reader’s Week. Give coupons to those who bring in a book, then donate the books to a children’ shelter.


Honor the military

Celebrate Memorial Day in May and Veteran’s Day in November by decorating the rink with flags and bunting. Honor local veterans by introducing them during a flag ceremony. Offer discounts for service members in uniform. Rigby noted, “Warner Robins Air Force base is about six miles from us.”


Nonprofits lead to profits

Brian Cherry, managing partner at United Skates in Seaford, N.Y., stated “Rink owners who don’t make community involvement their first priority are missing the boat.” United Skates hosts discounted skating sessions and events for local and national non-profit organizations. By reaching out to non-profits, a rink operator reaches thousands of potential customers that they wouldn’t have otherwise. By involving organizations that support families and children such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or those who help foster children, rink operators have an opportunity to introduce the joy of skating to potential customers. Offer a free birthday party to a foster child and make sure that birthday guests are in the spotlight from the moment they arrive until they leave. Make him or her feel like a rock star, a celebrity. Make birthday children the center of attention and you will please their parents.


On a roll

Encourage local businesses to celebrate the holidays with an office party at your center with deals on wheels. Businesses can also roll out special product announcements or promotions at your rink all year long, or take a different spin on company picnics, particularly when your property has a wide variety of attractions to choose from. Businesses can host a client night as an appreciation for loyal customers.

Offer a selection of packages and attractions for your guests, so everyone attending a party at your rink can participate. “We have pre-planned packages already prepared for different size groups,” Rigby said. Make the party so memorable that guests want to do it again. A deejay who adds shout outs or special playlists can help generate more smiles and higher sales.

Coupons, discounts and prizes can be used to encourage participation and repeat visits.


Hospitals, doctors, and health organizations

Promote roller skating in May, the National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Roller skating is recognized and recommended as an aerobic fitness sport by the American Heart Association (AHA). Just one hour of moderate roller skating burns more than 300 calories.

Torries said, “The Roller Skating Foundation under my leadership has created a video with a jingle and script to promote skating as a good, fun health and fitness activity.” The video encourages people to view skating not only as a fun activity but also a healthy one.

September is the perfect time to get the kids back on skates as it is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Get them to burn those calories while having fun.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Donate part of the admissions you collect during October to organizations dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer.


Mix it up

You can promote your rink any time throughout the year with your own creation for celebration. Nothing brings people together like a skating party. Invite singles groups to mix and mingle at your rink. Host networking events for churches, chambers of commerce, and other community groups.

“Repeat business is important and it takes a few things to keep them coming back,” said Torries. “Making sure the crowd is entertained, keeping the facility updated and clean, and polite, courteous employees and management makes customers want to return. Return is also a result of positive word of mouth from repeat customers.” Offer exemplary customer service with outgoing party hosts.

With these ideas, your customers will find reasons to have fun at your center all year round and give you plenty of occasions to celebrate your growing business.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, career coach, speaker and writer and believes every day is a reason to celebrate. You can reach her at