I always love getting together with other rink professionals, and the North American Rink Conference & Expo (NARCE), is a great opportunity to network with some of the best in the business.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, NARCE was back on for 2022. HTG was thrilled to be a part of the trade show, which showcases new innovations and brings together hundreds of ice rink owners, operators, vendors and national governing body representatives.
Here are my takeaways from this year’s event:
Social connections matter
I could truly feel the excitement of everyone being able to meet again face to face. We had opportunities to hear others’ experiences about what it took to keep their rinks afloat, and even from some that had to close their doors for a while. Listening to those stories really put things in perspective and showed me just how resilient this industry can be. I think we all benefit from getting together, building each other up and learning from our experiences.
We’re all in this together
Even though everyone is in the same industry, we're not necessarily competing. I'm always amazed at the willingness for rink owners to be open and honest and share their experiences. NARCE gives individuals the chance to talk to our network to real live rink operators about everything that goes into the daily aspects of running a rink. It ends up being a small world in the end. Everybody is more than willing to help each other out.
Our customers need solutions
Today’s market has proven to be volatile for nearly everybody. What you’re seeing with gas prices and at the grocery store — it’s a similar situation with construction costs. I had the chance to talk with individuals at NARCE about their biggest challenges when it comes to building a rink. One of the biggest is just finding an affordable rink design. A few years ago, we actually came up with the Rink in a Box, which is a realistic and cost-friendly process for building an ice rink in your community. It’s gained a lot of traction in recent years. Hearing about those challenges from our customers truly motivates us to develop resources like Rink in a Box.
We’re always learning
When I attend NARCE, I’m always looking to learn new things. I heard about some exciting new air quality initiatives that are designed to help make the environment within rinks cleaner and safer, and I also had some conversations about how rinks can deal with staff shortages. When we learn about these things, it inspires us to find innovative and efficient ways of serving our customers. From the construction side to the operational side — knowing the ins and outs of those systems helps to tie in efficiencies now and down the road. Those efficiencies are something you may not get with a firm that’s only done one or two rinks. We really strive to make sure we’re always learning, so that we can help our customers design outstanding facilities.