Ice rinks are staples in many communities here in Minnesota and around the country.
Whether big or small — there are many steps and stages involved in the process of building an ice rink. I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of my time in rinks, and I’ve seen many innovative ideas come to life. Not only is it important to find the right partners, it’s also critical to think outside the box.
Here are my top tips for building a modern ice rink:
1. Put user-friendliness at the top of your list
Oftentimes, your guests are paying a lot of money to skate. It’s an expensive hobby, and sometimes facilities don’t necessarily match the cost of their experience. It’s important to create value there and think about amenities to elevate the experience. This can go beyond just the look and feel of a facility. Consider adding elements like Wi-Fi, specialized spaces like study rooms or even an equipment washing service.
We’re working on a project where we’ve talked about adding a concierge service. Essentially, the rink would employ someone who would help with pick up and drop off — which is often a stressful time with parents and kids with lots of gear. We’ve also talked about creating an elevated locker room experience, like bigger lockers and high-quality wood and finishes (like a country club). These can all be great ways to elevate the user-friendliness of your rink, and it really comes down to your audience. Think about who they are and what they need.
2. Get everyone on the same page
At HTG, we talk a lot about our InVision process. It’s an approach that accounts for every stage in the design and build process — no matter who you’re building with. I think one of the biggest benefits of the InVision process is getting your whole team on the same page. Even though you may be all talking about doing a rink, the truth is you probably all have different ideas, whether you’re a hockey association or a group of owners.
When we go through the InVision process, that allows everybody to hear each other talk. We ask more questions that drill into exactly what it is that each person is looking for, so we can make sure that the final product is something that you can all be proud of. It's not just us coming to you with a canned design. It's a design that reflects you and your goals.
3. Think about the community
A rink is a driving force in your community. It’s a pillar of health, fitness and teamwork. One of the things we go through when we talk with clients is how we can involve the community. What's the culture in your community? What's the history in your community? How can we bring some of those things into the design of the building so that it fits and represents you and your community?
Members of your community will often become part of your staff. We’re always thinking about how to handle the ebbs and flows of staffing. We're designing the building so you could operate it with one to two less staff members, especially during slow times. It has to be an efficient flow so that one person has eyes on the lobby and can still serve hot dogs, rent skates, and handle locker room assignments. And then the flip of that is it has to be scalable so that when you are busy, those are each individual stations that can staff up to serve a large crowd.