Every hour your ice stands idle is a missed revenue opportunity. The question is, how DO you make sure you’re doing all you can to get your ice slots as close to capacity as possible? Do you have a casual approach to ice time, or have you implemented tactical planning to increase revenue?

Bubble Hockey at Northwest Arena in Jamestown, NYTactical planning is something the Northwest Arena in Jamestown, NY is taking seriously. They’ve experimented with several out-of-the-box ideas — including a Bubble Hockey Tournament. Their first ever Bubble Hockey tournament was held on June 10th to raise money for Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care – and it’s one of the options the Arena wants to bring back again.

But first, why is tactical planning is an idea you might want to consider for your indoor ice arena?

Tactical Planning

Some arenas are lucky, with more demand from minor hockey associations, beer leagues and speed and figure skating clubs than they can supply. You’ve got it, they want it, and many times the ensuing schedule is a carbon copy of what it was the year before.

But let’s face it, with the exception of beer leagues, the majority of your customers are looking for prime time rentals in that three hour slot from 6-9 pm on weekdays and from 9-9 pm on weekends. Although many arenas call the Jimmy Buffet hour (“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere“) prime time, it’s really a bit “iffy”. After all, that’s when many parents are beginning their commute home. And weekdays is more of a 4-night-a-week gig than five, with Friday nights being an incredibly tough sell for parents. I’ve been subjected to ongoing Friday night practices where a third of the kids on the team don’t show up because parents being preoccupied with (take your pick) Friday night steak night, dinner parties — or just sheer exhaustion from the week before which dominate the practice slot.

Half Ice

And prime time ice is changing, too. Half ice is growing in popularity in the minor hockey world and USA Hockey actively encourages half ice to its coaches. This may mean your minor hockey teams require less prime time ice, but it doubles up the sales opportunity for that 2.25 hour span where you have two teams, as well as their parents, at the arena. That means the potential for additional sales in other areas of the arena including the pro-shop, canteen or restaurant.

And although half ice may mean a reduction in sales to your minor hockey clubs, it can open some prime time ice slots up to other events. Craig Hinderleider, the GM at the Northwest Arena has dabbled in other “on ice” activities — including Bubble Hockey — but they’re going to take their planning to the next level which will, hopefully, not just increase revenues but take some work load off of his desk.

Hinderleider is currently recruiting for a Director of Programming to help increase his facility’s revenue. A couple of days after I interviewed him for the Ride the Zamboni Fundraiser story, I saw their recruitment ad on Indeed and had to call him back to ask him about it.

“We had a similar position about four years ago but it didn’t pan out the way we expected it would,” says Hinderleider, who’s been the GM at this twin-pad and turf facility for the past year and a half. “What we need is someone to actively search out patrons, call teams and get them interested in our facilities. That’s what the Director of Programming will do.”

As for hockey, Hinderleider says for Jamestown, a city of about 30,000 residents, its popularity is on the upswing once again.

“Hockey is finally starting to grow again,” he says. “The local minor hockey association is trying to get the kids interested in hockey again, in fact, they’re striving to get them interested and STAY interested. For a successful hockey program, retention is the key.”

For arenas, retention is also key, as is supporting your user groups and being clever about the time you have. Have you tried tactical planning? How is it working for you? Drop me a line at info@re-surfacing.com or leave a comment in the space below.