Talking of skating…

We’ve had ‘political’ ructions at the Sydney Ice Arena recently.

As said on many occasions, the youngest daughter is a competent little skater and goes to the rink at least three times a week spending three hours or more there each time. It’s a bit of a waste of *my* time since I have to be with her ‘just in case’ but she loves it and that’s all that counts in the end. I’ve taken to going to the gym to help use up the time, but the business will be moving to new premises shortly… and that’s another story!

The point is that she all bar lives at the rink and to help keep costs within bounds we’ve been buying her ‘quarterly pass’ which allows her to skate in all the ‘private session’ as well as the ‘general’ ones. The private sessions are for dedicated skaters who need space to practice away from the ‘masses’. Naturally they cost a little extra but it’s worth the cost to get the room to do jumps, spins, lunges and the like.

Obviously keeping an ice rink going in Australia is *not* a cheap exercise. Cathy, the manager, told us it costs in excess of $500 and hour just to keep the place open which isn’t including the cost of staffing etc! With temperatures that reach 40ºC+ it’s not hard to see why the cost is so high, and those costs have to be met.

To help ensure costs are met and the rink doesn’t close, as have so many others, Cathy recently announced a new series of charges for purchase of the quarterly passes. Access to the sessions was to be be ‘split’ and in order for the skaters to gain entry to both private *and* general sessions meant we now had to but two separate passes.

Unfortunately the result was that costs were almost trebled for people who use the rink to the extent some of us do… and we felt it was a little high. To help explain how we felt about the new costs and to ask for some compromise, one of the mothers organised a petition asking that we be allowed to purchase a combined pass for access to private and general sessions. This, it seems, was presented two days ago.

Luckily we weren’t there. From all accounts the ‘meeting’ was a disaster with all sorts of acrimonious yelling going on which resulted in the effective banning of the mother and daughter from the rink and the cessation of sales of *all* passes! Eventually the daughter was allowed back to skate since it really wasn’t fair on her to lose her coach etc because her mother had lost her temper but the ban on selling passes remains.

Some people are still very annoyed by the attitude of the management since the banning of the pass system effectively means we have to pay for each session we attend… which could easily send costs over $3000 a quarter just for access to the ice. However I *do* understand their predicament. This *is* a business not a hobby. It needs to make a reasonable profit just to stay open and how much it costs to make sure that happens is something we aren’t privy to! If the management feel the need to increase prices then that’s what they need to do. There is nothing to be gained by them keeping prices so low the rink closes… nor is there much gain in them raising prices to the extent people are driven away and the rink closes. There has to be balance.

On the other hand *we* as regular dedicated customers and clients are bringing in a lot of business to the rink. We encourage friends to join the groups. We hold birthday parties there. We buy coffee etc there and patronise the ‘skate shop’ to buy equipment. We also fund the coaching system by purchasing training sessions for the kids. What’s more, by winning competitions as the kids usually do they spread the word in the sport that Sydney Ice Arena is where it’s all happening and that also encourages skaters from outside the area to join in. Yes it makes the rink more crowded, but it *should* help reduce costs!

All we need is some compromise so that ‘dedicated skaters’ can have access to the ice at a reasonable cost whilst ensuring the rink stays open to allow the ‘general’ skater to drop in for a fun time without endangering the long term viability of the place as a business.

I’m not sure how this could be achieved… seems the two aims are mutually exclusive. Perhaps there is some sort of government grant available to help cover these sorts of costs?? I’ll have to get the ‘committee’ to make enquiries.

In the meantime the atmosphere at the rink is a little cold and the relationship between management and customers is somewhat frostier than normal… no pun intended.


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