The Struggle for Ice to Stay Hot

Entrance to the Rockville Ice Arena in Rockville, Md

It was a hot  summer morning when Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex manager Kevin Burns got the news that the ice rink he had worked at for two years was about to close.

“I knew we were losing money and it was a possibility we would close, but I thought we had more time to try to make it work,” said Burns.

The Ice and Sports Complex fell into financial trouble in 2008 after the city of Hagerstown said it would no longer fund the rink, citing a continued loss of revenue as the reason why.  The struggle to keep the doors open is a problem faced by many ice rinks in the DC area due to budget cuts, high costs, and even the local hockey team.

Skate Frederick in Frederick, Md was losing upwards of $2,000 a month until new programs were introduced and additional public skate sessions were added.

“We were in trouble,” said manager Tom White.  “We had to go back and completely re-evaluate our schedule, try to add more public skates, etc and try to figure out what people wanted from us.  We had survey cards at the desk and basically told people to tell us what the wanted.”

The Rockville Ice Arena in Rockville, Md was also struggling to make money and while the large metropolitan area the arena is in always worked to the rinks advantage, manager Meghan Ayers said it was the Washington Capitals who has helped the rink through tough times.

“Believe it or not, when the Caps win, we win,” said Ayers.  “When the local team does well people get interested in ice again and the Caps are doing so well the last few years and that has shown on our bottom line.”

It isn’t all bad news for area rinks however.  Six months after the rink in Hagerstown closed, it reopened thanks to a contribution from a local citizen.  The rink was able to pay for the lease and re-open and while it has taken the rink some time to generate business, Burns says he is optimistic.

“The city took away their support, but we have the communities support,” said Burns.  “After we re-opened we had a lot of new faces coming in wanting to skate.  Our pick-ups have had more people in them recently and people seem to have embraced us after we closed for a while.  It doesn’t hurt that the Caps are doing great, people always come out when the hometown team does well.”

When asked whether or not the upcoming summer season has him worried,  “not one bit,” said Burns.  “Everything happens for a reason and there is a reason this rink is still open, the city may not support us, but our customers do.”

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