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It’s easy to look around your rink and envision big changes to make it more beautiful or more efficient. However, small changes can make a big impact on an arena’s performance. Don’t get caught up in thinking positive change can only come from dramatic capital improvements; sometimes baby steps make a surprising difference.

Robb Olexin, Senior Sales Consultant/New Product Development at Becker Arena Products Inc, found that out early in his 35-year ice arena industry career.

Hone In on the Details

Robb took over as a rink operator at a somewhat neglected facility, where maintenance had gradually declined, leaving the place looking run down. Business wasn’t exactly thriving, and ice programs weren’t successful. Instead of trying to revamp the place from the top down, he identified a few areas where improved maintenance would make a difference. At his first meeting with the board of directors, he presented a list of the arena’s problems, along with a written plan with a budget and proposals for some schedule changes for operations staff.

Improve Maintenance, Reverse Neglect

What problems did he tackle to start with? Nothing huge – as the new guy, he knew it wasn’t time to propose new lockers or replacing the carpet. Instead, he listed simple maintenance issues such dirty glass, black marks on the dasher boards, and the bowl effect on the ice. He also pointed out areas on the dasher boards which could snag sweaters and hockey sticks.

The board appreciated his eye for detail. They hadn’t identified these deficiencies, but once they were pointed out, they were on board with financing the low-overhead improvements Robb suggested.

A Small Investment of Time and Money

Resources were allotted: They allowed an extra three hours weekly for ice shaving; 15 minutes of extra edging each night; and $1,000 to use however Robb saw fit to improve the arena’s condition. While not a huge risk or investment, this allowed Robb to spiff up the arena considerably.

One month of nightly edging brought the rink corners down a full two inches. Weekly shaving restored a nice flat ice surface, one-and-one-quarter inches thick throughout the arena. Part of the cash bought a heavy-duty cleaner which showed great results on the white facing of the dasher boards.

Without increasing payroll hours, he had skate guards and operations staff clean the white boards and the dasher in any spare time.

Robb also invested in three new resurfacer blades which allowed for more frequent changes and resulted in a better ice surface for their customers. The remaining money purchased replacement screws to make sure the facing and kick plate were securely attached throughout the arena – an aesthetic as well as a safety improvement.

Strategic, Noticeable Changes

The board was impressed with Robb’s recommendations and performance. Customers commented on the improved appearance, public skating numbers and renewal contracts were up, and significant savings were reflected in the rink’s monthly power bill – proof that small changes do add up.