For nearly five years, the Nantucket Ice Rink has been dabbling with the idea of purchasing a modular dry floor system that could be laid over the ice to make the building a multi-purpose venue. That idea has become a reality, making the rink the largest indoor venue on the island, and the rink will be unveiling this new flooring system during a Wednesday open house for the community and potential consumers.
“Everyone thinks we are in the market of selling ice, which we are, but you can ask any single rink manager, program director of how to make money and it is definitely not selling ice,” program director Will Datilio said. “It is programming, thinking and getting outside of the box because the reality is that rinks just aren’t very profitable.”
“There are a lot of rinks that are state run too so they are getting taxpayer money, but we are a private non-profit so we aren’t getting a lot of funding from anybody other than what we can fund ourselves,” facility director Bryan Larivee said.
The rink purchased approximately 6,000 tiles to cover the 17,000 square foot ice surface within the 35,000 square foot building, and the possibilities for what events can be held seem to be widespread with rink personnel open to a variety of ideas.
Already, the rink will be renting the space out to the Nantucket Public Schools from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday next week for classes where kids will participate in a wide array of activities such as soccer and disc golf.
Other ideas have been tossed around such as trade shows, concerts, basketball or pickleball tournaments, and weddings in the event of weather cancellations at outdoor venues. Larger events would need to be in collaboration with the town, but Larivee said that he believes this added dimension to the rink is a “blank canvas.”
The flooring system takes anywhere from four to six hours to install, but Larivee said it should become quicker as consumers and the rink get more used to the process.
“We have a crew of six people coming in on Monday to install it,” Larivee said. “As we move forward and everyone is on the same page, you could probably get it down to three hours or so, which isn’t terrible. You could have a hockey camp finish up at noon, get the crew in here by one, and turn the venue over to event planners at four or five o’clock.”
Larivee and Datilio said they hope that this floor not only creates more opportunities for the rink to make a profit to pay their bills and pre-existing debt, but also expands their possible options for an annual fundraiser to help the rink pay off its costs.
“It is, at the very least, $15,000 per month to run this place,” Datilio said. “So with this floor, if we can identify ten weekends or so to make $15,000 to $20,000, that just pays the electricity for the year.”
“In the summer the plant is running even heavier so it is $20,000 or more depending on the humidity,” Larivee added.
The rink’s finances have been well documented and are a complicated matter. The rink is a non-profit venue, unlike other rinks across the state that are state run and receive taxpayer money.
“We aren’t getting a lot of funding from anybody other than what we can fund ourselves,” Larivee said.
“There is a big misconception with this rink that I think we are starting to get away from that we have a lot of money,” Datilio said. “Like in the winter we have the youth hockey program here that makes a lot of money, but they aren’t apart of us. It is completely separate, so we are selling the ice but that’s it.
This winter, the rink reached its capacity for a state quarterfinal high school varsity boys hockey game where 1,000 people packed the venue for the program’s first ever state quarterfinal home game. On its face, it would appear an event such as that one could make the rink money, but they came away with very little.
“We got nothing out of that,” Datilio and Larivee said. “(The school) will pay $600 for two hours of ice, and we had to shut down the rink for that game because we needed to get ready for it. So the rink is shut down for six or seven hours, and we had to cancel some events to be able to prepare. We charged an extra hour, but you can’t make a living solely selling ice.”
Some of the biggest moneymakers held at the rink, such as the youth hockey program, also provide very little profit according to Datilio and Larivee.
“They aren’t apart of us. It is completely separate, so we are selling the ice but that’s it,” Datilio said.
Both Larivee and Datilio credited the rink’s board for giving them the go ahead to make the purchase, and now they are optimistic about the possibility of the rink becoming a venue to host events that will allow the rink to take home a larger percentage of the profits being brought in by events in there space to help keep the rink's doors open.
During the open house on Wednesday, April 26, which runs from 6-9 p.m., Buckle and Shake will be playing from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on a 10 ft x 8 ft stage. There will be a wide array of events and activities available to show off the rink’s space such as a bouncy house for kids, corn hole, disc golf, a slap shot regatta, and more. There will also be a Gratis Bar provided by Cisco Brewers. The event is free to attend.
“There could be some other events maybe like basketball and pickleball,” Larivee said. “It will just be a lot of things to sort of show people what we can offer essentially. Hopefully we have some people come down like wedding planners and event planners, anyone who can utilize a venue of this size just to see what they can do with this space. It will be nice to show off a live band and see what the acoustics are and what the place can sound like with a band.”