The synthetic ice buyer’s guide
What is important when buying a synthetic Ice rink?
Synthetic ice is a perfect concept which can save millions of tons of CO2 worldwide and allow people to enjoy skating without tremendous energy expenses. However, there are nowadays many suppliers, seller and resellers of synthetic ice in the market with varying qualities. This is creating confusion among buyers. Since the concept is new, many buyers do not know which factors are important when selecting the right product.
Therefore, the objective of this synthetic ice buyer’s guide is to provide help in the buyer’s decision process to make sure they choose the right product and supplier.
Choosing the right product:
1.) Low Coefficient of friction. This is the single most important attribute of synthetic ice. The lower, the better the quality of your ice rink. This has 3 main effects :
a. High gliding ability: It has to be as close to conventional ice as possible. Gliding ability is what makes ice skating a fun sport, you feel weightless and can slide without effort. If people don’t have that much fun skating, you will have less repeating customers, no word of mouth. Hence, high gliding ability is the single most important key success factor of a skating center and guarantees higher revenue.
b. Low usage of skate blades: lower quality synthetic ice have increased friction which means that your skate blades will be worn off more rapidly and then require frequent sharpening which lies between every 30 min – 2 hours the industry average. This means you have to sharpen each skate several hundred times each month, adding staff cost for sharpening and blade monitoring (rink guards who tell skaters to leave the rink to go sharpening). Also steadily replacing grinding wheels of the skate sharpener is costly. With the best the best quality product in the market you will have to do sharpening maximum once per day (if used none-stop 8hrs/day).
c. Low panel wear off: The better the quality, there is less abrasion and shaving off of the panels. This increases the durability. If the quality of panel material is of low quality, skating can produce a lot of worn-off particles which can produce undesirable littering around the rink and in the whole establishment. Also these unwanted particles have been reported to stick to cloths. The panels have to maintain a clean and proper look, without to deep scratches. Even if still the ice is still functional, a messy looking rink doesn’t invite for skating.
2. The way how the ice responds: So that synthetic ice is a true alternative to conventional ice, the ice has to responds to the skate movement exactly the way like ice. For example when doing a hockey stop, many synthetic ice rinks have a longer trajectory than conventional ice. High quality ice responds like ice with all movements and has the same edge control.
3.) Muscle usage identical to ice: On many synthetic ice rinks, the way muscles are used when skating is different than on conventional ice. A high quality surface allows the use of the same muscles and in the same way.
5.) seamlessness of connection system: The connection system of the panels has to be tight, seamless and effective, not allowing the panels to be loose. There are different system in the market.
6.) None toxic ingredients: some suppliers use toxic material such glycol for the gliding liquid which can be harmful for children and the environment.
Choosing the right supplier:
6.) Good References: The supplier should have extensive experience building synthetic ice rinks, especially the type, size and use you plan to build. Find out about the competence of the clients buying the product, the more expert they are, more you can trust the product they have bought. Talk with clients who have bought the same solution.
7.) Rink Management experience. The supplier has to be competent in the field of rink management and provide help and consulting, especially when there is no experience on the side of the buyer. Find out if the supplier has people on staff with rink management experience. This will make sure that your project will be successful beyond installation.
7.) Providing Turnkey solutions: The supplier should be able to provide a turnkey solution, so that you get the best possible solution and do not waste time and money finding out what you need to do, what you need to have and where you get it.
8.) Truly environment friendly: Make sure that the material is 100% recyclable and none toxic. Also check how environment friendly is the production, check with supplier if they use renewable or natural energy. Furthermore, does the supplier has environment certification? Truly ecological is only a product which fulfills these criteria.
9.) Good service level: How fast do they respond to your questions? How reliable is the information they give you? Remember that you will need the supplier’s help and support after the installation and you will happy if they have the same understanding of service you have.
So what are the steps to follow?
1. Gathering information: First find out as much as possible about the above the points before you take up a costly trip to see the supplier. Beware if you don’t get clear answers.
2. Analyze videos: analyze the videos together with a hockey or figure skate expert. At least by video they can separate the chaff from the wheat.
3. Try the synthetic ice: Bring a Hockey/Figure ice skating expert with you and test the surface. The skater has to challenge himself with difficult moves and will notice the quality difference.
4. Try several suppliers: This process will ensure you find the best product in the market.
5. Go for quality: The synthetic ice surface represents only a minor percentage of the total investment of an ice rink business. If you pay more for quality surface, your cost only increases by a few single digits percentage. But with higher revenue and lower cost in the long run you will have a more sustainable and profitable ice rink business. How is the saying again: “I’m too poor to buy cheap”.