Making Roller Skating Memories with Light and Sound

It seems as though everyone has a roller skating story. When the topic comes up in conversation a frequent response is, “I used to go roller skating every Friday night when I was a kid,” or “My daughter just had a roller skating birthday party.” Whether Friday night skates as a child or birthday parties, these memories are exactly the experiences that industry consultant Bill Carlson emphasizes.
“I cannot stress to you the importance fun plays in all of your businesses,” Carlson explained in his U-Profit newsletter.
Throughout the years, technology in the areas of lighting, sound and special effects have advanced rapidly, giving roller skating centers new tools for creating a memorable, fun experience.
“One of the biggest advancements currently is the use of LED technology,” said Terry Maxfield, owner of Audio Lite. “It’s not only a green product, that is, it doesn’t burn a lot of electricity, but it also lasts a long, long time.”
LED lighting certainly adds to the fun atmosphere of roller skating centers but with many additional perks for the skating center operator. Maxfield explained that skating center operators are accustomed to lighting that generates a lot of heat requiring a fan. In the long run, he added, the fan can cause problems because it sucks in all the grime and dirt in a skating center. However, LED lights require no fan because they do not produce heat. In addition, the LED lights have a life expectancy of 100,000 hours, which greatly surpasses what is considered a “long-life” bulb with an average life expectancy of 2,000 hours, Maxfield explained.
“If you were to run that light for 24 hours a day, it would burn out in 11 and a half years,” he said, explaining the value of LED technology. “The LED lighting is a big trend and we are going to see LED and longer lasting bulbs all the way around; it’s been a big push.” He also added that Audio Lite has strived for many years to incorporate the LED technology and he said that operators will start to see this trend more and more in the industry. He also noted, that the type of light bulb people commonly use in their home is on its way out and that it has already been made illegal in Europe.
Having been a skating center operator, he is uniquely qualified and tuned into what skating center operators are looking for and need. Maxfield has been in the audio and lighting business since 1971, when Audio Lite began. He recalled that in the early 1970s disco era he could not find the type of lighting he wanted for his skating center. The result was that he made what he wanted himself and other operators noticed.
Maxfield has been in the business for nearly 40 years, and has seen the technology advance. He said besides the advancements with LED technology, the quality of sound equipment continues to improve. “Like all things electronic, sound systems just get better every year,” he said.
One reason for this is that customers are demanding better quality, he explained. “Customers are willing to spend a bit more money for a better product.”
Maxfield said most of the early disco-type products, similar to a little black box with disco lights inside them, didn’t last long, which may have worked for a mobile DJ, but not for skating center operators. Now, he said, especially in sound technology, there has been a continual upgrade in quality since he has been in the business.
Advancements in lighting and sound only add to skating centers’ atmosphere and aid in operators creating that memorable experience. For skating centers looking to improve or new skating centers installing audio and visual packages, Maxfield advised that operators have their systems installed by a professional who specializes in the roller skating industry.
Maxfield noted that a skating center’s audio and sound systems are an investment, with most lighting and sound packages for new skating centers costing anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000. He said that operators often ask how much they should spend on their light show, and Maxfield estimated that when all is said and done a new skating center will spend as much on a light show as it does on its sound system. He recommended that skating centers have their lighting and sound packages pre-designed and that they install the entire sound package at once; however, they do not have to install the lighting package all at one time.
“By designing [the lighting package] ahead of time, operators get all the electrical wiring done during construction and they don’t have to call an electrician every time we add a few lights,” he said.
Whether operators are investing in lighting and sound packages for a new skating center or refurbishing their existing ones, the continually increased quality for sound equipment and LED lighting advancements give operators many options to create a memorable atmosphere in their skating centers so the children of today can recall their Friday nights at the skating center when they are hosting their daughters’ or sons’ birthday parties at their local skating center. –
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