Skating Into Fun: Arcades Entertain While Offering a Break in the Action

For kids of all ages, roller skating rinks are an experience. It’s mostly about skating with friends, of course. But heading to the snack bar to share pizza or popcorn and playing games with pals in the arcade rank up there with the good times. And roller skating rinks across the country have risen to the occasion with  rich arcade experiences.
A seasonal approach
Ticket redemption games and prize cranes are the winning combination for the Skatin’ Place, in St. Cloud, Minn., said Manager Jeff Jackson. Skaters at its arcade can redeem their tickets for everything from candy, whoopee cushions and vampire teeth to inflatables, costume jewelry, mood rings and stuffed animals.
“In my facility, there are 25 to 30 games, depending on the time of year,” Jackson said. “Winter and spring are when we rent games because it’s the busiest time of the year.” Rather than expanding its arcade, the Skatin’ Place offers skaters something new during its high season through game rentals.
Kids of all ages
“We’ve switched to all redemption games because the kids really like them,” said Kim Swenson of Roller Gardens in St. Louis Park, Minn., of the roughly 20-game arcade area.
That is, with the exception of air hockey, which appeals to parents and kids of all ages. “It’s amazing how many [air hockey] tournaments there are,” she said, “especially when someone’s celebrating a 30th birthday.”
Air hockey aside, the rink is looking to add more redemption games, up to 25 if costs allow. In the meantime, though, Roller Gardens swaps games between its facilities in St. Louis Park and Woodbury, Minn., to keep things fresh and new.
Swenson makes sure that the “souvenir center,” where skaters can redeem tickets won in the arcade, appeals to the little ones. “One little girl told me this is the best store in the world,” she said.
Target audience
Keeping the arcade’s 15 games geared toward the largest demographic that frequents the rink is the strategy of Art DeFrancisco, owner and manager of Skatetime in Monroe, Conn.
That means the rink has a selection of games that appeals to kids ages four to 15. “Although you may have older teens or adults that frequent the rink, it’s the younger generation that spends money in the arcade,” he said.
Other key considerations are games that people wearing skates can play easily, such as crane machines, gun games, and driving games, he said, and placing the machines strategically throughout the arcade.
Given Skatetime’s space constraints, arcade expansion is not likely, DeFrancisco said. So the rink chooses to rotate the games around the space and bring in different games once a year to keep things fresh for the kids.
A good mix of games
Though redemption games are the most popular in the arcade at Roller Land Skate Center in Fort Collins, Colo., Manager Jathan Trevena said that games like Skee Ball, Ice Ball, and air hockey also do really well.
“Friday night is our big middle school night,” he said, and the allure of winning such novelty items as slap bracelets, “little ninja guys, and all sorts of fun stuff” at the prize counter fuels the popularity of redemption games.
Space is limited for the arcade, and right now, they have enough room for about 20 games, 12 of which are redemption machines. Trevena said, “Our strategy is to switch out games with new things.”
A roller rink first
“We want to make sure we get the kids in here to primarily skate, not to hang around in the arcade,” said Marissa Lehman of US On Wheels in Arvada, Colo.
Too many kids in the arcade can create problems, she said. And the roller rink facility only has room for about 12 games.
“Our location does not carry any gun games,” she said, of the rink’s arcade mix of redemption and driving games with “classic ones” like Skee Ball and Fooz Ball. “We have stuff everyone can relate to, even the parents.”
A mix of games
All the games at Skate City Legends in Kansas City, Kan., and Skate City in Overland Park, Kan., and Pueblo, Colo., are G-rated, said Larry Bishop, owner and manager of the three rinks.
“We have a mix of activities that skaters can step into for just a little bit and then get back to skating,” he said. “Our number-one activity is skating.”
Each rink is approximately 24,000 square feet with about a thousand feet of that dedicated to arcade space, he estimated. Skate City has driving and basketball games, and G-rated shooting games that appeal to adults as well as redemption games for the kids.
Bishop is firm about keeping the size of the arcades and the number of games as they are now. “We just rotate games, change them up, redesign the locations,” he said. “We try to add new games and get rid of old ones. It’s a dedicated space.” –

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