Growing up, Koren Brodin went ice skating with her friends every Friday during the winter. Now, the 38-year-old East Boston native takes her children as often as she can, something that is becoming easier with the addition of several rinks in the area — some in unusual locations.
“It reminds me of being a kid again,” Brodin said as she stood alongside the new outdoor rink at the Boston Harbor Hotel while her three rosy-cheeked redheads circled the ice on a recent afternoon. “It’s really important to me that they know how to skate.”
Brodin and others have more skating options this season, but unlike in decades past, they are not usually heading for frozen ponds or purposely flooded fields. Many of today’s rinks are constructed in retail environments, where companies hope to play off ice-skating nostalgia to help drive business. In addition to the Boston Harbor Hotel, new rinks have popped up this season at the MarketStreet outdoor mall in Lynnfield, and the Jordan’s Furniture store in Avon.
Ice Rink Events, a developer of seasonal ice rinks, said interest in ice skating is booming regionally.
“We’ve doubled our business in New England and the Boston area in the last year,” said Mike Clayton, president and general manager of Texas-based Ice Rink Events.
The company recently installed a rink at MarketStreet in Lynnfield, where the 5,000-square-foot chunk of ice acts as a centerpiece for the outdoor shopping center that opened this fall. The rink, which charges $6 for children under 12 and $8 for everyone else, debuted on Black Friday, and retailers say it’s making the mall a family destination.
“We’ve been open for two weeks, and several thousand people have come through,” said Noel Cadorette, MarketStreet’s marketing director. “They come to spend the day and do more than just run and go in and out of stores for things they need. It makes them linger a little bit.”
On the opening weekend, a J.P. Licks store just a few feet from the ice went through 20 pounds of hot chocolate mix in two days, setting a record. General manager Kim Coleman said she has since doubled her weekly order from 30 to 60 pounds and still comes close to selling out.
“It’s that nostalgia that makes people want to come out and enjoy the rink,” she said. “Closer to the holidays, it’s a good activity for families.”
Alexis McManamon, manager of a Vineyard Vines store at MarketStreet, said the store has attracted more shoppers from neighboring North Shore communities because of the rink. Parents often use it to keep their children busy so they can shop without distractions, she said.
The Boston Harbor Hotel introduced a new 3,000-square-foot rink earlier this month to give people another reason to visit the waterfront during winter, according to general manager Stephen Johnston. He considers it something of a counterpart to the hotel’s summer concert series, which draws big crowds.
“The summer is successful, but the winter is totally different,” Johnston said. “It’s quiet and there aren’t many people walking around.” He is counting on the rink to encourage people to patronize the hotel and visit nearby shops and restaurants. Admission to the rink, which was also installed by Ice Rink Events, is $10 for adults and $5 for children, with those under 5 years old allowed in free. There is no charge for overnight guests at the hotel
Clayton, whose company built 55 rinks this year including Winter Skate at Patriot Place for its fifth season, attributes the recent surge inrinks to retailers feeling more confident as the economy improves.
Ice Rink Events charges $70,000 to more than $100,000 to build and maintain seasonal rinks.
“A lot of our clients have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a more stable business environment,” Clayton said. “Now they’re ready to take the next step and growth their business and seek new guests.”
Few have used attractions to promote business as much as Eliot Tatelman of Jordan’s Furniture. The chief executive made headlines when he bought the Enchanted Village from the city of Boston in 2009 and put it on display at the discount furniture chain’s Avon store, which also houses a Polar Express Ride and a Christmas-themed laser light show.
This year, Tatelman added a 4,000-square-foot indoor rink with artificial ice. Like the other attractions at Jordan’s, customers must walk through furniture displays to reach it. Tatelman called the rink, which costs $5 to use, a “night club with upbeat Christmas music.”
“It’s all about show business,” he said. “We bring tons of people through, make them feel good, and give them a good time. It’s about exposing our store and making sure they’re going to remember the experience.”