One dollar more

by Andy Baird

JMS has been around for nearly a decade and for years the mean skater price has remained at $15 for a 90 minute skate. In those years, rink prices have increased and we’ve managed to keep our prices constant. We’ve been able to do this as we’ve become better at promoting games, scheduling where the demand is and managing overhead costs.

With the fall calendar starting we saw another price hike across many rinks in the Twin Cities and we knew it was time. Starting November 1st, JMS games will be $16.

Rink Pricing Economics

Rink pricing in Minnesota is a fascinating lesson in the balance of economics and community services. Most rinks exist so the community’s youth have a place to play hockey (which is why youth associations get first dibs and we skate later in winter, after them). Because profit is not the rink’s the primary objective, many rinks operate at a net loss, their existence underwritten by the city and justified by contributing to the citizens’ quality of life.

As costs (power to chill the ice, fuel for the Zamboni, pay for the workers) increase, the rinks up their prices. A significant proportion of the cost increase is passed along to outside groups, defraying the cost for the rink’s local users–who the rink exists to serve, after all. And so we regularly see increased pricing from some of our favorite rinks — some we are now priced out of completely after seeing a 30% increase over the last 5 years.

This is all just economics; we’re not upset at the rink managers or the city councils that set the prices. It’s just business. JMS does try to negotiate where we can, but ice–especially during the hockey season–is most definitely a seller’s market. If we don’t take it at the offered price, more than one group is waiting right behind us and IS willing to pay the asking price.

A note on Prime vs. Off-Prime ice

While rinks vary in price and we choose as economically as we can, all rinks do charge more for prime hours (about 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.) than during the day when demand is almost zero.

Some people pay five bucks at lunchtime and don’t understand why JMS costs what it does. Rinks give “dead ice” to open hockey and can afford to charge a low price for it–even five bucks a skater is better than the ice just sitting there.

But prime hours are something very different. Most kids and adults can only skate after school or work, so those hours are the most in demand. Like anything else in demand, the price goes up.

In a recent Star Tribune story, the associate director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission made the same point: It’s not that there isn’t enough skating time, Barclay Kruse said, just that there aren’t enough ice hours that are considered convenient. “The prime hours for youth hockey are 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.,” he said, “If you asked [the hockey associations], they’d all love to skate at 7 every night at a rink 5 miles from their house.”

We know that’s how JMSers feel, too, and we work as hard as we can to make that happen for as many of you as we can–at an affordable rate that keeps the program sustainable for the future.

Thanks for your understanding. Questions or want more detail? E-mail