Canadian Vending

Features Equipment Technology
FROM THE EDITOR: April 2006

A New Arena


April 29, 2008
By Cam Wood


Topics

All across Canada, the pulse of the community is often measured at the local hockey rink. Not so much as a home to thousands of budding Wayne Gretzkys, but more so as a meeting place and celebration of a Canadian pastime.

A New Arena

All across Canada, the pulse of the community is often measured at the local hockey rink. Not so much as a home to thousands of budding Wayne Gretzkys, but more so as a meeting place and celebration of a Canadian pastime.

Minor hockey is frequently seen as the fabric of pride and a spawning ground of life lessons. It’s estimated that over half a million youngsters play minor hockey in Canada, while hundreds of thousands of others opt for figure skating or ringette in an estimated 2,700 indoor rinks.

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In terms of a business, however, the cost is rapidly becoming prohibitive for municipalities to serve these throngs of amateur sports enthusiasts. In fact, some communities have already made conscious decisions to eliminate the retail aspect of their arenas (page 14) by closing concession stands.

For the vending operator, this new arena of growth presents a number of challenges and opportunities.

Typically, these facilities have partnership agreements – much like educational institutions – where either one of the major soft drink or coffee companies trade off scoreboards, Zamboni/Olympia advertising, signage, etc., for exclusive rights to install their beverage machines. They may even toss in a few uniforms and turn pre-tyke players into doughnut marketing monkeys; but either way, there’s a guarantee the product is in plain view.

But, with the closure of concession stands, where does that leave the hungry consumer?

Are there real opportunities for the vending community to grab the proverbial puck and shoot?

We believe so; but we also acknowledge that there is a lot of groundwork for it to be a successful venture. After all, with the big guys already commanding a presence off the ice, how can smaller operators break the ice?

Municipalities dealing with higher expenditures and lower revenues want simple answers. They want to know how they can still make some money, but not have to maintain the investment. The major soft drink companies can provide some solutions, but not all. Remember, these are the same major corporations that were already in the facility while the revenue was melting faster than an ice cream cone in your four-year-old’s hands.

In one particular arena I don’t care to spend another waking hour in, the “Parthenon of Canadian coffee” shut down their kiosk, leaving parents searching for that caffeine jolt at 6 a.m. Not exactly the hour to stomach another can of carbonated soda or a supposedly healthy “sports drink.”

The opportunity is there for someone with a modicum of ingenuity to step up and cater to the new arena of growth.

By understanding the local demographics, the uniqueness of each community and its passion for indoor sports, surely an independent operator can make their mark by providing vending solutions in this changing situation.

Is it an easy task? Not on your life.

But with some forethought, creativity and understanding of a localized solution versus a crafted corporate-wide policy, there remains an opportunity to get your equipment in front of a steady stream of traffic. Surely that must be worth a try.


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