20 August 2010

Seasonal market is maturing

Natural History Museum's ice rink funds the work of its scientists

Temporary beaches and ice rinks are booming throughout the country. Now, operators have to offer more than skates and sand to increase revenue, profits and optimise customer interest. Natasha Devan reports on a developing industry 

Urban beaches and ice rinks have become the ultimate in pop-up leisure attractions.

A growing list of cities are imitating the famous Paris Plage, an initiative to build temporary beaches along the river Seine, that offers a sandy space for people to relax.

The logistics of creating urban beaches have restricted many of these developments to city-backed initiatives. Here, the social element is just as important as the tourism opportunities.

Take the launch of Mexico City’s tenth artificial beach this summer. Each beach is situated near public transport links so that residents of the world’s most populous city have easy access to leisure areas, at a cost of almost £400,000 to the land-locked capital. 


“They bring the ground to life with shared experiences. The level of magic at these events is something that will never grow old”
The UK’s most recent urban beach was in Bristol in 2007. Instigated by community think-tank Demos, the ‘beach within reach’ was very successful, attracting thousands. 

Former Demos designer Joost Beunderman worked on the urban beach. He believes that these pop-ups will only remain fresh if they are localised.

“I think it’s important that it doesn’t become generic. The beach project was rooted in the place Bristol is,” he said. “Pop-up beaches will always be timeless, as they change people’s aspirations for the public domain and offer a different way of living the same old city lifestyle.

“They bring the ground to life with shared experiences. The level of magic at these events is something that will never grow old,” he added. 

In contrast, the increasing number of temporary ice rinks is testament to their success in generating extra out-of-season revenue.

This summer the first ice rink by a beach – the Bondi Bergstation, made its debut in Sydney, Australia, selling out on most days. 

The Natural History Museum’s rink was also popular, and welcomed 108,318 skaters in 2009. The museum is launching its sixth ice rink this winter. 

"Income from the rink helps further the work of more than 300 scientists working at the museum.” 
It now sees the pop-up rink as integral to its offering. Eleanor Bradstreet, head of media relations at the Natural History Museum, said: “At the end of each year’s event, we review performance carefully and use this to assess our plans for the following year. Income from the rink helps further the work of more than 300 scientists working at the museum.”

Out-of-season rinks are also contributing to the community. A summer skating school run by former Olympic skater Karen Barber was introduced at the Isle of Man’s Sure Summer Skate rink in August.

David Cretney, the island’s minister for trade and industry, said: “With a population of 86,000, with few cinemas or leisure activities, it’s a tradition here to ice skate.”

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