Ice skating might not be the kind of thing you think of doing in Texas, but with modern materials, synthetic ice rinks are available for rent all year round. You can have all the fun of ice skating with none of the chills of winter.
If you’re interested in setting up this kind of ice rink, you might be wondering what the local regulations are on the practice. Do you have to get a permit from the city? Do you have to get insurance, sign waivers, or get your guests to do the same? We’ve performed the research for you so that you don’t have to.
Let’s dig in!
Before we begin, we have to mention that we’re just a company renting inflatable entertainment, we’re not lawyers. We’ve done our best to read through Texas code, but these documents are hundreds of pages long, and there’s a ton of them, so we might have missed something. So, a disclaimer:
What we offer here is not legal advice, and you should always double-check with your city or municipal clerk to make sure of any requirements before you set up any large-scale entertainment. Additionally, our advice only applies to Texas, and specifically the DFW area. Other localities and other states will have their own regulations.
Now, with that out of the way, here’s what we’ve found.
Real or Synthetic
First, let’s talk about the difference between a real ice rink and a synthetic ice rink. A traditional ice rink uses actual water and refrigerant to chill it down to the ice. This is a large and complicated setup, which is why you typically only see it done in hockey facilities. The ice needs to be resurfaced occasionally, the temperature needs to be kept cold enough to keep it frozen, and all of that requires investment.
A synthetic ice rink, meanwhile, is typically made of a kind of plastic. It comes in panels that lock together without seams and is sometimes coated with a slippery liquid (but not always) to give it a smoother surface. You can read more about how they work in our other article on the topic. It’s a clever bit of science if you want to dig deeper.
Now, you’re pretty unlikely to be renting a portable real ice rink. In the colder months in north Texas, it still doesn’t get cold enough for ice to remain frozen outside without help. As such, if you’re renting an ice rink, you’re most likely going to be renting time at the StarCenter or another local hockey facility.
If you want to rent a small-scale ice rink for use in a local public park or your back yard, you’re looking at synthetic rinks instead. These can be relatively small or quite large, depending on available space. There are quite a few different businesses in the greater DFW area with the ability to rent these, so you only need to contact them and ask what their policies are.
Temporary or Permanent
While the title of this post indicates we’re talking about temporary or seasonal rentals, we thought we’d make mention of two other scenarios.
The first scenario is a “winter attraction” style ice rink. Naturally, it will probably be synthetic here in Texas, but you could open up a months-long ice rink business to allow people to skate for a fee. You’d need to buy your ice rink supplies since most rental companies won’t let you just keep their equipment for months, and you’d need a long-term permit from whoever controls the location you’re setting it up.
Keep in mind that you’re not going to be able to set up a business ice rink in your back yard, you’d need a public place or a location zoned for commercial use. You’re generally going to be looking at a setup similar to the Denison On Ice setup they run up there every year. If this is your goal, please talk with your municipal authorities about what you would need to set up such a business.
The second permanent scenario is opening a traditional indoor ice rink facility. In that case, you’re looking at a lot more than just renting a synthetic surface; you’ve got all of the expense of a full facility. That is significantly outside the scope of both this post and our expertise.
If you’re looking at renting a temporary synthetic ice rink installation, such as for a weekend of family fun, a birthday celebration, or a local neighborhood party, the requirements are a lot lower. All you really need is a large, flat surface to set up the ice rink, permission from whoever owns the land, and the money to rent it.
Large or Small
Synthetic ice rinks can be set up to be as large or as small as you have space available. Generally, the only real limits are physical space and the number of “tiles” the company you’re renting from owns and is willing to bring. For example, Classic Holiday is a company operating out of the Dallas area. They offer ice rinks ranging from 800 to 4,000 square feet. That’s about a square with about 20 yards to a side at the largest.
When considering how large of an ice rink you want, there are a bunch of factors to keep in mind.
- How many people are going to be using it? A 4,000 square foot ice rink is overkill for three or four kids but might be packed if you’re serving the whole city.
- How big is the space you have to set up? Most synthetic ice rinks need to be set up on a hard surface, like a parking lot or driveway, and cannot be set up on dirt or a yard. They can also be set up indoors, in a ballroom or basketball court, if you have access to such a facility. Some companies provide a frame or platform they can set up for use on softer surfaces, but you’ll need to talk to the company about that.
- What is your budget? The larger the ice rink you want to set up, the more you’re going to have to pay to rent it. This basically comes down to how many panels the company needs to transport to your location and set up, which means higher costs for everything involved.
Really, for a small family event or a party, you don’t need a very large rink. For anything larger, you’re also potentially looking at renting a public facility, which will have its own rules.
Public or Private
Speaking of, are you setting up your ice rink in a public place or in private?
Private ice rink rentals are much less regulated than renting a public space to set up your event. You can to basically anything on your own private property, so long as you don’t break any laws or endanger anyone, you know? You might need to sign some paperwork with the company you’re renting from, releasing them from liability if anyone is injured using the equipment, but that’s basically it.
The company you’re renting from should be licensed and their equipment should be inspected for safety regularly. This article discusses the insurance, safety, licensing, and regulations involved with bounce houses. You can expect similar regulations for other rental entertainment, like ice rinks.
Most typically, you’re going to have to sign paperwork that says you can’t sue the owner of the facility or the owner of the equipment in the case of injury. This is pretty standard for any kind of equipment rental, and while the company you’re renting from should be striving to make their equipment as safe as possible, accidents and injuries can happen. You might even still be able to sue, but only if you can prove some level of negligence on the part of the company. Given how simple, easy to maintain, and generally safe ice-skating rinks are, this is pretty unlikely.
If you’re looking to rent an ice rink and set it up in a public place, you may need to follow other regulations. For example, if you wanted to rent time in a basketball court in Dallas so you can set up an ice rink, you would need to talk to the facility manager and make sure you’re allowed to do so. Some facilities are very particular with the surface of their courts and don’t want heavy equipment set up on it that could damage it.
The same holds true for renting, say, the parking lot of a public park. You’ll need to talk to whoever controls the park, usually the parks and rec department, for any specific information. They will probably require you to pay a fee and sign paperwork about not damaging the park, treating people well, and generally not being a terrible guest.
Do You Need a Permit?
As far as we can tell, there are no permits necessary for setting up an ice rink temporarily on your own private property. You would need some kind of permission if you set up on public land, and you could set up in the parking lot of a private facility with permission from that facility’s owner. The city does not seem to require or issue permits for something like a temporary ice rink.
That said, depending on how large of an event you’re holding, you may need to set up some kind of waiver. For example, the Denison on Ice event up above has a waiver on their page. Their waiver is long and legal-ese, but it basically boils down to a few key points:
- Injury and, in extreme cases, death can occur due to ice skating. It’s not the facility’s fault if this happens, you take on the risk knowingly.
- You release the city, the facility, and everyone involved from liability.
- You have to follow their code of conduct to use their facility appropriately and obey the people in charge when they tell you not to act in a certain way.
- The city and facility can take photos and videos of you enjoying the facility and use it as part of their marketing for up to a year.
The code of conduct is pretty simple as well. It has things like “sign the waiver” and “only use our skates and give them back when you’re done” on it. Mostly, it all boils down to: don’t damage the equipment, don’t endanger yourself or others, and don’t misuse the facilities.
Will you have to go through all of that for a short one-day rental? Probably not. You’ll likely have some paperwork to sign with the rental company, and some paperwork to sign with whatever facility you’re renting to set it up, but it won’t be as deep or detailed a waiver.
If you’re planning on setting up an ice rink at a park or a public place, you may need to get a permit from the city, which your rental company can assist you with.
Should You Rent an Ice Rink?
So with all of the above in mind, should you consider renting an ice rink? Really, that’s up to you! Ice rinks can be fun, and ice skating is a fun sport that more people should try out. Since it doesn’t get cold enough for a natural outdoor ice rink in Texas, you’ll need to look for a synthetic option if you aren’t willing to rent time at a hockey facility.
During these pandemic times, probably your best option is to rent a small synthetic ice rink for your driveway or a local park’s parking lot, with permission from the municipality in charge of the park. It gets you a small rink you can use to skate with friends and family but doesn’t risk exposing a lot of people to COVID-19. You can also keep an eye out for events like Denison’s, which tend to spring up around this time of year. After all, you don’t need to do the work of renting and setting up a facility if someone else is doing it for you.
Thinking of having an ice rink set up for your next event? Get in touch with us! We’ll help you with permits, waivers, and everything you need to get up and running and having fun! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below.