There have been so many changes to our day to day lives since Covid-19 hit North America. From the changing group numbers, countless recreational facilities being closed and even our borders between Canada and the USA being shut down, it’s hard to keep up. All of our businesses are hurting and as we attempt to flatten the curve while moving into more mild weather, it’s important to remember that in our community, our indoor bike parks are taking a huge beating right now. Even once we’re fine to come out from hiding, the parks that we turn to during the winter months, typically struggle into the summer even without an outbreak.
In support of the parks that give us sanity during the cold winter months, I reached out to several park owners and asked how they were doing during these unexpected closures. I don’t believe people realize how much this is hurting our indoor parks, considering this is the time they’re looking to bank as much as possible before numbers dip in the summer. I also wanted to outline ways you can help your local park, may that be buying a pass online to use in the future, or maybe buying products that they have in stock.
Today I’m introducing to you Part 2: The Yard, but follow this link for when all the interviews come out. #SupportYourPark
How did The Yard come to be, its history, significance, etc?
The Yard: We opened to the public mid-February 2019 after completing a successful Kickstarter campaign in the Spring of 2018. There had been a number of attempts at indoor parks in Ottawa in the past that focussed on skaters or bikers only. Our park was always meant to be for everyone and we’ve worked really hard to make it a welcoming environment for all. We have little kids on pushbikes, dudes in their sixties learning to drop in for the first time, roller skaters learning how to shred a bowl, scooter kids and really skilled riders. As a northern city that has pretty harsh winters (except this past one!), it was high time for an indoor park in Ottawa.
With the changing landscape, you eventually had to shut down the park due to the new guidelines. As an owner, what’s going through your mind right now and how is your team?
The Yard: The only thing going through my mind is survival. We are a new business who just celebrated their 1 year anniversary and just as we were hitting our stride and maybe able to start sleeping at night, COVID-19 hits and our sales go to zero overnight. As for my team, they are now applying for Employment Insurance (EI is an unemployment insurance program in Canada that allows individuals who have recently lost a job to receive temporary financial assistance.). I wish I could say we made so much in the first year that we had extra money to pay them with no sales but that just isn’t the case. We are all pretty shell shocked, worried about our personal well being and worried about the future of the park.
The Yard: To build on the previous answer, this is definitely a huge hit for us. March is our black Friday and X-mas rolled into one. It’s the only month of the year where all our sales are doing well. We have good park attendance as it’s still winter. We have March break, which means even higher attendance plus camps. It’s also the time that summer camps start booking up. Our shop also starts selling again as the weather picks up. March is a critical month for us and now it’s a complete write-off. We made a 1/4 of what we should have and even if we get the green light to open up the beginning of April, we’ve missed our window to make the money we need for the warmer months.
Currently is there any support from the government as a small business owner, maybe within your city or even your landlord?
The Yard: The federal government has committed to providing support for small businesses but at the moment there are no details on what help that might be. As soon as our sales started dropping we reached out to our landlord to see if any accommodations could be made but at the time they were non-committal. I’m optimistic that in such an unprecedented global crisis, we will be able to work something out that will allow us to get back on our feet.
The Yard: We have a shop with products ready to ship, and online sales would be very helpful.
Can we pre-purchase sessions or memberships?
The Yard: Supporters could buy passes off our website, theyardottawa.com/passes. Our best bet for viability will be memberships. Once we are able to open again, we will be introducing a number of new annual membership options that are billed on a monthly basis. If enough of our customers are willing to support us through the summer by committing to coming at least once a month, we should be able to get through this.
Is there anything else we can do?
The Yard: Not really. This crisis is hard on everyone so we hope people are taking care of their family and friends, being safe and doing what they can for the greater good. When things start to calm down, the best we can hope for is that summer camp registrations pick-up again and customers choose one of our membership options to stabilize our revenues during the summer months and keep the park busy!
Shred when they open, even if it’s warm out.