So, in between telling the dads that no it's NOT okay to skate with the baby when you can barely stand up yourself, explaining to the hockey boys why six of them linking arms and then skating forward as fast as they can is not nearly the universal amusement it seems to them, and convincing the mothers of assorted 7 year olds that the reason their kids can't stand up is not "weak ankles" but rather "untied skates," I came up with some marketing ideas. The chance of these getting a hearing, let alone implemented, at my home rink is just about zero, so feel free to steal them.
Extended public skate
A few times a year, add a half hour or 40 minutes to public skate, so you can fit in an ice cut and an exhibition between the first and second hours. Invite local skating champions, the rink's own Nationals qualifiers, the synchro team (and the synchro team from the local college), skating "names" who are home for the holidays, groups/soloists from an upcoming rink ice show or competition, and even the top hockey team to do performances or demonstrations for 15 to 20 minutes.
Best time to do this would be before the ice show or before whichever session has historically poor enrollment. Everyone who watches the exhibition gets a 10% off coupon for whatever program you're trying to enhance. You could make this a regular thing--say the first Sunday of every month, so that people start anticipating it. If the coupon thing gets out of hand, make it first 50 people to come get a coupon, to limit your exposure.
But frankly, freebie coupons pay for themselves in the long run, through new customers, increased use by existing customers, and the goodwill they create.
What, more discount coupons?
Every year, so many rinks start their winter session the second or third week of December, hold one or two classes, and then immediately take a one or two week break for the holidays. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is stupid. People don't realize classes are starting; they're all waiting for January, or they know classes are starting but wait until January to sign up anyway. So why not make those two beginning weeks free drop in classes (or you only have to pay for skates if you don't have your own). Everyone who comes to those, gets a 10% off coupon (or whatever, basically one free class) for the upcoming session.
If you're afraid of regular customers abusing this, make it just for the tot and beginning classes, or just for people who have never taken classes at your facility before. Maybe for the freestyle levels, you do one-off clinics; figure out some sort of rink-enhancing freebie you could do for them too. (After all, they're your best customers. Or just make it free to any FS skater who's signed up for the last 2 sessions, to reward them for all the money they spend there the rest of the year.) You might need to do a couple of 8 or 9 week sessions to make the calendar work, instead of 10 week sessions, but classes would be bursting at the seams.
Still more freebies
I love giving away other people's stuff.
Everyone who comes to any public skating session during Christmas break and last two weeks of August gets a 10% off coupon (basically one free class) to the next session. You do this at Christmas because there are tons of new skaters using your public ice at that time of year, and you do it in August to encourage people to sign up for skating instead of soccer. We lose more kids to soccer every fall. I find it absolutely incredible that the only thing at the rink advertising classes this week was a densely covered schedule stuck away in an upright file in a dark corner. Nowhere is there a big bright sign saying SIGN UP FOR CLASS!
Folks, "if you build it they will come" only works in the movies.
Introductory private lessons on public skate
I don't know about other coaches, but it makes me completely insane to watch the skating guards and random kids "teaching" on public sessions (especially on those selected public sessions where the pros are not allowed to teach). Why not hire your pro staff to do private mini-lessons during public skating? You'd purchase a coupon for, say $10 for 15 minutes (with the specific time noted on the coupon), and hand it to one of the pros for a short lesson. The pro would turn in all the coupons and get paid one class fee for each half hour (i.e. two mini-lessons).
I'm not done giving stuff away yet
The week before the class test, everyone in class gets a free public skate pass. This will pay for itself, because the kids will bring their parents, their friends, their sibs, spend money at the concession stand and will start working public skating into their regular activities, so they'll come back and spend again.
Skate with a friend day
Last day of the session kids should be allowed to bring a buddy-- anyone from little sis to BFF to grandpa. You could put age restrictions on it, and make it one friend per skater. Then (wait for it) give every one of those friends a 10% off coupon for the next session.
What's your marketing idea for your rink?