By Hilary Danailova
Roller skating is a retro activity, but it’s still a popular pastime for skaters old and young. That’s partly because rink owners and managers make an effort to keep their facilities fresh and modern to appeal to a new generation of families.
“The two most important things are the floor and the music,” opined Kelly Childs, who co-owns Skate Reflections in Kissimmee, Fla., with her husband and parents. “That’s what keeps everybody going at the rink.”
So when it came time to upgrade the 36-year-old, 32,000-square-foot facility, Childs made a new sound system a priority, adding extra amplifiers to make sure “the sound was really, really getting out to the people,” she said.
Childs also replaced the rink’s dated carpet with special black-light carpeting that features the Skate Reflections logo and glows under the black lighting. She replaced the back wall with LED lighting, and hired an artist to create a DJ-and-music-themed mural in glow paint for the black-lighted party room. “It looks cool in regular lighting, but it looks great under black light,” Childs said.
The glow-in-the-dark décor, she added, is a deliberate effort to create a modern look that appeals to all ages and genders. “We want to make sure both boys and girls enjoy their birthdays there,” Childs explained. So far, the makeover resonates with Skate Reflections’ 5,000 monthly guests: Matinees are popular with families, Friday evenings are Top 40 nights for teens, and Saturday is “Old School Night,” featuring music of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s for nostalgists.
Next up: lighting upgrades. “We try to do one major thing a year,” Childs said, adding that her family recently renovated the facility’s kitchen. To keep the décor fresh, Skate Reflections vacuums the carpet nightly, schedules a twice-monthly carpet shampoo, and has a maintenance crew clean on the three days each week when the facility is closed.
Black lighting also adds a modern touch to The Rollercade in San Antonio, Texas, a 1959 landmark that draws over one million annual visitors to its retro-chic rink. “We’re an old facility, but we’re constantly making improvements,” said Manager Brena Quaranto, whose mother, Verna Quaranto, is The Rollercade’s owner.
Brena Quaranto said The Rollercade gets new carpet every six years; the latest floor covering features giant neon roller skates and glows under newly installed black lighting. A full-time maintenance worker oversees nightly cleaning and a weekly carpet shampoo.
In a nod to the facility’s history, Quaranto also converted a ballroom dance studio used by her grandparents, who founded The Rollercade, into a party room whose walls are papered with black-and-white photos of her grandparents skating.
One thing that hasn’t changed: the 20,000-square-foot facility’s neon lighting. “A lot of people have gone to LED, but we want to keep the vibe of how it was designed,” Quaranto said.
In Little Rock, the dual ice and roller rink Arkansas Skatium dates from the 1970s, so remodeling is a must to keep the facility fresh, said Manager James Bellamy. The Skatium recently recarpeted its benches and repainted the bathroom, all in the shades of gray that are popular right now, Bellamy explained.
Whether frozen, wooden or carpeted, rink flooring presents some of the greatest maintenance challenges for skating centers. But amid the ever-present chewing gum, renovation also offers opportunities for the showpiece surfaces.
Bellamy noted that when the Skatium replaced the coolant system for its ice rink, the owners took advantage of having to remove the ice to repaint the rink itself before re-icing. The Skatium also re-coats its wooden roller skating surface annually with a plastic coating that gives skaters traction. “The biggest thing is making sure the floor stays dry,” Bellamy said. “If you get moisture, it’ll find cracks in the coating; the wood will expand and crack the floor.”
Galaxy Skateway also recoats its wood floor annually and scrubs it weekly to maintain the sheen, said Wendy Elkins, a manager at the Hollywood, Fla., roller skating rink. But the star of Galaxy’s floor — literally — is its new, skate-themed carpeting, which features an appropriately galactic theme with blue and black stars and planets. “On a daily and weekly basis we’re always improving, keeping things neat and clean,” said Elkins. Like many facilities, Galaxy Skateway relies on a routine that involves daily sweeping, vacuuming and spot cleaning and regular visits from a carpet cleaner.
In sports-mad Philadelphia, local teams were the obvious theme for a décor makeover at Rolling Thunder Skating Center, said General Manager Ivy Smith. The facility hired an artist to hand-paint the interior with Philly-oriented sports attractions, including Rocky, the Phillies baseball team, and the Eagles football team. With special glow paint, “when we turn off the light, the glow paint looks 3-D,” Smith explained.
The rink, which is more than a quarter century old, also repainted a dining area and relies on constant maintenance to keep up its amusement rides and 80-game arcade, Smith said. But it’s the flashy new sports décor that draws the most attention — revealing how essential renovation is for decades-old facilities. “It was time,” Smith said of the latest upgrade.