By Carimé Lane
Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to be found pumping iron at your local gym or training for a marathon. You can get fit having fun, too. Here’s how four roller skating rink owners and managers conveyed that message, along with their input on how roller skating teaches fitness to kids and benefits adults.
Daniela and Ed Gonzalez own the Villa Roller in Washington, N.J. Housed in a hundred-year-old building, the space was originally a dance hall pavilion and then converted into a social club. For the past 60 years, it was a roller rink. The Gonzalazes purchased the rink just before the pandemic in October 2019 and closed it for renovations. “Everyone says it looks like a totally different place,” said Daniela Gonzalez, who was on a roller derby team at the rink when it was previously owned.
After the pandemic closure, they accommodated a number of smaller private party sessions from Friday to Sunday. When they updated the facility, they created a party room. Many guests wanted a private session at the rink, even if they weren’t celebrating anything specific. “During the pandemic, they just wanted to get out of the house to get their bodies moving,” Gonzalez said.
They use the fitness aspect of roller skating to advertise. For instance, they’ll say on social media posts: “Looking for something do? Come get physical with us!” or “Have nothing to do? Sweat out some calories after the New Year.”
But it’s the experience that really teaches the guests that roller skating is part of a healthy lifestyle. “Most people who come skating know it’s a workout, and I think that’s what they’re looking for,” Gonzalez said.
Kids are frequent visitors, including beginning and expert skaters. For pre-mature skaters or kids who have never been on skates, the rink supplies skates that don’t roll backwards. “This builds confidence,” said Gonzalez. They also have a walker on wheels to assist beginners and roller blades as first-time skaters may find them easier to learn on. Often, learning to skate is about falling, getting up and not being scared to try again, Gonzalez explained.
Their rink has a unique set up that also caters to beginners. In the inner rink, there are poles positioned at intervals. “We like the less advanced skaters to stay in the middle and hold onto the poles while skating,” Gonzalez said.
Older kids are more interested in going fast. They walk out of the rink dripping, said Gonzalez. “They’re stinky, sweaty and smelly by the time they leave.” At Villa Roller, they also take music requests. Teens also flock to the rink for the social aspect.
Adults are more motivated by the fitness aspect, said Gonzalez. “There’s nothing happening at the concessions – everyone’s on the floor.”
At Kate’s Skating Rinks, with three locations in Lowell, Hudson and Indian Trail in North Carolina, Vice President Billy Thompson said they use the infographic supplied by their National Association to communicate the health benefits of roller skating. The infographics are displayed in poster format throughout the rink, including the party area, skate room and locker room. “You see people stop and read those all the time,” commented Thompson.
Roller skating teaches kids they can have fun while they exercise, said Thompson. All three Kate’s locations, averaging about 25,000-square-feet each, encourage kids to join in on fun activities from speed teams to figure skating clubs. They also have reserved certain days and nights for special needs kids who may not have as much of a chance to get outside and exercise.
Adults, who may find themselves cooped up at a desk job, may also find roller skating to be their opportunity to get out and exercise, Thompson said.
Typically, they’ll see 250,000 to 300,000 guests a year collectively. Since coming back from COVID closures, they’ve been up about 30% from their best year ever, which was 2019.
“Most people in our industry haven’t seen this kind of volume since the 80s,” said Thompson. Thompson attributed roller skating’s comeback to the clips of famous people roller skating on social media, and the way roller skating encourages everyone to “get out exercising and have a good time doing it.”
Over at the 30,000-square-foot Fountainblu Skating Arena in New Cumberland, Pa., they also work to provide a fun, happy environment where participants can engage in a healthy activity and have fun while doing it. They facilitate games for kids like the limbo, hokey pokey and races. These types of activities incorporate balance and coordination but may also challenge the cardiovascular system, explained Co-Owner Diane Schiazza.
They market roller skating as an activity for fun and fitness on various platforms, including on their email list, Facebook, Instagram, direct marketing and in-rink flyers, Schiazza said.
Like Kate’s Skating Rinks, they also have the National Association’s infographic on the health benefits of roller skating displayed in poster-format at their rink.
For kids, skating is a natural movement that gets their body moving, that also takes some coordination. “You think it’s easy to get on skates and glide, but it isn’t,” said Schiazza. “But it’s not a hard sell once they get the skates on.”
It’s an activity adults can do with their kids. “Almost anybody can put on a pair of roller skates and get moving,” Schiazza said.
Tammy Boldt, events manager and STEMS Coordinator at TraXside Skating in Burlington, Wis., explained that as a small family-owned business, they rely on word of mouth to advertise for the most part. Like Kate’s and Fountainblu, they display posters explaining the various health benefits of exercise. They also offer STEM lessons for kids where they teach, for instance, about heart health, before the kids roll onto the rink for a couple of hours.
Roller skating gets kids up and moving, said Boldt. But what they don’t realize is that while they’re having fun, they’re also exercising. “This is the best field trip ever” is a common exclamation among the kids at the center, Boldt said.
If they haven’t skated in a long time, adults are surprised to find out what body parts are actually hurting post roller skate – for instance, they’re surprised that their abs are hurting from having to stabilize instead of their legs, Boldt said.
Boldt also pointed out that the social aspect of roller skating keeps guests – both kids and adults – healthy. “It’s fitness, but it’s also emotional,” said Boldt. “It’s essential to meet people face-to-face. Kids and adults become fast friends at the roller rink,” she added.
They were surprised to find there was no post-quarantine dip in business. “People realize exercise is important for mental and physical health and their immune system,” added Boldt.