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Skate the Golden State

A 5-day trip to Northern California by Susan Geary

If you’re headed to Northern California, don’t forget your skates. There are plenty of rinks, including outdoor venues to enjoy, along with different types of sessions to choose from. Here’s the itinerary that Ginger Mathews (aka the Skate Critic) planned for me to get the most from my trip.

Wednesday: After my flight touched down at San Francisco International Airport, Ginger picked me up and we headed to the Golden Skate in San Ramone for Adult night.

Every Wednesday this quaint rink, located just off the 680 Freeway halfway between Walnut Creek and Pleasanton, hosts skaters 18 and older from 7:30 PM – 100:00 PM. Admission is $14 per person with quad rentals at $5 — $6 for inlines. Everyone entering must pay a fee, whether they skate or not. Skaters are required to enter through a metal detector that checks for weapons. The floor is polyurethane coated over plywood/particle board, and some of the seams appeared to buckle on one side of the rink. Great music and a fun DJ to start off our trip. I did notice the prices on admission and skate related gear are the highest in the region. Richard Humphrey, the founder of RollerDance.com, was in the house and demonstrated the Wave. He’s provides roller dance instruction and has an interesting background as a stunt double and producer of skate instruction videos.

Richard Humphrey
Richard Humphrey, founder of RollerDance.com teaches lessons from his studio in San Francisco.

Thursday: Early Thursday morning we headed out to Citrus Heights to skate with seasoned veterans at Sunrise Rollerland, located Northeast of Sacramento near the Sunrise mall. Sunrise Rollerland is one of the largest wood floors in the West, and the 5th largest, nationwide (according to the Skate Critic). With a gorgeous rotunda floor that is well maintained, it was like skating on butter. This morning skate adult session runs $7 from 10-noon which includes skate rental and coffee and donuts. The music is a mix of soft rock, and more mellow top 40 music from the past 50 years. I ran into friends that were made years ago on Facebook, but had never met “in person.” What a wonderful time and a fabulous venue. I picked up a souvenir t-shirt as well.   

Ginger Mathews, Tim Laskey, and Susan Geary at Sunrise Rollerland in Citrus Heights, CA.
Ginger Mathews, Tim Laskey, and Susan Geary at Sunrise Rollerland in Citrus Heights.

After the session, we drove by King’s Skate Country in Elk Grove (south of Sacramento) which was closed, but we were hoping to go inside for a sneak peek. Perhaps next time.  

King's Skate Country.

Friday: Next we headed to the Church of 8 Wheels in San Francisco at 554 Fillmore St. near Fell Street. This old church turned disco roller rink is run by David Miles, the Godfather of Skating. We went to the earlier session from 5-7 pm due to our schedule. It’s open to all ages. But it’s the 8-midnight adult session that’s the showstopper. That’s when you’ll find a full house of adult skate worshipers, dressed in disco garb, to complement David’s light up sparkly hat and fuzzy leg warmers. There is neon everywhere. It’s a bit small, and more of a novelty rink, although it does have the original wood floor, brand new rental skates with light up wheels, and a fun selection of disco music that brought me back to my high school years when I was a rink rat in the 70s. Props also to David’s lovely wife, Rose and their daughter who greeted us at the door and made us feel extra welcome during our visit.

Church converted into a disco roller rink.
The Church of 8 Wheels is a renovated vintage church which hosts disco roller skating every weekend in San Francisco.

After leaving the Church, Ginger took me to San Jose to a pop-up rink in a former Sports Chalet at the East Ridge Mall. The owner, Liz Ruiz has done a phenomenal job in such a short period of time (8 days!) installing the Aloha Roller Rink, which started as an outdoor venue and morphed into the current location. It does have poles, which are well padded with pool floats, and they are lit up so you can’t miss them. Also, the floor is concrete and there is a practice area for beginners. Liz has utilized the space nicely, and it’s only been open about a year with huge party areas. A pro shop is also planned. The Hawaiian Beach theme resonates throughout, and there’s lots of couches, along with pool tables and pinball; plus a mini golf course under construction. Our DJ was DJ Taz from 10PM to 1AM. He played a mix of disco, rhythm and skate classics, like ABBA’s Dancing Queen, and Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. This was a very fun rink. Save time by signing the online waver in advance. $13 admission. Skate rental is $2 and $4 for quads or inlines.

Interior shot of the Aloha Roller Rink with illuminated poles covered with brightly colored inner tubes.
The Aloha Roller Rink is situated in a former Sports Chalet at the East Ridge Mall in San Jose, California.

Along our route to San Jose, we stopped in Redwood City to see the recently shuttered Redwood Roller Rink. This iconic rink was owned by Jim and Suzie Pollard. Jim was a renowned skating coach and industry pioneer. After his passing, the family decided to sell the building, which is still looking for a new owner. The Quonset hut style is similar to Rollero, a former rink in the Phoenix area that closed in 2017.

Saturday we slept in till noon to prepare for the night’s festivities that would run from 11PM until 4AM in Citrus Heights. The 2RAW Skate Club holds an Adult Skate on the last Saturday of every month with a national weekend party in April. 2 RAW stands for Rhythm and Wheels. I learned the 2 was added to get at the top of the schedule among nationwide events that are listed at SkateGroove.com.

On the way, I wanted to get my king pins checked to make sure I had adjusted my skates properly. Ginger took me to the Roller King in Roseville, which I always admired from afar. While we did not put on skates, I was amazed at not only the number of well-behaved skaters, but the hundreds of photos of champions that adorned the rink. Owned by the Jacques family, headed by Michael and Pat, both world-class skaters, their son Michael (also a champion) took a quick look and said my skates were fine. When it comes to skates, finding a good tech who understands the nuances of plates and how they work can be hard to find at times. On my next trip, I definitely want to skate here and take a lesson from one of their coaches.

Back at Citrus Heights and Sunrise Rollerland we were ready to skate the night away at their monthly 2RAW event. The $18 admission price helps  bring in DJ Bowen from Chicago, who is popular among rhythm skaters. 2RAW is in its 10th year and will celebrate with a weekend event April 16-18th. After the first hour, I stepped off the floor to stay out of the way of the shuffle skaters who like to skate very fast along the outside edge of the rink. These parties are not for beginners who can easily get run over if they don’t understand the dynamics of the late-night adult skates. It’s important to stay toward the center lanes if you don’t participate in shuffle skating, and use the correct hand signals to enter and exit the floor. The rules are not very clear, so ask ahead of time if you do plan to go and avoid injury.

The first hour of 2RAW had skaters warming up before the lights went down and the bigger crowd showed up.

Sunday we headed back into the City to Golden Gate Park to meet up with David Miles (from the Church of 8 Wheels) for their weekly gathering of skaters. Known as the Skatin’ Place in Golden Gate Park, the skaters move in unison to songs from Miles’ boom box, while he spins around holding a wireless microphone, encouraging the group. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, a group of roller skaters (aka The Skate Patrol) stopped the City Hall from banning roller skating in Golden Gate Park more than 40 years ago.) Now they have a permanent outdoor rink to call their own that is free for all to enjoy. There’s even a guy out there skating with his little white dog. Note that parking can be lean, you may want to consider public transit if you go.

David Miles, dressed in a red hoody and a sparkly red and gold hat.
David Miles, founder of the Church of 8 Wheels, also facilitates a weekly outdoor skate at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Later that afternoon, we checked out Paradise Skate in Antioch. This small rink with a wood floor is situated on the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, and offers derby, a pro shop, skating lessons, STEM, and birthday parties. There was quite a crowd, music was supplied by the computer program FEC, and they played the Red Light, Green Light Game and the Hokey Pokey while we were there. I also got to try out a new pair of Golden Horse Artistic Skates which I plan to review in the future. We skated the 3-5:30 PM session. This rink also has a beach/surfer theme. I loved the knowledgeable and friendly staff and good mix of modern music. Admission is $10 for this session. Quad and Inline rentals are $5 additional. They offer group discounts for those with 15 or more.  

Indoors at the Paradise Skate Roller Rink in Antioch, California
Paradise Skate in Antioch, California.

One thing I noticed about all of these rinks was the amount of skate-related items and gifts they had for sale with their logo on them. There were T-shirts, key chains, and other goodies.

My partner in crime, Ginger, the Skate Critic has full reviews of the rinks we visited, with more comprehensive info, such as the quality of the floor, rest rooms, and cleanliness. Check it out and follow her on Facebook at the Skate Critic.

You’ll find videos and additional photos on our Facebook page at Roller Sk8r

The next time you’re headed to California, don’t forget your skates. There are plenty of great rinks there.

Categories
Featured Recreational / Session Skate-Ettiquette

Be a Rink Darling

The communications arm of Starbucks claims the coffee purveyor strives to be the “Third Place” in our life when it comes to experience. But for those who love skating indoors, their “Third Place” is the rink. Home is considered first, work second, and then the rink.  For some of us, the rink and work are tied for 2nd, since we spend most of our time there. For those lucky owners who also have a living space at the rink, It’s a 3-way tie for first.

At my Starbucks at Electric & Main, the baristas have taken time to get to know me. And I try to help them out to by being a decent guest whenever I’m in the building.

As a customer of skating rinks, I encourage you to do the same. Become a rink darling to the team. That’s one way to help the rink thrive and stay open for years to come. And your rink owner will notice and appreciate you. It takes more than showing up and paying the admission fee. Fighting, leaving a mess, or destroying property will earn you a reputation that will ban you from the rink.

Here are 7 ways to elevate your status with rink operators.

  1. Buy your skates from the rink. Do not expect a skate pro to fit you for skates, and determine the best products for your budget so you can go buy them online for less. Techs are getting wise to this and have begun charging a small fee for a fitting. That’s to discourage this practice, or at least, compensate the skate tech for their time. Nearly all will deduct the sizing fee if you buy the skates from them. Additionally, you’ll be able to get them adjusted or fixed if there are any issues with your purchase. Buy online and you’re on your own if they don’t fit right or break.

2. Clean up after yourself in the snack bar. When you’re done eating, how about removing the trash from your table and dumping it in the nearest trash can. If there are ketchup or nacho cheese drippings left behind, let someone know so it can be cleaned up quickly. Granted, the employees should be walking around taking care of wiping tables. In reality, they are slammed making food behind the snack bar for hungry skaters. Help make their job a little easier.

3. Don’t hand the DJ a long list of songs to play and expect them all (or any of them) to get played. Each session is designed for a particular crowd. Friday nights will be vastly different from family matinées or Christian music night. Some of your favorite songs may not fit into the program. Accept it. If you don’t like the music being played, ask a manager about the different sessions and plan your visits then. The DJ needs to select music that entertains the greatest number of people in the building. Party moms who shell out 100s of dollars get priority on a Saturday afternoon which is why you’ll hear more Top 40 and family-friendly tunes.

2 Male DJs in the booth at a roller rink

4. Don’t sit on arcade games or on the skate wall.

5. Leaving skates or shoes lying around in aisles can cause a tripping hazard for others. Please tuck them under a bench, or better yet, invest in a locker.  

Skates in lying around in rink aisles is dangerous!

6. If you’re renting skates, return them with the laces tucked into the boots for quads, or close up the buckles for inlines. You’ll get faster service.

7. Be an extra set of eyes for managers and employees. If you see someone carrying a baby on skates, or a fight breaking out, notify a team member immediately. You do not need to get involved, just give them a heads up.

Keeping the rink safe and clean reduces liability and increases public trust. If you’ve ever had a rink close in your hometown and lost your “3rd Place” then you understand. It takes the whole skate community to keep rinks open and show the owners you appreciate their efforts. Thanks for doing your part.

Categories
Featured Rink Life

The Skate Mate Debate

If you’ve ever had an encounter with Skate Mate Trainers, those “plastic bar thingys” that are supposed to help a kid learn how to roller skate, then you no doubt have an opinion on them.

Rink owners, parents, and kids LOVE them, and these devices generate a significant amount of income for family entertainment centers. Parents can chill on the side line and stare at their phone. And the kid feels some freedom, even if they are frustrated because they can’t skate, or figure it out on their own.

The FEC rinks, those that cater mostly to kids, rent out the Trainers by the session or the hour. Traditional, old fashioned skating rinks tend to avoid them either out of lack of space, or a refusal for other reasons. Parents can get upset if the rink runs out of them during a session. Yes, they can be demanding and a bit nasty at times with rink management if they can’t get one for their kid. Just ask any rink owner who has run out during a busy Saturday afternoon.

Where they came from

Skate Mate Trainers first showed up in rinks about a decade ago. They were designed to help a kid learn how to roller skate. Early versions of the Skate Mates toppled over easily and caused a hazard to other skaters. The stability issue has been improved, although one rink has been sued over an injury involving a Skate Mate Trainer.

There are several sides to the debate about skate mates. Other skaters are annoyed by them, and worry what will happen if one comes flying over at them, which happens often. Those who are really annoyed by Skate Mate Trainers are the seasoned skaters who took lessons and purchased skates, only to have to skate around a moving danger zone.

I understand why rinks use skate mate trainers. The income they generate help keep the place open, and now parents are demanding them. They can generate 10s of thousands of dollars every year.

But there is a downside. Renting them out during a public session to appease a beginner who just walked in the door, will chase out your best skaters. Why would you want to annoy them?  

Why they should be limited

In my opinion, Skate Mate Trainers should only be used only during Tot Time, or in lessons, with a skating instructor to supervise their use and teach newbies how to skate. When kids are left unsupervised with these Trainers on a skate floor, they toss them back and forth to each other, try to sit on them, race each other, or fall every 4 feet, never learning how to correct the problem. It’s like handing your kid a set of keys to a car with no instructions on how to drive, or the rules of the road. That pisses off every one else on the road. And it’s not very safe.

When they should be used

I do believe that Skate Mate Trainers can be useful. When used in supervised lesson programs, they can help new skaters gain confidence. They can also be used to learn more difficult moves, such as figures, spirals, and loops. And the instructor doesn’t have to hold the skater up and worry about an unstable skater falling on them. I taught a 50-year-old who had never skated before how to skate using a Skate Mate Trainer. On Day One, he was quite fearful, but by the 4th lesson, he was skating just fine without it and was much more relaxed.

To sum it up, here is my list of pros and cons regarding these devices.

Pros:

— New skaters can gain confidence and adults can learn to skate without breaking a hip.

— The rinks generate a significant amount of income that helps them to stay open for all skaters.

— Parents don’t have to accompany their kid on the floor anymore.

— They’re like a moving cone zone which alerts other skaters there’s a hazard to avoid.

Cons:

— They are more of a novelty, and don’t teach kids how to skate.

— When used incorrectly, they can cause accidents and the possibility of an injury or litigation.

— They chase out people who took the time and effort to learn how to skate, and have already spent money at the rink on admissions and equipment.

— They’re a hazard and they break.

— Some parents get annoyed that the rink actually charges to rent them, and have waxed about it in online reviews.

— They can take up a lot of storage space if they can’t be hung from the ceiling.

— Kids share or abandon them. That means the rink isn’t making money on the additional people using them.

Now that they’re here, it’s doubtful we’ll see them removed from public sessions. However, they should be capped at the number of them on the floor at one time, based on the number of total skaters. I once attended an extremely crowded Saturday night session several years ago, and there with no fewer than 20 of these trainers on the floor going every which way with more than 200 skaters on the floor at the time. After 20 minutes, I took off my skates and left. I was in the middle of a cross-country move, and didn’t need a broken arm to slow me down.

I’m not completely against the Skate Mate. They are wonderful for lessons and under the supervision of a skate instructor. But their use during public sessions needs to be revisited. We don’t allow skate boards, scooters, and strollers out on the floor during an All-Skate. These devices should be included in that policy.

Categories
Featured New Rinks

Building a Sustainable rink

I see a lot of skaters on social media chatting about how they badly want to own a rink, and when they win the lottery they will make it happen. Sounds awesome. It’s always good to have goals, and unlimited funds can make that reality a bit easier. As someone who has been in a lot of rinks and written about them for a trade publication, I thought I would share my blueprint on what I think would make a fabulous facility. No matter how much you have to spend on the initial project, you need to keep in mind that the business must have long term sustainability to keep the doors open so utility bills and taxes don’t exceed your monthly revenues.

My list of suggestions.

  • A wood rotunda floor is the Cadillac of roller rinks, and we haven’t seen one installed in a few decades due to the initial high cost at a whopping $300,000. Consider this as an investment. There are several rotunda wood floors in rinks around the USA that are still going strong after 5 decades. Concrete may be cheaper, but it cracks and the sealant bubbles. Plus there’s more broken bones with concrete surfaces than with wood.
Ginger Mathews, aka The Skate Critic shows us a rotunda floor.
  • Float that floor. Depending on your elevation and location, there’s always a chance that floodwaters can ruin a rink. Oaks Park in Portland solved that problem by adding pylons under the floor that allows it to float above rising waters.
  • Use ICF building blocks for your exterior walls.  Not only do they provide better insulation (energy bills are 75% less), but they provide a sound block, are resistant to fires, floods, hurricanes, leaks, and wood boring insects. They cost a little more, but you’ll reap savings on utility bills and insurance.
  • Solar Covered Parking. Not only will your customers appreciate a shady spot for their vehicles, but you’ll be generating your own electricity. In Arizona the monthly summer power bill can run upwards of $3,500 without solar. With solar, anything you don’t use, can be sold back to the power company. Plus you might be eligible for tax credits. https://powerssolarframes.com/carports.html
  • Skylights. Research has proven that natural light improves the moods of employees and elevates their productivity. That’s why you see them now in big box stores. Plus you’ll get free light during the daytime hours. https://pacificwestroofing.com/blog/why-install-skylights-in-your-office
  • Lease space to complementary store fronts. When the rink isn’t open, you can still generate income by leasing out space to a local baker, party retailer, coffee shop, and other restaurants. Similar to a mall food court, these retailers can also open a window inside the rink, allowing skaters more variety from a few different vendors. By renting out the space, someone else can deal with the health department, hiring, food inventory, etc. The revenue will help pay for taxes and building upkeep. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/walmart-target-fast-food_n_2433365
  • Consider large restrooms with a non-slip floor and some locker space. Ice rinks do this well.
  • Add an upper deck for spectators to enjoy the view from above, or those who want to walk laps while their kid is in lessons
  • Include a well-stocked pro shop with apparel, skates, parts, laces, stickers, skate cases, and anything else that a skater would want. Shoppers prefer to see and feel in person what they are buying. And they spend more.
  • Ventilation. A common issue with roller rinks is the smell of dirty socks. An exhaust fan in your rental room should be mandatory.
  • Offer your rink as an emergency evacuation shelter should the community have to deal with a natural disaster. This would require a commercial generator (probably locomotive size). It could be financed as a private/public partnership with FEMA or other government agency (or grants) to keep it stocked with cots, diapers, canned goods, and water, that can be stored in a basement or a climate controlled room. It promotes good will in the community and will bring the media to your door if there is ever a disaster.

Keep the party area and cafe close to one another with some behind-the- scenes hallway access. There is nothing more disconcerting than seeing pizzas being delivered to the other side of the rink, with party hosts navigating through a crowd of people (some with long hair).

The rental counter should be close to the front door so Grandma doesn’t have to walk far to help the little ones get their skates. Also, avoid gravity racks to store rental skates. Use cubbies, and take renter’s shoes so the rest of your customers don’t have to trip over shoes during their visit.

Be sure to include several TV screens in the lounge / eating area with low frequency radio stations assigned to each TV so viewers can tune into a game with ear buds and hear the action. Health Clubs know how to do this. They print the frequency underneath every TV. And it costs around a hundred bucks to set up. https://wholehousefmtransmitter.com/tv-fm-transmitter-in-gyms-and-fitness-centers-for-treadmill-bike-elliptical-and-rowing-machine/

If you had several million to build a rink, what would you add?

Categories
Featured Recreational / Session Rink Life

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