Rolling Out of Business

By Casey Thompson

Remember when disco was the hot new trend in music and John
Travolta was the hottest young actor in Hollywood? Remember when
some suits were made just for leisure and wearing skates on the
dance floor was acceptable? Remember Heather Graham in Boogie
Nights?

Many people look fondly back at those days, though most Cal Poly
students have only aging photographs and nostalgic movies to go by.
But, believe it or not, there are still a handful of places where
people can dust off the old polyester suit, slip on a pair of
skates and roll the night away.

Roller rinks are a declining commodity these days. Two San Diego
rinks will be closed by the summer, according to the San Diego
Union-Tribune. Increasing property values and plummeting revenues,
due mainly to their low prices and few patrons, have brought the
skating industry to the brink of bankruptcy. But it wasn’t too long
ago that local rinks in this area were still thriving.

Gladstone Elementary, a local school in San Dimas, used to host
multiple fund-raising events every year at Skate Junction in West
Covina. Parents would drop off their children for a few hours of
recreational fun and exercise, set to the cheesiest soundtrack
imaginable.

In an age where parents are wary of leaving their children
unattended, even for a short time, roller rinks provide a
well-supervised environment for kids to be kids. Many of the
parents would hang around during Skate Junction events, not just to
watch the kids, but also to relive their own disco days.

Today, the building where Skate Junction used to be is a public
storage facility. The bowling alley next door was able to stick
with the times, but alas, Skate Junction was doomed to go the way
of the disco duck.

The La Verne Hockey Club is another rink that closed recently.
In 2004, the skate haven went out of business. It has since been
replaced by a volleyball facility. One fringe sport was replaced by
another.

There are now fewer than a dozen roller rinks in the greater Los
Angeles area. It’s surprising that a sport that is both fun and
aerobically beneficial would wane in popularity in this
health-conscious age. According to Nutristrategy.com, the average
skater can burn between 400 and 600 calories per hour, depending on
his or her weight. Despite its beneficial nature, roller rink
attendance is still on the decline.

The closest place for Cal Poly students to get their skate on is
Skate Express in Chino. It is a classic roller rink, with public
skating sessions comprising the bulk of their business. The rink,
only six miles away from campus, hosts parties and events.

Leading the charge in a resurgence of interest in skating are
the L.A. Derby Dolls, a roller derby league located on the top
floor of the Little Tokyo shopping center. Take one part
full-contact sport, two parts speed and a handful of short skirts
and you have the Dolls. Four teams comprise the Derby Dolls. Full
details of the regular events they host can be found on their Web
site, derbydolls.com.

Roller derby was at the peak of its popularity in the 70s, so
perhaps a renewed interest in the sport can revive the roller rink
era. Old fads are constantly being recycled in this country, and
there may come a day when every new band is being compared to the
Bee Gees instead of the Beatles. If that day ever comes, the roller
rink industry will once again attract hoards of disco-dancing
roller skaters.

Casey Thompson can be reached by e-mail at arts@thepolypost.com
or by phone at (909) 869-3744.

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President Michael Ortiz speaks to students during Pizza with the Presidents

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