From the colorful, retro lighting to the rows of rentable, old-fashioned quad skates behind the counter, the county-owned rink is a trip down memory lane for the old, a new athletic challenge for the young and a good time for everyone.
“It’s just a nice little roller rink for Greene County,” says Jake Blaker, director of Greene County’s Parks and Recreation. “It’s been a surprise to me how well it’s done.”
Blaker and a team of volunteers and part-time employees run the rink, which the county took over in 2007. It had been run by volunteer organizations in Monongahela Township, but they “couldn’t keep it going,” Blaker says. “When we took this over in 2007, the ceiling was on the floor. There wasn’t anything in this building that wasn’t busted. It was a mess.”
The county invested roughly $250,000 in grant money into renovating the rink. The renovations included new doors, lighting, windows and a heating system. They also completely redid the maple wood skate floor, spending three days sanding off 50 years of varnish. The county sands the floor during the offseason, and recoats it every three years.
The county also purchased new quad skates to rent out during skate sessions, and they retained the Mon View Pool lifeguards as skate guards. Now that it’s handicapped-accessible, the county also uses the rink as a polling place.
The rink opens in February and closes in May, once the weather warms up. Blaker says the building isn’t air-conditioned and retains heat.
“It can get really hot in that building,” he says. “Around the first of May, the crowds start to dwindle anyway, because people are doing outside activities. In the wintertime, we’re the only show in town for the kids.”
They reopen with a party on Halloween and close down again around Christmastime and through January so the floor can be treated.
On Fridays, they have a skate session for teenagers from 7 to 9 p.m., followed by a dance party from 9 to 11 p.m. They typically get around 125 teens.
“At 9 p.m., we dim the lights, the ball comes out of the ceiling, and we turn the lasers on,” Blaker says. “We give the kids a good, safe outlet and have a deputy sheriff on duty Friday and Saturday.”
Mark and Rebecca Carder of Spraggs have been bringing their two children to the rink for seven years. “It gives the kids something to do and keeps them out of trouble,” Mark says.
Saturday nights the rink has a family skate session from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. People can also book parties at the rink on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and some weeknights.
Joshua McCartney of Waynesburg says that he, his wife, Shelley, and their seven children often skate Saturday night. He says they’re a “hockey family,” so skate nights interest all of them. “My kids, from 19 years old to 3 years old, they’re all here. They all enjoy it, so it’s a way for us to spend time together as a family.”
Family nights often include classic roller rink games like limbo and “Ghostbusters,” where skaters have to switch directions every time the word “Ghostbusters” is said during the song.
Mike Gresh of Greensboro helps fit skaters with the right size skates and serves as a skate guard, making sure everyone follows the rules of the rink. He remembers skating at the rink when he was young, long before the county took it over.
“Back then, everybody knew how to skate,” he says. “And they’d be out on the floor the entire three hours, not sitting over at the tables.”
Gresh, who was a competitive artistic skater in the 1970s, says he’d love to grow the rink with skate classes or programming, to ignite a passion for skating among the younger generations.
“I want to build a nucleus, so they will get a taste for the artistic side of this,” he says. “Classes are something we’ve talked about, but we’d have to be open year-round in order to do that.”
Remaining open through the summer, Blaker says, would require air-conditioning in the building – a cost the county can’t take on right now.
McCartney says that he, too, wishes the rink were open year-round.
“There’s not a whole lot to do in this county, especially on a Saturday night,” he says. “It’s good to see so many kids here and not out causing trouble.”