NORWOOD, Mass-Except for its own sign out front, the Roll-Land roller skating rink along the commercial jungle known as Route 1 looks much as it did years ago when it opened.
Original part-owner John Santoro still takes tickets at the door; a huge organ console pumps out old standards; colored Lights illuminate the well-traveled boards and twin stuffed swordfish hang over the snack bar just beyond a restraining rail made of pipe.
But despite the flavor of a bygone era in the building itself, the rink is teeming with skaters of all ages. And similar crowds can be found throughout the United States as roller skating glides into a promising new era.
One rink owner says the sport’s image has improved drastically as skating facilities have moved out of the center city, where vandalism and high property taxes are growing problems. Today, there Is a trend toward cheerfully decorated, well-lit suburban rinks playing recorded pop tunes.
But whether in town, out of town, old, or new, roller skating rinks are eagerly and successfully courting a family business with lessons for all ages, special family rates, and sometimes conduct and dress codes.
According to Erwin Hosee, publisher of Rinksider magazine, the number of rinks has grown from about 4,500 five years ago to nearly 6,500 today – easily the fastest growth, spurt Hosee car remember during his 30-year association with the sport.
An estimated 10 million Americans roller skate each year, reports the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSHOA) in Lincoln, Nebraska.
While many of these skaters are wobbly weekenders out for some Inexpensive fun, quite a number are skilled enough to enter regional and national competitions.
In fact, 1700 skaters competed at the recent national championships held in Fort Worth, Texas, where 72 titles were awarded in figure, freestyle, dance, and Speed skating.
Regular rollers are the bread and butter of the business, according to John Maddocks, who Is buying into the Roll-Land rink owned by his two uncles. These “repeaters” bring their children to special Saturday morning sessions, drop off the older youngsters another day, and come back on their own to lake lessens.
In order to maintain a wholesome atmosphere, “good rinks find a way to weed out the delinquent element”, says Maddocks. “At Roll-Land we have a firm policy that no one gets in the building without paying. That keeps the place from becoming a hangout. We also patrol the parking lot.”
Compared with many modern rinks, Roll Land is spartan. Yet it Is clean, well run, and has produced many champions, whose framed photographs cover one entire wall to inspire flitting youngsters and waltzing couples as they swoop around the 75 by 100-foot floor.
During the last five years, business at Roll-Land has been Improving, but Maddocks warns that in Massachusetts it is not easy to turn a profit, what with $17,000 in property taxes.
To beat this kind of financial burden, new roller rink chains are seeking out land beyond corporate limits where property taxes can be as low as $50. United Skates of America is one-inch booming chain tn the Midwest.
George Pickard, Executive Secretary for the United States Amateur Confederation of Roller Skating, says today’s entrepreneurs often spend $500,000 to build palatial arenas decorated in Holiday Inn fashion.
You can read a more detailed history of Roll Land here – https://norwoodhistoricalsociety.org/roll-land/