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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

One Rink That’s Not On Thin Ice

When World on Wheels in the Mid Cities neighborhood shut down in June following bankruptcy, that left one last indoor skating rink operating in the city of Los Angeles. In a blue-and-gray warehouse-like building, one block from Northridge’s Sherwood Forest neighborhood, Skateland is a haven for young and old alike. The 23,000-square-foot facility features more than a dozen arcade games, a prize redemption center with youthful staples like whoopee cushions and plastic soldiers, and a snack bar named Perky’s Pizza. Skate prices range from $5 to $10 depending on the session and time of day. The 18140 Parthenia St. rink, which opened on Jan. 30, 1958, is owned by brothers Dave and Mike Fleming, who bought it from their father Richard in 1978. They have no plans to close it – especially given its family ties. The Flemings’ parents met at a roller rink in Chicago when their father was stationed there with the Navy. And he bought Skateland 10 years after it opened when it was advertised for sale in the L.A. Times classifieds. He moved his family from Torrance to Northridge to run it. “My father always loved the skating business,” said Dave Fleming, who believes that skating it still a unique experience that allows whole families “do something together that’s safe, burns calories and is fun.” The rink and its 45 employees are managed by Courtney Bourdas Henn, who started skating at the rink when she was nine. It is also the location of her first and only job; she started when she was 16 as a snack-bar attendant. She considers it her “home away from home.” Roller rinks have been closing over the past few decades. The Roller Skating Association, an Indianapolis trade organization, had 3,000 rinks at its height, a number now down to about 800. Jane Puracchio Wojnarowsky, figure skating director for USA Roller Sports, the sport’s governing body in Lincoln, Neb., believes that the large size of rinks has made them coveted by developers and doomed them. “(It’s) mainly due to the value of the land,” she said. The Flemings do what they can to keep the rink profitable in an age when kids seem more interested in texting every 10 seconds than lacing up skates. The décor has been updated, there’s a planned remodel of the party room and replacement of the skating floor is in the works. “It doesn’t feel like you just stepped back in time,” Bourdas Henn said. – Rosie Downey

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