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Let the good times roll

Remember the roller rink? Nostalgia and fun are front and centre at what is now Alberta's only indoor roller-skating rink.

The good old days are top of mind for many customers entering a former fitness centre on Edmonton's northwest side.

And it only seems natural many of those who arrive at Alberta's only indoor roller-skating rink are brimming with nostalgia.

"We have people coming back with their old skates to see if they can still do it. They said they hadn't been on them since the 1970s," said Chloe Spelliscy, an instructor at Rollers Roller Rink. 

"It's funny, you will hear people say, 'I used to be so good'. Now they are just happy to be back at the rink."

A former roller derby athlete, Spelliscy estimates a third of those who come through the doors since Rollers opened about a year ago are 50 years and older.

"Some are able to go right out, while others need refresher lessons," she said, adding, “A lot of them like to bring the grandkids. Some will come on their own."

Rollers owner Claudia Garcia, 50, who grew up skating at some of Edmonton's now-closed roller rinks, realized a lifelong dream when Rollers opened in December 2021--seven years after Edmonton’s last indoor rink closed.

"People weren't feeling good about anything," she said, regarding COVID-19 restrictions. "But the roller rink always has a positive connotation. Everyone can do it. It does not matter how athletic you are."

And older customers often bring inspiration when they arrive for a skate, reminds Spelliscy.

"We had one lady came in; she was about 75," Spelliscy said. "She wanted to prove to herself that she could still do it. She had us shoot video of her skating so she could show it to her physiotherapist."

Open seven days a week, the rink is 20,000 square feet of plastic flooring with arrows directing skaters to move in a counter-clockwise direction. The music is always playing and the lights are kept low.

"It's a really good way for old and young people to be brought together. It's a healthy activity for everyone," said Spelliscy, adding skate rentals and lessons are available too.

"Everyone who skates needs to sign a waiver," she said, adding, "Helmets are encouraged but not mandatory."

For those in Edmonton that want to revisit a favourite pastime of their youth, see more at rollersrollerrink.ca.

About three hours to the south, people are also roller skating year-round even without an actual rink.

Two skate-loving entrepreneurs have been hosting monthly pop-up rinks in Calgary since the closure of an indoor rink in that city four years ago.

Not letting the closure stop them, skate shop owner Roxy Janzen joined with dance studio owner Theresa Tucci to form Calgary Roller Skate (https://www.calgaryrollerskate.com/), and they've been hosting pop-up roller skating sessions every month at a volleyball facility in southeast Calgary since 2018.

"The closure of Lloyd's Roller Rink was the impetus for us," said Janzen, referring to the legendary rink that operated for six decades.

"We were selling skates to people but they had no place to skate. Now we're able to give them that safe place."

"It's a healthy way for people to enjoy something together. We see little kids to teens to grandparents. We have a little crew of regulars," Janzen said. "The older people loved skating back in the day and they are usually out for the family skate."

"We've had up to 500 people. We see the different generations come out."

Janzen says they have held pop up-rinks at neighbourhood venues within Calgary along with several centres outside the city, including Okotoks, Innisfail and Medicine Hat.

Looking ahead, she dreams of the day when the pop-ups will end.

"Ideally we would love to have a permanent space."

Did You Know?

Roller skating is more than 245 years old. John Joseph Merlin invented the first recorded roller skate.

Roller skating involves all the 640-plus muscles in the body, especially muscle groups like the glutes, quads, abs, calves and arms.