'Round and 'round the skating rink we go

Kids of all ages keep area's indoor rinks rolling along

Cover Story

March 20, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Remember when indoor roller-skating was really, really big in the 1970s? When movies such as Rollerball, Roller Boogie and Skatetown U.S.A. were all the rage? Well, indoor roller-skating is still alive and well. There must be something about strapping wheels to your feet that never goes out of style.

We checked out local rinks to give you an idea of what's going on today in the world of roller-skating. Most rinks in this area were built in the '70s and '80s, but the newest one, the Wheels Skating Center in Odenton, is only 4 years old, indicating there's still a growth market for the sport.

At most rinks, weekend days bring out families, while the nights belong to the teens. Many rinks cater to adolescent crowds with such age-appropriate amenities as video games and snack bars that sell lots of pizza, nachos and ice cream. Birthdays and other parties are also big business.

Christy Behlke, office manager of Skate Zone in Crofton, says middle-schoolers make up the bulk of her customer base. "I think the biggest appeal is probably coming and hanging out with your friends and listening to music," she says. "It's a cool place to go. They're all into being cool and popular."

But rinks want other skaters, too, so they offer sessions designated for skaters older than 21, or 30 and older. Some even offer gospel and Christian-music nights.

Shake and Bake Family Fun Center (Baltimore)

As the name implies, there's more to this West Baltimore attraction than roller-skating. Foremost, there's a 32-lane bowling alley on the premises. There are leagues for experienced bowlers, as well as bumpers to keep young and inexperienced players from racking up gutter balls.

As for the skating, the schedule is complex, as it is at most rinks. Mondays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. are "family gospel nights." Wednesdays from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. are for skaters 21 and older. Thursdays and Sundays from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. are reserved for skaters 30 and older. Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon are for children 12 and under, and a teen dance party rocks the rink on Saturdays from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The rink also has open skate sessions on Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Special events include "black out night" and "jersey night," when you get discount admission for dressing head to toe in black or wearing - what else? - a jersey.

There are arcade games, a food court and an area in the center of the rink for beginners and toddlers. Lessons are available, and birthday parties are frequently held.

The rink is located at 1601 Pennsylvania Ave. Admission is $3.50 to $8. Discounts and coupons are often available. Rentals are $2. Call 410-669-9100.

Laurel Roller Skating Center

"It's always been pretty family-oriented," manager Margie Bargmann says of the 25-year-old Howard County rink.

The schedule includes family nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays and dance skating nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays. Every so often, there is a "lights-out night," when skaters are given glow sticks to help them navigate the darkened rink. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are devoted to tempo dance music, which brings out older skaters.

The rink also offers lessons, and will be the site on March 30 of the Southeast Pre-Regional Free Style Contest, sponsored by the USA Roller Sports Association and featuring skaters from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Washington.

The rink is located at 9890 Brewers Court. Admission is $4 to $7. Rentals are $1.65. Call 301-725-8070.

Skate Zone (Crofton)

Most skaters at this Anne Arundel County rink are between 6 and 13, says office manager Christy Behlke. Birthday parties are big at the younger end of the spectrum, while the older kids like to skate and socialize on Friday and Saturday nights, she says.

The rink's managers know what their clients like. They recently installed a 10-foot screen that plays music videos. An arcade center spits out tickets that kids can trade for prizes. And a new snack bar serves pizza made with fresh dough.

There's "wheely fun Wednesday." If skaters bring the item of the week - an ordinary household item such as a cotton swab - they pay only $1 admission.

Other age groups are not forgotten. A "trike, tot and roll" session on Mondays from 10 a.m. to noon is reserved for kids 6 and under. Parents can lace up skates and push strollers, and kids can ride tricycles or skate while leaning on push toys.

There are "Thrifty Thursday" nights, with 99-cent admission, 99-cent skate rentals and 99-cent snack-bar specials.

The rink is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays are family fun day from noon to 5 p.m.

The rink is located at 1082 Route 3 South; 410-721-7155. Admission is 99 cents to $6.50. Rentals are 99 cents to $2.50.

Wheels Skating Center (Odenton)

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