Roller skating renaissance rocks on as new rink opens in Edmonton

·3 min read
Claudia Garcia, right, and daughter Braidi Gurba prepare for opening night of their new roller skating rink.  (Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink - image credit)
Claudia Garcia, right, and daughter Braidi Gurba prepare for opening night of their new roller skating rink. (Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink - image credit)

Decades after the last roller rink closed in Edmonton, a new indoor space is opening its doors tonight.

Rollers Roller Rink, near Christy's Corner on St. Albert Trail, will be the only permanent roller rink in the province.

Claudia Garcia has owned and operated the Toe Stop Derby Shop for five years and has long felt there was a demand for a roller rink in the city.

Expanding to a rink just seemed like a natural progression, she told CBC's Radio Active.

"Technically you're not supposed to roller skate on sidewalks, so we really do have very little opportunity to skate," Garcia said. "We don't have a space to practise."

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The new rink takes over an old gym, which has been transformed into three skating surfaces, a small concession stand and two sitting areas.

There is even some space for Garcia to set up her roller skate shop in the corner.

"I've been looking for three years for a location, and it's been extremely difficult to find something that is big enough," Garcia said.

When hunting for a building, the options were slim such as an old automotive shop with oil still on the floor.

Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink
Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink

"The space is bigger than what I had wanted but it was ready to go," she said. "But it just seemed to be the perfect fit."

The best part is it's accessible by transit.

She has many plans on how to be a staple in the city. Garcia wants to have the rink open for birthday parties — "not just for children by the way," she said — and skating lessons.

"People who used to roller skate all the time, they're very excited because they haven't had the space to roller skate," she said.

And then of course there is roller derby.

Edmonton is home to many roller derby teams, and Garcia credits the sport for inspiring her own passion in roller skating. She wants to have space available for them to practice in the winter too.

Garcia has already been approached by Oil City Roller Derby and believes they are interested.

"They viewed it and there is a potential, definitely," she said.

Bringing it back

The resurgence of roller skating can be credited to the social media platform TikTok.

Garcia said she was surprised to see the sale of the quad roller skates soar over the past 18 months, her sales rising six-fold, she told CBC's Edmonton AM.

Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink
Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink

"It was just a good time for people to pick up something active and something to do," she said. "When you have all this time, why not."

Despite the lack of indoor space, wobbly skaters could be seen on trails around the city last summer, the more experienced skaters zipping by.

She stresses that despite the sport trending online during the pandemic, it has always been around.

"There's been different pockets," she said. "Sometimes derby is more popular, then there is roller dance, or skate park."

Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink
Claudia Garcia/Rollers Roller Rink

But, with the promise of a disco ball, and the throwback addition of DJs playing requests, Garcia is hoping the rink becomes a staple in the city.

"We've had like lots of interest from everybody," she said.

"And you know, people want to learn something to do while it's freezing."

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