Skate center keeps on rolling

Former workers at the out-of-business Wheelz Skate Arena in Fircrest have reopened the roller skating destination after months of painting, cleaning and planning.

The rink has a new décor and a resurfaced, softer floor as well as some familiar faces.

The new-name, same-location roller skating arena along Mildred Street held a grand opening last week.

The operators of the Rollin' 253 Skate and Community Center are Shauna Fossum, Rebecca McCarthy, Gary Gandee and Kelly Smith. Fossum and Gandee are national speed skaters, while McCarthy and Smith have experience in marketing and early childhood development.

Fossum and Gandee were founders of the Toxic 253 roller derby team that held matches at the Wheelz rink prior to it closing. The team is in practices this season while the rink operations settle.

The management team members pitched their business plan to the property owner shortly after Wheelz suddenly closed in December after three years of operation. Those owners had failed to pay rent for the 42,000-square-foot location for more than a year.

"It was a surprise that it happened that day," said Fossum, who was working at Wheelz when it closed. "But it wasn't a surprise it happened at all."

The property owner, Maxi-Space Storage and Business Solutions President Bruce Bodine, was fielding four other offers on the place shortly after Wheelz closed, including business plans from regional and national rink operators.

"I decided to go with one of the local talent groups," he said. "The community was very sad to lose the rink. I, along with a very talented group of other local enthusiasts, decided to re-open the rink under a completely different business model."

For skaters, that new model means streamlined pricing, party and fundraiser package discounts and scheduled lessons and activities. The calendar offers activities that range from roller derby classes for adults and children to roller hockey and speed skating clinics to teen dances every Saturday. For the business, it means basically a lease-to-own plan between Bodine and the operators under the guidance of a contracted accountant.

"We have a very good think tank," Fossum said.


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