Ice Rink Closure Leaves Grand Island Skaters Looking For A Winter Home | State and regional
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) – When news of Skate Island’s permanent closure broke, a group of roller skating enthusiasts sprang into action.
SkateGI is a grassroots club for area skaters, such as founding members Tracy Adrian and Leigh Lillibridge. The two local women said they were among around 50 people involved in SkateGI.
Both have a history with rollerblading. Adrian was a bit of a skate prodigy, she says.
âMum and dad put me on skates when I was 18 months old. They skated on dates, so I grew up there. I worked there. I was on the competition team. I went roller derby as an adult later. It’s something woven into the fabric of our lives because we worked there (Skate Island). So many birthday partiesâ¦ so many memories.
Lillibridge’s skating resume is shorter, but still has fond memories.
“I skated a bit when I was younger, but I was more of a dancer.” When Lillibridge’s son Jonah was six, he attended a birthday party on an ice rink. âWe had a hard time getting it out of the ground that day,â Lillibridge recalls. âI think he skated for six hours. We lived there for roughly several years. Over time my husband and I were like, okay, I guess we’re skaters.
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Fittingly, Jonah and Adrian’s son Brody are active in the business of SkateGI.
The Grand Island Independent reports that the biggest hurdle faced by SkateGI members – and area skaters in general – has been finding a place to skate. Lillibridge said proximity was an issue. âRight now the closest indoor skating is … Ravenna. Their Lions Club group skates to raise funds in their auditorium. There is a small ice rink in York, one in BÃ©atrice.
In late spring, SkateGI began discussions with Grand Island Parks and Recreation to find a place to skate. The city entity agreed to let the group organize skating events at Pier Park, using the park’s tennis court.
The first open took place in July at the park.
Lillibridge said the partnership was received with enthusiasm. “At our last event, I think I counted 70 people here.” It’s not particularly unusual, Lillibridge said. âThe skating community is very united on Grand Island. People would come out skating, or some people would just come visit us because they hadn’t seen people for so long.
The setup has worked so far, and even included a DJ: Brandon Warner of Black Tie Entertainment, himself an avid skater.
âIt fits my business niche perfectly. It’s something different, something I can do to give back to the community, âWarner said. âWith the support of the community, we hope it will continue to grow and bring back the livelihood of skating. “
The unusually warm weather allowed skating events to extend into December, but when it comes to a facility to use in inclement weather, SkateGI currently has no options.
Lillibridge said the group is enjoying the current setup, but as December progresses the group understands that time will not cooperate forever.
âWe had several organized skates (at Pier Park) with a good turnout for skate enthusiasts who have their own skates. Now we are looking for a partner who would allow us to pay the rent to them so that we can have a few skate sessions there per month, âsaid Lilligbridge.
She said that school gymnasiums, community halls, multi-purpose halls and multi-purpose halls in churches are examples of what would work. If an organization agreed to host SkateGI events, SkateGI would pay to use the facility.
âWe can rent by the session,â Lillibridge said. âIt has to be a decently sized multipurpose room. “
Adrian said she understands some might be hesitant in the event of an accident or if the ground surface is damaged.
âMost people worry about damages and liability. Yes, we will work with event insurance to cover liability. As far as ground damage goes, I’ve skated on a lot of different surfaces, and I don’t see much more or less damage from boots and high heels on the floors.
Someday, perhaps, a suitable skating facility will return to Grand Island. The owners of Skate Island, the Anderson family, have tried to keep their doors open, they said in a statement released when the final closure was announced.
âWe explored several avenues to reopen and even approved a sale to a major operator of roller skating rinks in Colorado. Unfortunately, there was no economically feasible reconstruction option.
For Adrian and Lillibridge, the idea of ââa new installation is an almost unattainable dream. Lillibridge said, “It’s a multi-million dollar business.”
She said it would take “someone who is a great benefactor, or community grants or something like development funds.”
Adrian said the dream was still there, however.
âIt’s not out of the question to come, but we wanted to start small. Let’s use the tennis court. Let’s see if we can do it, and just give ourselves a place to meet for a while until we find a home.
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