To live in Vancouver, you have to accept that your favorite spots may disappear. No beloved restaurant, venue, gallery, or dive bar is immune from the perpetual threat of becoming the site of a new condo. We all have a personal ghost map of the city, marked with the places we have loved and lost. Mine includes Varsity Ridge bowling, Granville 7 cinema, three illustrious locations Little Mountain Gallery, and the old McDonald’s in Kerrisdale, which had a pneumatic tube for the steering wheel controls.
So it’s especially nice when a new space opens up, especially one that brings a lost part of local history to life. December 4, Rolla Skate Club opened the doors of their new permanent ice rink – located in the old Rollerland building on the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition, off Renfrew and Dundas. Vancouver may have a million Crossfit gyms and yoga studios, but this is the first roller skating rink to open in over 40 years.
Rolla Skate Club, founded in 2018 by Carla Smith and Lucy Croysdill, has offered events and classes in various locations over the past three years. Their temporary HQ was “Skate Church,” a church-owned gymnasium in Kerrisdale that was to be demolished eventually, and during COVID they offered outdoor and online classes. Although they were able to resume their activities in person at Skate Church during the summer, their dream was to find a permanent home for Rolla.
Coincidentally, Rolla Skate Club signed a lease for the 20,000 square foot Rollerland site in September, just when they learned that Skate Church would be immediately closed due to structural issues. They plunged into a frantic renovation, extensively documented on YouTube, finishing just in time for their provisional opening on December 3.
Since the closure of Rollerland in the early 1980s, our town has no longer had an indoor ice rink. It didn’t stop legions of wobbly skaters to revive the sport during the pandemic, but the options were limited: we had side streets, parking lots and public skateparks for the bravest souls. Neither option is ideal in winter, when it is usually too cold, humid, and dark to skate outside.
With several months of gloomy weather ahead, the opening of Rollerland came just in time. Take refuge under the rainbow lights, dress for a weekly theme party, and skate your heart. Leave your damp Blundstones on the side of the rink and forget, for an hour or two, that the sun goes down at 4:00 p.m. this time of year.
Compared to my usual parking lot, Rollerland’s smooth concrete floor is heavenly. All ages and adults only events are scheduled every week, in addition to lessons and ice rink opening hours. You can rent skates, knee pads, and wrist guards next to the rink, and the rental cost is included in all event tickets and lessons. Bring your own helmet (a bicycle helmet works) if you want extra protection.
Rolla also added a small indoor skate park in one corner, fitted with four and two foot mini ramps, and a rink side DJ booth to provide a soundtrack for your next skate. Dancing is still technically prohibited in British Columbia, but you can dance on roller skates and no one will stop you.
For skateboarders, enjoy the possibilities of life on eight wheels. At the very least, it’s a much-needed novelty as we enter our third year of the pandemic and a joyous escape from the winter rain. Those who know how to ice skate will likely discover roller skating quite quickly. But if you prefer not to play with your one and only tailbone, Rolla Skate Club offers you beginners course and they will teach you the best way to fall. Believe me: the risk of bruising is well worth it.
Rollerland | 21 N Renfrew St, Vancouver, BC V5K 3N6