Roller skating has wheeled itself back into popularity


By Elizabeth Wellington - The Philadelphia Inquirer



Roller skater Clyde “Ice” McCoy from South Philadelphia (center) skates with Dominique Dunlap (right) as roller-skating instructor Cameron King moves past them at the roller-skating rink in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Roller skater Clyde “Ice” McCoy from South Philadelphia (center) skates with Dominique Dunlap (right) as roller-skating instructor Cameron King moves past them at the roller-skating rink in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.


Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

PHILADELPHIA — The night started wobbly.

But after a few laps, I was gliding around the roller rink lost in the tunes of Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much” and The Fat Back Band’s classic, “I Found Lov’n.”

I waited for the first chords from New Edition’s “Candy Girl” but no such luck.

No, I wasn’t daydreaming about 1985.

I was living in the moment at the Wells Fargo Center. The Spectacor Events & Entertainment group, a division of Comcast Spectacor, partnered with local skating crew, Great on Skates, to host the Roller Skating at the Wells Fargo experience. The flooring underneath the Philadelphia Flyers ice rink was transformed into a roller rink because, as it turns out, roller skating has wheeled its way back into our consciousness. It’s playful. It’s TikTok friendly. And thanks to Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak’s super group Silk Sonic, roller skating had its own theme song, appropriately named, “Skate.”

But the bottom line is roller skating is nostalgic: it reminds us of a simpler time when strobe lights set off the party and it only took one couples’ skate to fall in love.

“We just found the popularity had soared,” Emily Dunham, senior vice president of the Spectacor Events & Entertainment division at Wells Fargo, said of the all-day event that drew nearly 1,000 guests to the seven back-to-back hour-long skate sessions. “We wanted to find new events, safe events that could bring the community together and given the popularity of skating we knew that would be a winner.”

The Roller Skating at Wells Fargo Center experience was a one-time deal but, and “although they aren’t 100% sure,” it looks like there are plans to do it again. The South Philly venue isn’t the only place where events’ venue organizers opted to make their flooring skate-friendly. Both Dilworth Plaza at City Hall and Blue Cross RiverRink, along the Delaware River waterfront, are coming off of successful, skate-filled seasons. There was a 20 percent jump in attendance at the RiverRink this year compared to pre-pandemic numbers, said Jackie Lai, director of parks and attractions at the Delaware River Waterfront corporation which operates the rink.

The real winners, however, are the year-round roller rinks. A popular hang out spot for tweens and teens in the 1970s, 1980s and ‘90s, roller rinks had become many of the childhood past times that’s popularity was replaced by at home video games. Many rinks closed as inline skating became popular and businesses moved from the city to the suburbs.

However, this summer, according to Tracy Medley, managing partner of Camden’s Millennium Skate World, sessions filled up before they started. “The resurgence is bringing back older, mature skaters who made roller skating popular back in the day,” Medley said.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when quad skates — the classic four-wheelers — emerged from our basement storage bins into Nordstrom and onto Amazon waitlists. (Much like bikes, there appears to be a roller skate shortage.) But India Bernardino, founder and co-owner of Great on Skates, said its resurgence has a lot to do with the pandemic and everything to do with social media.

“People couldn’t get together, but they could go outside and skate,” Bernardino said. Skaters who aced their dancing techniques — much like the yogis who did perfect handstands — shared videos of them fast-skating, fast-backward skating, and rotating between fast-backward skating and back flipping fast-skating. “People would post new skating videos every day and then before they knew it, they were up to like day 65 in a 365-day run of skating.”

This is where Bernadino comes in. The kids — and let’s admit the adults too — wanted to show off their skills, but they were rusty. They wanted to skate like Instagram and TikToker street skaters like Atlanta-based Kamille Boyd-Gillmore and Los Angeles-based Ana Coto. Bernardino looked up and realized that the weekly beginner and intermediate skating lessons she teaches with her Great On Skates business partner, Shemar Cunningham, were full.

“It’s about tricks and dancing now, the rawness of the skating culture. It’s about the art,” said Bernadino who teaches students how to dance, skate backward and even do splits.

Roller skater Clyde “Ice” McCoy from South Philadelphia (center) skates with Dominique Dunlap (right) as roller-skating instructor Cameron King moves past them at the roller-skating rink in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/10/web1_TS-WELLINGTON-COLUMN-1-PH.jpgRoller skater Clyde “Ice” McCoy from South Philadelphia (center) skates with Dominique Dunlap (right) as roller-skating instructor Cameron King moves past them at the roller-skating rink in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

By Elizabeth Wellington

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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