Surrey-area roller-skater Stacey Gowland is among those ready to roll with Rolla Skate Club at its new home in Vancouver.
Operators of the three-year-old club have set up at the Rollerland building at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), where a launch event was held Friday, Dec. 3.
The 20,000-square-foot space is where Gowland works as club events manager. “Rollerskating has become my life,” the Newton-area resident said.
Rolla Skate Club was co-founded in 2018 by Carla Smith and Lucy Croysdill, who held classes at parking lots, yoga studios, art galleries and other places before finding a home at “Skate Church” – an old church gym – in Kerrisdale.
“It’s been a long time in this community that we have been working under one umbrella or another to find a permanent home for roller skating in this city,” Smith said. “Having found a space for roller skating not only means a big win for Rolla Skate Club, but also for the growing rollerskating community in Vancouver.”
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) December 4, 2021
Years ago, Gowland met Smith, Croysdill and other club operators through the sport of roller derby.
“Our whole core group, the five of us, we’re all roller derby players, so we come from a very team-oriented rollerskating background,” noted Gowland, whose job is to bring “all kinds of events” to the club’s new home.
Classes, corporate outings, Saturday-night public skate parties and other events are on the calendar, online at rollaskateclub.com.
“Everyone who wants to roller-skate, we’ll make that event look like whatever you want, to facilitate people rollerskating,” Gowland said. “Like, we’ve been contacted by people who want to have a wedding and they’ll come here afterward, so we’ll do that. We have Girl Guides coming in next week to do private lessons. We have birthday parties, office events. My dream is to have a live event with people rollerskating – live R&B or live hip-hop, music. I think that would be really awesome. That’s goals, right.”
Big-picture club goals involve creating an environment where people learn rollerskating together.
“There’s nothing really like this, even in Canada now,” Gowland suggested. “There are roller rinks that you can drop in to, but no-one’s offering the events we do, that experience, and also having classes, and those are the events that will build community. We want this to be fun and we’re open to suggestions and ideas, and we want it to be modern, a new take on the roller rink, not just a typical roller rink. I think this is really going to grow and change as we learn what people want, because we literally roll with it,” she added with a laugh.
In Surrey, Central City Fun Park opened in June 2020 with a roller rink in 27,000 square feet of space near Pattullo Bridge and Scott Road SkyTrain Station. The facility is billed as “Metro Vancouver’s Largest Indoor Amusement Park.”
Vancouver’s Rolla Skate Club operates on a different model.
“We’re not really a roller rink,” Croysdill noted, “we’re more of a combination of a gym, a community space and an event space, with a skate park here. Roller rinks traditionally haven’t made money, and they’re closed everywhere, you know. So we had to create a different model for this. So this is like, say, a bouldering gym, with a membership base, and most of what we do is classes, six days a week, for adults and kids, everyone. And this kind of thing, the party night, is Saturday nights, public skates, and Friday nights are more for corporate events.”
Starting out, the club rolled out a panel van full of roller skates for use at pop-up classes and events around Vancouver.
“This building has been on our radar for probably 10 years, when we were in the roller derby community,” Croysdill explained. “We’ve been trying to get into this space, and when we started Rolla three years ago, we tried again, but it’s been used by the film industry. They pay lots of money, right. But we basically spent the last three years trying to convince them (Rollerland building owners) to use it for roller skating, to the board, because they didn’t want to take it off the rental market for film, and didn’t want a permanent tenant in here, until COVID.”
The club has a three-year lease of the building, with an option for another three beyond that. “But hopefully we’ll be here longer,” Croysdill said.