Surrey Now & Then is a weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events, and how they evolved over the years. Email story ideas and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vacant building that once housed Surrey’s popular Stardust roller rink will soon be torn down to make way for a 49-storey tower focused mostly on student housing and post-secondary education.
A demolition date is now imminent for the City Parkway structure, more than four years after plans for the GEC Education Mega Center were announced in 2016 by developer WestStone Group and CIBT Education Group.
The Stardust sign was removed from the 18,000-square-foot building when the rink closed in 2005, after 34 years of operation in that area of Whalley.
Bonnie Burnside, a Stardust-chain employee starting in 1973, two years after the Whalley rink opened in 1971, now manages the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association (BIA).
“The Whalley rink, it’s been almost 15 or 16 years since it’s been gone, but so many people talk like it was there just a few years ago, you know,” Burnside told the Now-Leader.
“For me,” she added, “I’ve been at this job with the BIA for over 15 years, so looking at it as Bonnie from the BIA, I’m glad that it (the building) is going to be gone, and something new will be there and it’s going to be a very positive for the area. But every time something that meant a lot to people, there is a bit of sadness in your heart, but the reality is it’s been closed for a long time, and what’s important is the memories that were created there.”
In the years since 2005, the single-storey cinder-block building has been home to a Liquidation World store, Central City Arena (for eight years, from 2010 to early 2018), Integrity Now’s headquarters during the 2018 civic election campaign and, most recently, Surrey Christmas Bureau’s seasonal toy depot.
Today, the building is boarded up and surrounded by a red metal fence.
The vacant building that once housed Surrey’s popular Stardust roller rink will soon be torn down to make way for a 49-storey tower for student housing and post-secondary schooling.@WestStoneGroup @dtsurreybia @Bonnie_Burnside #SurreyBC
STORY: https://t.co/08bDiA108H pic.twitter.com/Yt1iHcsraL
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) January 11, 2021
Winter 2024 is the target completion date of the GEC Education Mega Center planned for the site.
“The new design is a 49-level concrete highrise structure with mixed-uses, including offices for educational institutions, market rental apartments and pre-sale micro-condos,” according to a post on CIBT Education Group’s website (cibt.net). “This project can accommodate up to 800 occupants (excluding the micro-condo suites), and is estimated to have a projected value of approximately $364 million upon completion.”
A demolition permit from city hall is in the works, and WestStone Group is planning a ceremonial event timed with the “first hit” of the structure at 10240 City Parkway.
The old Stardust building has been boarded up since last January, after Surrey Christmas Bureau closed its depot for the 2019-20 season. Last October, WestStone wanted to donate the building for the charity to use for another year, but the vacant structure had been gutted by thieves and vagrants just before the organization’s toy depot was going to move in for the pre-holiday months.
“Somebody got in there and stripped all the wiring and plumbing, everything — it’s completely unusable,” said Lisa Werring, executive director of the Christmas Bureau, which later found a home for 2020 at the former Funky Monkey play centre on 104th Avenue.
In 2017, final “Stardust” skates were held at Central City Arena, which was operated by the Whalley-raised Vilio brothers, who in 2020 unveiled a roller rink as part of the Central City Fun Park they built near Pattullo Bridge.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, a slow night at Stardust saw about 600 people fill the building, but those numbers dwindled by the 1990s.
Burnside worked at the Whalley rink until the end in 2005, at the last of the four local Stardust-chain facilities operated by West Vancouver pals Bud Allen and Mel Ross. She remembers the band Trooper playing there, under their early name Apple Jack, and also Hedley, in a Battle of the Bands. All-night charity “roller-thons” were also popular during the heyday of disco, New Wave and heavy metal music.
“I always wondered why people were so excited about this rink because they’re just cinder block buildings but I realized it’s not the actual building as much as the things people did when they were here,” Burnside mused in 2017.
“Celebrating your 10th birthday. Playing roller hockey and getting your first goal. Seeing your first live band as a teenager. Sneaking in a bottle of beer and not getting caught. All of those kinds of memories, those are what people love about Stardust.”
She recalled a time when people who wore Doc Martens and plaid shirts weren’t allowed entry into Stardust, for fear of them causing problems.
“We didn’t want them to come into the rink,” Burnside said on Friday (Jan. 8). “So some of the kids, they’d be taking those clothes off and leaving them behind a tree, changing, and coming in the door. They were pretty sneaky.”