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Rollerskate Revival | Arts and Culture | Style Weekly

Shane Locklear spent much of his youth at the Skateland roller rink by the Richmond International airport. When he wasn’t working, he was skating. His dedication of him to the sport eventually earned him a number of national titles as both a figure and roller skating champion. When he told the old rink’s owner that his life plan was to own the place one day, no one knew he was foretelling the future.

On a trip back to his hometown in 2008, Locklear swung by the skating rink that launched his career as a professional athlete only to find out that the owner of the then Cavalier Family Skating Center planned to close the place permanently. That’s when Locklear and his husband, Tony Kaschalk, decided to purchase the place and open their own roller rink.

For nearly 15 years now, the Roller Dome has served as a gathering place for folks in Richmond’s East End and beyond. As the home of a roller derby team, many a kids’ skating class, and nearly countless themed skate nights, anyone and everyone passes through the Roller Dome’s doors in any given week.

That all changed when COVID-19 hit the US, forcing businesses across the country to shut up shop in order to help stop the spread of the deadly pandemic. For four months, the Roller Dome struggled to stay financially afloat until the quarantine was lifted and patrons slowly began to trickle back into the rink in search of a safe place to have a good time.

Although the pandemic shut down proved painful, in the long term it may have inspired a rollerskating revival.

“Roller skating fizzled out for a few decades, but during quarantine skating started to come back because people were looking for safe things to do outside,” explains Locklear. “Now that we’ve reopened, it’s amazing to see this sport on an upswing. We’re on backorders for new skates ’til this day.”

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  • Scott Elmquist
  • Rollerskating’s popularity is on the rise with new skates sometimes backordered.

As a member of the board of directors of the International Roller Skating Association, Locklear can attest to the sport’s return to cultural relevance. Celebrities from Usher to Floyd Mayweather have been buying up old roller rinks and reinvigorating the image of skating. Even Rockefeller Center has set up a seasonal roller rink. Those looking to purchase their first skates are hard pressed to find a manufacturer that still has anything in stock.

Since 2019 when HBO released “United Skates,” a documentary about the sport which EGOT [Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony]-winner John Legend shot at the Roller Dome, Richmond’s premier local rink has achieved a status akin to a cultural icon among the sport’s fans. With different themed days every week, skate enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities to rediscover the nostalgia of skate night.

Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5 pm offer families a chance to lace up and enjoy top 40 tunes and old school grooves, respectively. Those who prefer to pinch their pennies instead of paying the typical $10 entrance fee should come on Tuesday, the least expensive day to skate. Fridays and Saturdays are set up for teenagers to enjoy chart toppers one night and hip hop the next. The true star of the week is Workout Wednesdays, an adult skate session from 7 to 11 pm with live DJs and tons of talent out on the floor.

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Roller Dome Family Fun Center is located at 4902 Williamsburg Rd. - SCOTT ELMQUIST

  • Scott Elmquist
  • Roller Dome Family Fun Center is located at 4902 Williamsburg Rd.

Folks looking to kick off Pride Month early should head out to the Roller Dome this Sunday to enjoy Rainbow Roll, a skate night sponsored by Virginia Pride. With drag queens, DJ Joey Paravati of Babes and Godfrey’s fame on music, and a $100 costume contest for the best rainbow-dressed skater, Rainbow Roll is sure to boots the house down even as a sober, family-friendly event. “You can expect to come into a rink with lots of people dressed up, rainbows everywhere,” added Kaschalk.

The first Rainbow Roll began back in December as a way for the husband co-owners of the Roller Dome to give back to the queer community that helped them stay afloat during the pandemic. While the rink was closed in 2020, Virginia Pride hosted a fundraiser on the Roller Dome’s behalf. In honor of that showing of solidarity, the third Sunday of every month going forward will now be a Rainbow Roll.

No matter what night of the week, the Roller Dome ethos is that all are welcome.

“Our rink is for everybody whether you’ve been skating your whole life and know how to do stunts, or whether this is your first time putting on skates,” says Kaschalk. “Our crowd is Black, white, gay, straight, bi — it’s anybody. Unless you’ve been here to witness it, you can’t understand how caring and loving the skate family and culture is here.”

Roller Dome is located at 4902 Williamsburg Rd. Check the website for more information on daily hours and specials. (804) 726-2841

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