For the past decade, the Sk8 Place has offered an alternative form of recreation for Galion during the winter season.
“The colder it gets, the busier it gets,” said Kirstin Whitt, a co-owner of the skating rink on the second floor at the Golden Age Center facility at 301 S. Market St., near Uptown Galion.
Whitt and her business partner, Brad Roark, took ownership of the Sk8 Place last year. Whitt’s grandparents had managed the facility for nine years after her mother had bought out the rink from the earliest owner’s in Whitt’s family – her father and stepmother.
Whitt was in the fifth grade when her dad announced that they were now managers of Galion’s roller skating rink.
“It was just kind of out of nowhere,” she said.
Whitt decided to take over the Sk8 Place with Roark, her mother’s boyfriend, after the grandparents retired in 2014.
“It was in the family for so long it was sad to see it go,” she said.
The entire building was originally an armory for the military before the Galion YMCA purchased the building in the mid-1960s.
“There’s a lot of history with that facility,” said Galion YMCA director Terry Gribble. Under its ownership, the YMCA offered roller skating, gymnastics and specific-types of dancing programs at the Market Street location.
It was eventually sold in the early 1990s to a private owner who then sold the building to Golden Age Center Inc. with Sk8 Place management renting the roller skating rink.
“I love roller skating,” Gribble said. “I’m really glad it’s still in operation.”
Not much has changed at the rink, Whitt said. The Sk8 Place features a simple wooden floor, its walls decorated with graffiti of characters from early-2000s cartoon shows. Management recently bought 200 skates, while keeping some of the older skates back from the YMCA days.
“I liked to upgrade (more),” she said.
Additionally, the management hasn’t changed much with the rink opened during the school year from 6-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Parties can take place at The Sk8 Place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and anytime on Sundays.
“I kinda grew up in it, so I know what to expect,” Whitt said. “I like how we run things… It’s safe for the kids, it’s fun for the kids.”
And the Sk8 Place remains a child-focused environment and an unofficial babysitter. The Sk8 Place maintains a policy of charging its customers again if they leave the rink to wander off somewhere else and try to come back later without their parent’s knowledge. That forces minors to stay at the rink.
“We watched the kids pretty well,” Whitt said.
They also host “overnighters” on New Year’s Eve and the last day of school.
Whitt looks to maintain ownership of the skating rink for about five to seven years. She’s currently studying to become a veterinarian technician. Although running the Sk8 Place takes away a lot of weekends from Whitt, she gets help from her family.
“We definitely don’t go without seeing each other,” she said.
Admission to the Sk8 Place is $5 with skate rentals $1.50.
Reach Klein at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.