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Rollerskate Revival 

Rollerdome is the place to fall in love with four wheels again.

click to enlarge Pride flags hang above the rink floor at Rollerdome. Virginia Pride is sponsoring a Rainbow Roll skate night with drag queens and a costume contest this Sunday, May 15. Moving forward, it will be held the third Sunday of every month.

Scott Elmquist

Pride flags hang above the rink floor at Rollerdome. Virginia Pride is sponsoring a Rainbow Roll skate night with drag queens and a costume contest this Sunday, May 15. Moving forward, it will be held the third Sunday of every month.

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 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 Rollerdome 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 Rollerdome’s doors in any given week.

That all changed when COVID-19 hit the U.S., forcing businesses across the country to shut up shop in order to help stop the spread of the deadly pandemic. For four months, the Rollerdome 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 still to this day.”

click to enlarge Rollerskating's popularity is on the rise with new skates on backorder. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Rollerskating's popularity is on the rise with new skates on backorder.

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 Rollerdome, Richmond’s premier local rink has achieved a status akin to a cultural icon among the sport’s fans. With different themed days all week, skate enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities to rediscover the nostalgia of skate night.

Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m. 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 p.m. with live DJs and tons of talent out on the floor.

click to enlarge Rollerdome Family Fun Center is located at 4902 Williamsburg Rd. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Rollerdome Family Fun Center is located at 4902 Williamsburg Rd.

Folks looking to kick off Pride Month early should head out to the Rollerdome 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 Rollerdome to give back to the queer community that helped them stay afloat during the pandemic. While the rink was closed in 2020, Godfrey's hosted a fundraiser on the Rollerdome’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 Rollerdome 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.”

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

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
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