The rebirth of roller skating in Edmonton, how it started:
I started working at the original Sportsworld located by the stadium. It was my first job. I remember applying everywhere even the big m which I was dreading. But I told myself that I will apply at one more place and that was the roller rink. It was freezing, minus 30 but I was on a mission. I figured if I get no call it is the big m for me. I had applied for every position at Sportsworld except the Dj. I was just terrified of that position. About a week passed and I received a call from the manager and he told me I was hired as the new skate bar attendant. I remember working my first shift I was confused with left and right but I learned quickly. Not realizing at that time but this opportunity would play a huge role in my life and be the backbone to all my future endeavors. Over the months the manager trained me in every position including the one that scared me the most, the DJ position. I practiced and practiced my mixing. Then finally I got it and will never forget it. It was Madonna Holiday and MC Miker G & DJ Sven - Holiday Rap. The manager who was also my mentor came over and shook my hand and congratulated me. One night I was working skate rentals I had to get the manager who was Djing. He told me to cover the booth. I went to put the needle on the record and I missed it, all you could hear was the screeching of the needle. The entire packed skating floor looked at me. It was a nightmare but I continued working the music until the manager returned to the booth. Over the months I practiced and practiced than became the head dj. This position transformed this shy boy with low self esteem to a assertive and outgoing person. I will never forget the day they told me that the rink was sold and it was going to be demolished. I went to the booth put on the Commodores Three Times a lady and as the song played my eyes filled with tears. I couldn't believe the place that changed my life and influenced me in such a positive way was soon just going to be a memory. My cousin had come by to visit me the following weekend and I told him the bad news and said I am going to open a roller skating rink in the future so others can experience the positive energy I had, the only way to describe it was magic. I was a young boy at 16 with a passion and drive to succeed.
It was not an easy journey to get Edmonton skating again, but here are the high lights. In my 20's I started to refine the rink concept and designed a business plan. I had a chance to finally open a rink. But being inexperienced with business I was taken advantage of, the person we were leasing the building from was sub leasing the space to us. So you would assume the rent we gave him he would give it to the landlord, not the case at all. Not even a month in operation we were served with court papers telling us we were in default and that is when we put all the details together. He just ended up pocketing the money, and we found out he was in default with his own rent along with other suppliers. We had no choice but to close the doors this place was financed with personal savings and credit cards, I was done. My business partner and I had split and went our separate ways. I didn't have a penny left to my name and had to start my life from scratch. It was quite upsetting but I knew at 24 I still have time to make things right.
Another opportunity came up a couple years later and through some networking I had the place financed and good to go. I was literally days from taking possession of the building. I had the builder lined up and materials ready for delivery, checks in hand to get started. I was only a few days away from getting started and I got a call from the bank that was giving me the loan. The banker called me all frantic and asked if I cashed the loan check. I asked her how come, she advised me there was a missed detail and due to that the loan was declined. I had a choice to make I could of just cash the check and the bank would have no choice but to work with me, but that would also mean the banker would have lost her job. I could not do that to somebody. I was so devastated, I told her I have the check and asked her to please have a courier come pick it up. I was so disappointed and felt helpless. About 2 weeks later I managed to get the financing restructured but it was to late the owner of the building had already made other arrangements I just didn't know what to do and wanted to be left alone. I knew that I had to carry on what else could I do.
A couple years passed and again I had looked at the rink opportunity. I was calling potential locations and one of the leasing agents from a mall I was inquiring about gave me a lead about the old military base, Griesbach. I contacted the realtor who represented that building. He showed me two buildings they both did not fit my objective. I remember after viewing the second building I thanked the agent for his time and sat back in my car. For some reason, I got out of the car to go back and talk to the realtor. I just laid it out and told him the buildings he showed me just didn't fit what I am looking for and asked him if he had some other options. He told me there was one other building on the base that no one had looked at and asked me to follow him. When we entered the building and did a walk through, I knew this was going to be it. Edmonton would have the rebirth or the roller skating disco. About 10 years later from my initial attempt it finally happened. The place was a success lined up out the door creating memories for many people. Like anything good it to came to an end after 8 years of operation, the building we were located in was slated for demolition and the lease was not renewed by the landlord. I had a dedication posted in my rink which is in the box below. Underneath the dedication the story continues.
Once again I fought to keep this place going I tried to work a deal with three prospective operators which all failed. About a year after the rink closed in 2011 a good friend of mine, who is a relator, was visiting me and mentioned a building. I told him at this time me and my partners have moved on to other ventures and I would not have the time to operate the rink like I used to. But it did make me think, and I would look at the building anyways. I advised my group of the opportunity and we decided it could be a viable option and not only could we open Edmonton but possibilities of expanding through out Canada and the United States. But we needed a owner operator to run the location for Edmonton. This way we could refine the concept for future planned expansions. The search began and we found the person we were looking for. So we worked with him to help get his loan financed and it was not an easy process at all due to tighter lending rules. He was turned down by the lender who originally financed me and he tried to appeal it twice and in total was turned down three times. Then he tried with 2 other banking institutions which also turned him down again. He was at work and a co worker asked him how the process was coming along and he told her not good at all. He told her he needed a partner himself to make his application stronger. She was curious and after several discussions with him they decided to partner up. Okay you think clear sailing, not quite. In the meantime the original location we had selected was no longer available. So we had to search all over again and finally found a spot. The loan application went back and fourth several times and finally it was approved. The next hurdle was the permit process which took months. Why? We have no idea ourselves. I believe if you have nothing good say about something, best not to say nothing at all. Which is why I will not talk about the ridiculous permitting process.
Many asked me why I fought so hard to bring this roller rink to life in the first place. Well you see this place changed my life and I wanted others to experience what I had. Maybe they to will have this place be an inspiration to them and their future, which I know it has from the previous location. Even after my place was closed many asked me again why did I continue to fight to give Edmonton its rink back. I will tell you why, I am grateful to all the people in Edmonton and surrounding communities who supported my rink which was my dream. With their support I was able to achieve other dreams and passions. Sportsworld has always been more than a business to me, it represents hope and that anything is possible. When I see the support from the facebook fan page I knew I had to fight for all of you to give you back what belongs in Edmonton, your roller rink!