Rally for the rink: Skaters hope the music doesn't stop at Topsham's Roller World
TOPSHAM — With the sale of Howard Sports and its Roller World rink imminent, local roller-skating enthusiasts are afraid the rink they've come to love is in its final days.
Seacoast United soccer club plans to close on the purchase of the 20 Atwood Road sports center next week. Paul Willis, the nonprofit club's director of development and finance, said this week that no decisions have been made about the future of the rink.
Rose Edwards, a 15-year-old from Brunswick who has skated at Roller World for more than two years, is among those who want the rink to continue, and not to become a another domed soccer field. She has suggested the community that has formed around the rink could start a petition to keep it open, and she has created a "Save Roller World in Topsham" Facebook page.
Edwards said a roller derby group practices at the rink a few times a week, and that without Roller World they won't have a convenient place to continue. She said only three other rinks in Maine are open year-round, in Portland, Auburn and Bangor.
She and some of the regulars got together Wednesday night for a potential last skate at the rink, amid the usual flashing lights and sound system playing classic hits. She said she has been told Roller World's last day would be Sunday, Dec. 18.
Edwards, who is home schooled, credited the rink with broadening her social network. She never skated before going there, she said, and has felt very comfortable with the people of all ages who frequent the place.
"We're kind of all weirdos, if no one minds me saying that," she said, prompting the friends around her to laugh. "... I come every Wednesday, and I just love to skate, and I love all of the people here. ... Everything about it, I love."
Chris Cromwell of Sabattus, formerly of Topsham, said he has been going to Roller World for 17 of his 19 years.
"I've been coming here because I love to skate, and it's something cheap to do," he said. "You just get to skate with your friends, and have some fun, listen to some music. It's a good place to hang out."
Chad Dall, 21, of Bowdoin, might not be here at all if not for Roller World: His parents met there, he said. He added that the people at the rink are what he'll miss most.
Sam Cook, 38, of Topsham said she has been going to Roller World for a few years; she'd known Edwards before they became skating buddies, but it was at the rink where their close friendship was born. Although Cook is about 20 years older than many of the patrons, she said the rink has easily bridged that gap and cemented friendships.
"Everybody is accepted here," she said. "You're allowed to be a good skater or a bad skater, and nobody really cares, as long as you're having a good time."
Cook added that sometimes in high school, students can be ineligible for sports teams due to factors like grades or attendance.
But, "there's no eligibility involved with coming to Roller World," she said. "Anybody can be here, and it makes it so that you have an interesting mix of people, and it makes it so that everybody can enjoy sports. Because this is truly a sport."