To live in Vancouver, you have to accept that your favourite spots are likely to disappear. No beloved restaurant, venue, gallery or dive bar is safe from the perpetual threat of becoming the site of a new condo. All of us have a personal ghost map of the city, marked by the places we have loved and lost. Mine includes the Varsity Ridge bowling alley, the Granville 7 movie theatre, three locations of the illustrious Little Mountain Gallery, and the former McDonald’s in Kerrisdale, which had a pneumatic tube for drive-thru orders.
So it’s especially delightful when a new space opens— especially one that revives a lost part of local history. On December 4, Rolla Skate Club opened the doors of their new, permanent roller rink— located in the former Rollerland building on the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition, off Renfrew and Dundas. Vancouver may have a million Crossfit gyms and yoga studios, but this is the first roller rink to open in more than 40 years.
Rolla Skate Club, founded in 2018 by Carla Smith and Lucy Croysdill, has offered events and classes in various locations over the past three years. Their temporary HQ was “Skate Church,” a church-owned gymnasium in Kerrisdale that was slated for eventual demolition, and during COVID, they offered outdoor and online classes. While they were able to resume in-person activities at Skate Church in the summer, their dream was to find a permanent home for Rolla.
Serendipitously, Rolla Skate Club signed a lease for the 20,000 square foot Rollerland venue in September— just as they learned Skate Church would be closed immediately due to structural issues. They dove into a frantic renovation, extensively documented on YouTube, finishing just in time for their soft opening on December 3rd.
Since Rollerland closed in the early 1980s, our city has been without an indoor rink. That didn’t stop legions of wobbly skaters from reviving the sport during the pandemic, but options were limited: we had side streets, parking lots, and public skate parks for the braver souls. None of these options are ideal in winter, when it’s generally too cold, wet and dark to skate outside.
Rollerland’s opening has arrived just in time. Take refuge under the rainbow lights, get dressed up for a weekly themed party, and skate your heart out. Leave your damp Blundstones on the side of the rink and forget, for a blissful hour or two, that the sun sets at 4:00pm this time of year.
In comparison to my usual parking lot, the smooth concrete floor of Rollerland is heavenly. All-ages and adult-only events are scheduled weekly, in addition to classes and open rink times. You can rent skates, knee pads and wrist guards rink-side, and the cost of rentals is included in all event tickets and courses. Bring your own helmet (a bike helmet works) if you want extra protection.
Rolla has also added a small indoor skate park in one corner, equipped with four- and two-foot mini ramps, and a rinkside DJ booth to provide a soundtrack for your next skate. Rollerland opened while dancing was still banned in BC (thankfully, that's behind us now), but you could dance on roller skates and no one would stop you.
For the skate-curious, embrace the possibilities of life on eight wheels. If nothing else, it’s a much-needed novelty as we enter our third pandemic year, and a cheery escape from the winter rain. Those who know how to ice skate will probably figure out roller skating pretty quickly. But if you’d rather not gamble with your one and only tailbone, Rolla Skate Club offers classes for beginners and they will teach you the best way to fall. Trust me: the risk of bruises is worth it.
Rollerland | 21 N Renfrew St, Vancouver, BC V5K 3N6
Originally published December 2021