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End of an era: Skate World puts skids to rolling fun

by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: ART HEERWAGEN - Families have long enjoyed Hillsboros Skate World because of its handy recreational opportunities, and many are hoping a way can be found to keep the facility operating.On April 1, Skate World’s management made the public announcement that the rink would be closing its doors. And it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.

The final “last skate” for this Hillsboro institution comes June 22. Skate World has been providing inter-generational fun and recreation to the community for more than 33 years, and many expressed sorrow to hear of the upcoming closure.

Each week, an average of 1,000 people come to the inconspicuous brown and faded-gold building on Witch Hazel Road, and when the doors close for the last time, there will be no more lessons, couples skates, birthday parties, special holiday events, all-night skates or sock hops. No more hot dogs, cotton candy, pretzels or rose dedications from the busy snack bar.

According to assistant manager Amanda Bushong, the closure was indirectly sparked by the October 2013 death of Bill Cook, one of two partners in the Sacramento-based corporation that owns the land and the building itself.

“Skate World’s lease actually expired in 2006, but Cook wanted to keep the rink open,” said Bushong, who is a Forest Grove High School graduate and Forest Grove resident. “He said he just wanted to keep it open so the kids had a place to have fun.”

Rink manager Todd Lyon helped clarify the circumstances that led to the closing.

“The corporation was a 50-50 percent shared partnership,” Lyon said. “In 1981, Cook and his partner, Bruce Fite, built the rink, and then leased it to Hillsboro Skate World, Inc., that is managed from the Sacramento office by Mona Cooper. Fite and his son Chet have decided there would be better uses for the building in an area where warehouse space is at a premium.

“The building has been listed with a Realtor, and we’ve already had someone who’s interested.”

On a Facebook post, Lyon added: “We are very sad to go. We have had a great 33 years in Hillsboro! We want to remember the fun childhood memories, and have as many people make those fun memories before we have to go. We have a ton of fun events planned for all of you skating lovers out there! Come see us one last time before the end of June.”

Throughout the skating community, Skate World’s demise has generated a lot of sadness.

“I’ve lived in Hillsboro since 1984, but after 20 years in the Army, I’m back and bringing my kids here,” said Kris Taylor, who was there recently to skate with his family. “This is where I got my first kiss, and I have lots of great memories. It’s so sad. If we want to go skating, we’ll have to go to Portland, Gresham or Springfield. The closing breaks my heart. The rink is a safe environment, and great exercise. It’s recreation, and there’s not much else in the way of recreation for kids.”

Taylor was not alone in his sorrow.

by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - The first home derby of the newly-organized Air Raid Roller Girls was April 5, but now the roller derby team will need to find a new home for its games and practices.  “We’re really going to be missing Skate World,” said Beaverton resident Jacquelynn Trexler. “It’s great fun for my 6 and 8-year-old kids. They were just starting to get the hang of it. They always look forward to coming. But what are you going to do? We still have a couple of months, and we’ll probably have a birthday party for my daughter here in June. We’ll enjoy it as much as we can.”

Sucker-punched

Richard Scumma, a 33-year resident of Hillsboro said he felt like he’d “just been sucker-punched.”

“I just started lessons in January,” he said. “I’ve been having the time of my life, and I’m almost 70 years old. I’ve counted on this place for physical activity and get-togethers, and now it’s going away. I just feel horrible. There are so many families that come here, they’re learning — what could be better. They’re not on the streets, not doing drugs, they’re here having fun.”

“I grew up in Newberg, but I remember coming here as a kid,” said Laura Fuller, a Portland resident. “Now we have children, and we’re introducing them to roller skating. It’s going to be missed. Not sure what we’ll do for recreation now — ride our bikes, skate outside?”

Other casualties of the closing include the Air Raid Roller Girls, a roller derby club that held its first “bout” on Saturday, April 5.

“We just started forming teams here in October,” said Jennifer Keene, the club’s director of communications. “We don’t know what we’re going to do. The rink in Oaks Park in Portland is booked solid. The rink in Gresham is too far away. All we can do is try to stay positive, try to get the whole community involved, and hope the city of Hillsboro will step in and save Skate World. In the meantime we’re making contacts, and looking for anywhere we could skate, like a hangar or a warehouse; anywhere with enough space.”

Of course, it’s not just the customers who will have to adjust to the loss of Skate World. The rink’s staff of 15 will have to look for new jobs.

“I’m from Springfield, and my son-in-law manages the Skate World there. I might go help him for a while,” said Lyon, “but right now, I just don’t know what’s next.”