July 22, 2014

Wheels are turning for return of Skateland

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Tammy Anthony, née Perren, practices her roller skating moves at Skateland Vermont in Williston with instructor John Allen, circa 1980. Anthony is the sister of Scott Perren, who has announced plans to build a modernized version of Skateland on Susie Wilson Road in Essex. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

The next time you decide to clean out the attic or reorganize the garage, think twice about tossing those age-stiffened roller skates that have been gathering dust since last century.

You just might need them.

Scott Perren—whose parents, Dorothy Perren and Keith Wright, ran the Williston roller skating rink Skateland Vermont for nearly a quarter century—has announced plans to open a modernized version of Skateland in Essex. He hopes it will be a throwback to the age when the local roller rink was the stuff dreams were made of.

“We were the community hub through the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s,” Perren said of the original Skateland. “That’s where every kid had his first girlfriend. I don’t know how many marriages we set up, with people meeting each other there on their first dates.”

Skateland opened for business on Vermont 2A—near the location of the recently constructed CVS/pharmacy—in 1976, the year America celebrated its bicentennial. It burned to the ground in 1978, but was quickly rebuilt and lasted until Dec. 31, 1999—the eve of the Y2K problem, when the fate of mankind purportedly hung in the balance because of computer programming oversights.

Skateland closed not because of faulty computer code, but due to the death of Keith Wright, Scott Perren’s stepfather. Perren, now 43, said the time has come to reestablish the family legacy.

“I can’t go into a supermarket or a fair without somebody coming up and telling me they met their significant other at the rink, or there’s no place to go with their kids,” Perren said. “We were the only family recreation around, and there’s nothing today. That’s why I’m bringing it back.”

The proposed location of the reincarnation of Skateland is 6A Susie Wilson Road, adjacent to Lowe’s, on land owned by Perren’s business partner, Al Senecal. Perren said he plans to break ground in late April or early May 2013, with a tentative opening in the latter half of next year.

“What we’re trying to do is make it affordable for a family to have a place to hang out and not worry about their kids drinking or doing drugs,” Perren said. “On a Friday night, somebody can drop their kid off with $20 in their pocket and it will be good for four hours. You really can’t get that affordability anymore.”

In addition to roller skating, Perren noted that Skateland will feature a track for electric go-karts and a full snack bar. Special events will include roller hockey leagues and musical theme nights, such as disco or ’80s music. It’s part of a concerted strategy, Perren said, to get kids off the couch and away from video games.

“There hasn’t been a rink here in 12 years, so there’s a lot of kids that quite frankly have never even strapped on a pair of roller skates,” he said. “It drives me crazy to see this next generation not involved in physical activity.”

But Perren added that Skateland will be safe exercise “for everybody, no matter what age you are.”

“You can burn up to 600 calories per hour roller skating, at a measly 8 miles per hour, which rivals bicycling or jogging, without the wear and tear on your knees and joints,” Perren said.

Skateland Vermont founded a Facebook page on Nov. 17. Within 24 hours, it had more than 2,000 “likes.” By Observer press deadline on Dec. 12, its Internet fans were nearing 4,000.

“I knew it was going to be popular, but this is even beyond my thoughts of how popular it was going to be,” Perren said. “Vermont needs it, and they’ve been asking for it, and I pulled the trigger and brought it back.”

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