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The Skate Critic with Ginger Mathews – 011

On a Mission to Review Every Roller Skating Rink in the World

On this week’s episode, I sit down with the Skate Critic, Ginger Mathews.

Ginger runs a Facebook Group called Skate Critic where she has visited and reviewed over 300 roller skating rinks in the last 5 years.

On today’s episode, Ginger and I talk about:

  • Skate Critic’s founding and how she got started reviewing 300 rinks.
  • Her roller skating rink list that has over 1100 rinks on it. We discuss how she went about building the list.
  • We talk about her favorite rink, the criteria that she uses to review rinks and some of the oddest rinks she has travelled and skated.
  • We discuss roller skating rink closures and what we can do to stop them.
  • We also talk about how her data was used by Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown of the United Skates documentary to build the map in the film that shows all of the skating rinks that have closed since the 1980s.

Show Notes

Here are links to the items we discussed during the show.

Episode 11 Transcript

Jeff: 00:03 Hey everybody, welcome to the Roller Skate Dad podcast. This is episode number 11. Let’s get started.

Announcer: 00:16 Welcome to the Roller Skate Dad Podcast. The show that covers everything and anything in the wonderful world of roller skating. Now here’s your host though. The Roller Skate Dad himself, Jeff Stone.

Jeff: 00:36 Hey everybody. I want to welcome you guys to the Roller Skate Dad podcast. I want to thank you all for being here. In this episode of the podcast, we have a very special guest with us. Her name is Ginger Matthews. And, Ginger is the Roller Skate Critic. So Ginger has been for the last five years traveling around the United States and part of Canada as well, and hitting up all of the roller skating rinks. And when she goes to skate these rinks, she also does a review for each rink that she’s been to. So she’ll get out and she’ll measure the floor and she’ll check out the snack bar and she looks at all of the music that they play and then she reviews all that information and posts it into her Facebook group called Skate Critic. So Ginger and I sat down for about an hour and had a really nice chat about what she does over at Skate Critic, and I thought you guys would like to have a listen. So let’s get started.

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Jeff: 01:39 Hey Ginger, how are you?

Ginger: 01:41 I’m excellent. How are you?

Jeff: 01:43 I’m doing great. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Ginger: 01:46 Thank you.

Jeff: 01:47 Well, I wanted to start off just by asking you a little bit about Skate Critic. Um, what is Skate Critic?

Ginger: 01:55 Skate Critic is where I travel all over the world and I do reviews on roller rinks and I post them online along with many other things I do as well.

Jeff: 02:09 Well, that’s awesome. When did you get started with it?

Ginger: 02:12 Officially, I started five years ago. However, I started exploring roller rinks the minute I got a driver’s license and my crazy friend Cindy said, “hey, let’s go check out other rinks.” And I really liked it and it just kept going from there.

Jeff: 02:29 Awesome. That’s so cool. So I’m curious, why did you decide to start it? What pushed you to do this?

Ginger: 02:36 Well, first off, I had got in my head that I wanted to skate every rink in California. So I started on that crazy adventure. And my family comes from a very long line of roller skating. My uncle’s a pro. My aunt and uncle are on the wall at the museum in Nebraska. You know, my cousin was on the US team for roller hockey and they won worlds. And, my family currently has their nose in three roller derby teams. And my parents met from the rink. My Dad was a rink rat. My mom was an artistic skater. So I went on this crazy adventure and every time I saw my family, they said, “you need to, you need to take photos of these rinks, so you need to, you need to write it down. People want to know.” And I’m like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.”

Ginger: 03:37 And so every time I go to a roller derby game or I’d go to one of their houses, you know, it’s the same thing. “You need to write this down, you need to take photos. You know, people want to know.” And I’m like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” You know, I just brushed them off. And, and then finally people started coming up to me at the rink and they’re like, “hey, um, I’m going to this place. What do you know about this rink?” And I tell him about the rink and they’d be like, “oh, thank you.” You know? And I started thinking, man, I’m like, “okay. I got people coming up to me at the rinks now. I’ve got people who are contacting me about rinks and my family keeps bothering me about it.

Ginger: 04:15 And so the next time I saw my family at a game, you know, here it came again. My aunt, she’s like, “you need to write this down and you to. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be the Skate Critic, whatever.” And um, the next thing I was down in, it was like the next week I was down in LA and there was a rink that was opening and it was New Year’s Eve. And I was like, “okay, well I’ll just go hit a rink for New Year’s Eve.” And I looked and every single rink was 15 years and younger, no adults. And I was like, “great, I’m stuck in LA. I’m not going skating at the new rink till tomorrow and I’m bored.” And I’m like, “Hey, what about this Skate Critic thing?” So I started looking online and I was like, “Ooh, nobody’s doing Skate Critic.” So I grabbed Skate Critic on everything, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, um, you know, and it just started from there.

Ginger: 05:14 I put 33 friends in my group and by the next day my phone would not shut up and I had like 800 people in the group by the next day.

Jeff: 05:22 Wow.

Ginger: 05:23 And I was like, “what the hell have I done? Oh my God.” And, when I got back home, all my friends were like, “what did you do?” And I go, “I don’t know. I have no idea.” I said, but here we go and we’re rolling with it. So, you know, I, I just started taking photos of the rinks and, and you know, doing a little blurb about them. The blurbs got bigger and bigger and bigger. And then I started measuring the skate floors and it’s just escalated from there. Just unreal. You know, I’ve went from, I tackled all the cause all the rink lists that are online are outdated by 11 years. So then I tackled that. I was very annoyed with that. So I sat down and it took over a year and I took all the rink lists online, combined them into a master list, called every single rink to confirm if they were in business or not because area codes had changed and maybe the name of the rink had changed. And so I called all these rinks to get a real representation of the rinks that were actually in the United States and got that together. So I currently hold the only current list of roller rinks in the country or in the world. And you know, from that, then it started with, oh well, you know, what about all these rinks that are nonexistent anymore? So I came up with a dead rink list and put that together. And then, um, you know, people wanted to know, well, how many rinks have rotunda floors? So, I have a list of all the rotunda floors in the country. Um, you know, a list of, I have a list of compiled of all the adult rinks in the country and it just goes on from there. I have so much stuff.

Jeff: 07:23 That’s awesome. How did you, is this all just like Excel spreadsheets and you just kind of like hand curated all of this or how do you keep track of all that?

Ginger: 07:32 It’s all on Excel spreadsheets and that’s how I keep track of it all. And I’m working on a website to where I can put all this info on there and then the public can access it. But anyone can send me a message and say, “Hey, I’m going to Colorado tomorrow. You know, what rinks do you suggest?” And I may give him some suggestions, but what I usually say is, “let me send you a list of all the rinks in Colorado.”

Jeff: 07:59 Wow, that’s awesome. So you started this about five years ago, you say?

Ginger: 08:03 Yep, five years ago. On New Year’s Eve.

Jeff: 08:07 Wow. Wow. That’s pretty amazing. So is it, is it just you that does the skating reviews or do you have other people in your, your family or your friends? Does anyone help you with that?

Ginger: 08:17 I do all the reviews myself, but I always invite people to come along with me. But I usually wear people out. Usually people can’t hang with me because I literally, when I go somewhere and I fly in, I start doing reviews and skating. The minute I get off the plane until the man I get back on, I’m using gone a week. So most people say they can hang with me, but they can’t like one rink, maybe two. And they’re like, oh my God, I’m so tired. I can’t do this. And they want to get dropped off at the hotel room. And I’m like, okay, see you later.

Jeff: 08:52 So what does, what does that look like? You fly into like a city or a state and then you just hit every rink you can get to in that state? Walk me through what, what’s your normal itinerary looks like for that?

Ginger: 09:05 So what I do is usually I’ll pick somewhere with an event or maybe it’s family I’m going to see or you know, whatever. And I usually fly out on a Tuesday and fly back on a Tuesday. And what I do before I go is I sit down and I pull the area code on the hotel I’m going to and where the event is because it may be in different area codes. And then I’ll pull every rink associated to that area code and I’ll put them on a list. And then I will sit down and pull out, you know, anyone who’s requested me to come to a rink. And if I’m that close, then they go first. And then it of course it will be the event goes in there. And then if there’s any adults skates, those will go into my itinerary. And then after that I just start pulling the other rinks and filling in the gaps like a puzzle, you know, cause it’s according to the session times have to fit the days, you know, the distance, the time. And then I make this itinerary and I try to hit, you know, one to two rinks a day, maybe three on a Saturday or a Friday. And then I just, I just hit rinks from Tuesday through Tuesday and then I write up my reviews and post them along the way.

Jeff: 10:31 Yeah, I’ve seen your reviews. You’re posting most of those on Facebook. Right. And your, your Skate Critic group and a, you take a lot of photos. A lot of video. I mean I saw one you had like 20 or 30 photos in there.

Ginger: 10:43 Yeah, sometimes it, you ended up with a lot of photos. Sometimes you don’t end up with very many. Because what I’m trying to do is basically what I’m trying to do is set a picture for somebody who’s never been there to see it. And also let’s say, and I don’t like to say it, but somewhere down the road the rink goes out of business and you know, we have all those memories. We still have photos of it, you know.

Jeff: 11:10 So how many skating rinks have you done a review on now?

Ginger: 11:15 Let me see. I had my list up here a second ago. I am up to 318 rinks.

Jeff: 11:24 Wow, that’s amazing. And how many are actually in your total list?

Ginger: 11:29 Oh, uh, today in the US we have 1,163 rinks in operation.

Jeff: 11:36 Wow. So you’ve been to almost, uh, well more than one fourth of them.

Ginger: 11:39 Yeah. I got like 800 to go. Roughly.

Jeff: 11:44 Well, keeps you busy, right?

Ginger: 11:46 Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I’ve been to 32 states, skated in 32 states, 318 rinks. So I’ll never get, never get to skate in Vermont because there’s no rinks there anymore. And then soon they’ll be no rinks in New Hampshire. Their last rink is going to close in May.

Jeff: 12:09 Hmm. That’s too bad.

Ginger: 12:13 Yes.

Jeff: 12:14 So when you’re doing these skate reviews, what are the different kinds of attributes that you’re looking at when you’re doing a review?

Ginger: 12:21 So when I go into a rink, I’m looking at the skate floor, the employees, the bathroom, the snack bar, and the DJ. And then I will go around the rink and also look for things that makes that rink different from other people and their rinks and take photos of that and talk about it. And then I will go and hunt down the owner or a manager and you know, ask them some questions about the rink. You know, maybe some history. Cause sometimes you walk into rink and you, you know, you would have no idea about the history. Like I just did Orbit down in Huber Heights, Ohio. And you know, walking in the rink, it’s beautiful. And then when I started talking to the owner, he was telling me how he had a rotunda floor and it flooded and they put in and so the floor was ruined.

Ginger: 13:19 So he put in a new floor and it was like not even a year or two years later it flooded again. And so he lost that floor too. And he was on his third floor. But looking at the place, you wouldn’t know that. So there’s some history that you would not know unless you asked. So, you know, sometimes you walk in and you’re talking with somebody and they’ll tell you the rink burnt to the ground and it was actually next door. And this is the new rink. Yeah. I like to ask, I like to ask owners and I always catch them off guard cause I’ll say, “tell me something about this rink I wouldn’t know by walking through the door” and they will just look at me and they’ll go well and tell me their little story about the rink.

Jeff: 14:11 That’s awesome. And then you include those in the review as well. I take it?

Ginger: 14:15 Yes I will include that. I will talk about, you know, whatever they tell me. Sometimes they don’t want me to know, which is fine by me. So.

Jeff: 14:25 so out of all those attributes and all the reviews you’ve done, which ones have your audience or the other skaters that you’re writing these reviews for, what attributes do they seem to like latch on and care about the most?

Ginger: 14:42 They always want to know if it has a rotunda floor, you know, like size, how big it is. Um, you get some people, like maybe the rink I walked into was the rink that they started skating in, but they haven’t been back there in like 30 years. And so, you know, they like to see how it changed or tell me how it used to look or how it used to be run or the people that used to run it. So, um, a lot of people live through my reviews. I get a lot of messages and texts from people and they’re like, “well, thank you for going to this rink and I can’t believe it’s still up and running.” And you know, it’s just like going down nostalgia lane for them.

Jeff: 15:27 That’s so neat. So, uh, you know, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and looking at what people have to do to actually go into starting a rink. And you know, it talks a lot about how, you know, the skate size floor, the floor is so important and just how big it is. I was curious with all the different rinks you’ve been to, what’s the smallest rink you’ve ever seen? And you know, what’s the largest one that you’ve actually seen?

Ginger: 15:54 The smallest one is the Residence Rink, which is in Stockton, California, and it’s 93 x 65. and the largest rink is in Latham, New York and that is called Guptill’s Arena. And it’s 212 x 99 feet.

Jeff: 16:16 Wow.

Ginger: 16:17 Yeah, it’s huge.

Jeff: 16:19 It’s gigantic.

Ginger: 16:21 Yeah. It was beautiful too. I walked into that rink and my jaw hit the ground. I thought I walked right back into the 1940s and I looked at this rink and I thought the first thing that I thought was, oh my God, I don’t even think I can do this rink justice. And then I, I looked at it again and I’m like, I’m gonna give it my damn best shot.

Jeff: 16:48 Why did you feel that way? Why did you feel like you couldn’t do it justice?

Ginger: 16:52 The rink was gorgeous. Gorgeous. And like I said, it looked like you walked back in the 1940s. The skate floor was 212 x 99 feet. It’s huge. They had two extra practice floors. I mean, yeah, one of the practice floors was 102 x 31 and the other one was 36 x 30 and it was labeled just for the little kids. And you know, they had a stage in the back and it had old cars on the stage. Everything was pristine in this rink. It looked like you shouldn’t touch it because it was just gorgeous. And it was, I had an hour at this rink. I had, I was at an event in Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland. And I’m like, Oh my God, I’m this close to that rink. I’ve got to see it. And so I drove, it was seven hours on a Friday. How dumb. I drove right through traffic in New York and New Jersey.

Ginger: 17:54 It took me seven hours to get there and I had one hour to spend there and I had to drive back because I had to be back at the event in Baltimore by midnight. And I didn’t roll in there until 1:00 AM. And uh, yeah. And this rink and I’m just like, oh my God, how am I going to do this in an hour? And then I just stopped and I’m like, you’re just going to do it. And I did it and I did a damn good job for an hour. And as beautiful as that rink is. However I need to go back there because yeah, I’m sure I missed something. I don’t know.

Jeff: 18:30 Wow, that’s amazing. That’s so cool. I’ve always wondered if there were any rinks out there that had multiple floors like that cause that was something I’ve always kind of daydreamed about. I was like man, it’d be awesome if there was like separate little floors and you could take people that were maybe not as experienced and you could put them over in that area.

Ginger: 18:48 Let me tell you about the second largest rink in the US and that would be the Oaks in Portland, Oregon. And the Oaks is also the oldest rink in operation in the country. It’s also the last operating rink in an amusement park. And it’s the last rink with a live pipe organ in it.

Jeff: 19:10 Oh neat.

Ginger: 19:12 Yeah, that floor is 100 x 200 feet and it’s a rotunda floor and they have three practice floors. So they have, they have one practice floor that is 156 x 9 feet. They have one that’s 102 x 9 feet and then they have one that’s 25 x 6. So, the first one is a regular practice, but the second one is a wavy practice floor. Because the rink had flooded twice before and so they left this wavy practice in the back and you can skate on it.

Ginger: 19:49 There’s a video on Skate Critic and then also on Youtube and so you can skate on this floor and it’s wavy like a rollercoaster. It’s pretty cool.

Jeff: 19:58 That’s neat.

Ginger: 20:00 The best part is the little tiny practice floor is 25 x 6 has railings. You know like when you’re standing in line somewhere and they zigzag you back and forth and the ropes. So they have this practice floor, but it’s got bars. And that’s for anyone who doesn’t know how to skate, they have to skate in that until they can learn, they’re not allowed out onto the main floor if you can’t skate really well.

Jeff: 20:26 That’s very interesting.

Ginger: 20:28 Yeah, it is interesting.

Jeff: 20:29 I guess that probably really helps a lot then with the, uh, the regular skaters who go, not constantly having to worry about crashing into people.

Ginger: 20:37 Exactly. And it helps the little skaters from not getting killed on the floor.

Jeff: 20:42 Yeah, yeah, that’s neat.

Ginger: 20:44 That rink is absolutely gorgeous as well.

Jeff: 20:47 So it’s actually built inside of an amusement park?

Ginger: 20:50 Yes, it is. Yup. And it’s on the shores of the Willamette River and the Willamette, um, has flooded twice and flooded that rink. The second time it flooded, they weren’t sure they were going to put it back because they, you know, a price of a rotunda floor is pretty pricey. So the, um, I believe it was the army corps of engineers came in and said, do you know if we construct some kind of floor that would not flood, you know, would you just stay? And they’re like, okay. So they dug out, they dug out the, underneath the floor, they put 250 pontoons and then they built the skate floor on top of it. And then everything in the rink is portable. So if the river starts to flood, they throw everything in the middle of this skate floor and they cut the floor loose and it just floats with the water and then it comes down when the floods over and they just clean up the outside and then put it back together.

Jeff: 21:51 That’s amazing.

Ginger: 21:53 Yeah, it is. The most amazing part though is when you skate on it. Because it’s not solid like a regular skate floor. It moves just a little bit. You know. A normal person wouldn’t notice it, but I do. Other people notice it that are skaters. But the best thing is when you go in there on Sundays or Thursday nights and they’re playing the pipe organ, you can feel the music like all around you coming through the floor vibrating. It’s awesome. It’s a skating experience you’d never forget.

Jeff: 22:26 Well, I’m going to have to check that out and come to Oregon. That sounds like fun.

Ginger: 22:32 Yes you are. It is. It is. You, you go in there your mouth will hit the ground and you’ll start skating. You’ll be like, oh my God, this is so cool.

Jeff: 22:40 So as a past DJ in a skating rink and being in a number of skating rinks and seeing that a lot of them don’t have djs anymore. I mean you were just talking about, you said the Oaks in Oregon that has a pipe organ. Are you seeing that most of these rinks are going to no Dj or do most of them still have a Dj that plays all the music in the rink?

Ginger: 23:01 So some have a DJ, some have Organ Nights, some have automated Dj’s – it all depends. Like you could walk into a rink on Saturday afternoon, it might be all automated, but you come back on Saturday night and they might have a DJ. So it just depends on the rink, what’s going on. And you know,

Jeff: 23:25 Do you hear from skaters out there what they prefer most?

Ginger: 23:29 Um, most skaters prefer what we call skateable music. And so it’s gotta be skateable. Cause not everything is skateable. Because sometimes you get a Dj who, you know, they’re like, Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to play to skaters. You know, they are a club Dj and they come in and start playing club music and I’ll go over to them and say, “This is not a club. This is a roller rink. You have to play the entire song out. It has to be skateable. It has to be a certain rhythm” and I’ll have to show them, you know, how to judge that rhythm. And I say, “and you can’t mix songs because you know, we’re skaters and we’re flying along and we’re skating. You can’t just stop on a beat and start skating to a different one. It just doesn’t work.” So, you know, you can’t, you can’t mix it. Got to play the song out. It’s gotta be skateable.

Jeff: 24:21 So you’re reviewing, you’re reviewing skating rinks, but you’re also helping out the djs out there. That’s great. That’s good.

Ginger: 24:27 Yeah, I do. I have been told that I am the worst critic when it comes to skate music.

Jeff: 24:36 Wait, why is that?

Ginger: 24:39 I’ve had a few tell me that. But there’s this one DJ in Atlanta. And, um, sometimes I would see him, you know, his name would pop up and I would be like, Oh God, you know, like, oh Geez, I’d rather stay in a hotel room. I’m like, forget it, you know? And, um, I saw him at this event, you know, couple of years had gone by and I saw him at this event. I walked in the building and I totally forgot he was playing. And I’m like, damn it. I’m like, Oh, you know, and then I put my skates on, I’m like, okay, well I’m going to fake my way through this. Right. And then, I don’t know about an hour goes by and I’m jamming skating.

Ginger: 25:24 I had totally forgot he was up there playing and all of a sudden I looked at him, I’m like, damn, he’s doing a really good job. You know, and I skated all night. It was like four or five hours. I skated hard. So at the end of the night, you know, I always give credit where credit is due. So I stopped and I thanked him for playing and told him what a good job he did. And I walked out the building. And so then the next day I always write up a little thing about the night before. I’ll say, you know, Skate Critic was in the building last night and so and so is pumping out the hits and Dah, Dah, and you know, make sure you come tonight. We’ve got one more night. So I wrote this whole thing about how good he did. Right? So the next night we were at the event, he comes from across the floor and he’s like, Ginger, oh my God. He goes, I want to thank you for all that you wrote. He goes, you writing that just touched my heart because you’re the hardest person on us, skate djs out there. And I was like, Oh, well you’re welcome. Thank you.

Jeff: 26:33 That’s awesome. That’s cool. So give me some of your favorites. What, what, what are some good skate songs out there that you love?

Ginger: 26:41 Uh, I am a rap girl. I like skating rap. Sadity by Too Short. E-40. I also love house music. Like Old Man’s House, um, Journey to the Sun. You start playing house music I will not stop skating. You’d have to yank me off the floor by the end of the night, say it’s time to go home.

Jeff: 27:10 So with so many rinks that you’ve been to, I’m sure you’ve seen some odd or like very unique things. So I always kind of like to see this when I’ve gone to a few different rinks. I certainly haven’t been to 300, but, uh, I was curious like what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen sold in a skating rink snack bar.

Ginger: 27:30 Oh my God. I just came from Orbit and they sold these things called them Mist Twist Skittles. They were, uh, it was a drink called the Mist Twist or Twist Mist or something like that. And it’s, it was a soda drink and they took the Skittles and they put them in this drink and they let them melt and then they freeze them. And then they sell them as like a popsicle and the kids are just crazy over them. Like that was the most bizarre thing. But the kids loved them. And I was like, who thought of that? But nobody would answer me. That’s interesting. Who came up with the idea? So yeah, I’ve seen some interesting things in rinks.

Jeff: 28:17 Yeah, I’d been to a number of the rinks growing up here in Texas. Um, but then I guess it was about two or three years ago, my younger daughter Violet got really into speed skating. And so we went to nationals out in Nebraska and went to a couple rinks out there. And one of the rinks we went to actually had a bar in it. And I was like, that’s weird to me that they were like selling alcohol inside a skating rink. I mean like, you know, skating and drinking didn’t seem to like mix to me and I just had never seen it before. Do you, do you see that often in rinks? Do a lot of rinks have bars in them?

Ginger: 28:55 So it used to be, there was only two in the country that had bars in them and now there’s, I think it’s up to 10 or 11. And I, I don’t agree with drinking and skating. I just don’t, they just don’t go together. You know, skating with a drunk, is just not pretty at all. Um, or someone that’s high. So I, I don’t agree with bars in rinks. I understand why they do it, you know, to make more money. Um, their justification most of the time is the adults are drinking and the kids are out skating. Um, I have sat at rinks that have bars like for an hour or more and just watched to see if the people who are drinking are getting sloshed and then they go out on the skate floor. I have not seen any of that yet except for, um, uh, bowling rink combination.

Ginger: 29:54 And now I’ve seen people get stupid drunk there and then go, oh, let’s go skating. So you know,

Jeff: 30:01 Sounds like a recipe for injury yourself.

Ginger: 30:05 Yeah. Yeah. I can tell you about many a drunk people on the skate floor, but I don’t think we have time for all that.

Jeff: 30:13 So what floor surfaces do you see most often with all these rinks that you’ve been to? Are most of them hardwood or are they, are they a different type?

Ginger: 30:22 I have seen every type of floor you can imagine. Oh my gosh. It just is unreal. The different floors that are out there and the different ideas people try to come up with.

Jeff: 30:39 What’s the oddest one you’ve seen?

Ginger: 30:43 Commercial Tile. Yeah. That is slippery. You don’t even want to be on that. I, I’ve seen it in two or three rinks now. And I’m like, Eh, how long do I got to skate on that?

Ginger: 30:55 You know, it’s just a bad idea. Um, I did see a rink one time had asphalt. And uh, I had one of the kids with me and I was putting my skates on and she’s always quick to put her skates on. So she puts her skates on, she gets on the floor, she leaned her head over to me and she goes, I might not want to come out here. And they go, why? And she goes, you see that on the ground? She points to the asphalt. And I said, yeah. And she goes, it’s the same thing inside. And I’m like, what? So I said, well, I have to measure it. So I got to skate on it, at least a lap to count it as that I skated there. So I get out there and I skate on it and measure it and I literally skated a lap and a half if that.

Ginger: 31:44 And I get off and I start taking my skates off in the manager comes over to me and she, she goes, you’re leaving already? I look to her and I said, that is not a skate floor. And she goes, Oh, why? I said that’s asphalt. I said, it chews up your wheels. And she looks at me and she goes, oh, is that what’s wrong with all of our rental skates? And I went, oh my God. Her rental skates were all chewed up the wheels. I was like, oh my God. Oh God. I walked out of there. I was like, oh, mum’s the word.

Jeff: 32:21 Like they didn’t even know that asphalt was bad for skate wheels.

Ginger: 32:25 Yeah. They didn’t even know. No idea. It was crazy.

Jeff: 32:31 I’m going to put you on the spot here. Do you have a favorite rink?

Ginger: 32:37 I hate that question.

Jeff: 32:40 I knew you were going to hate that.

Ginger: 32:43 I have a favorite rink in every state I go to. And so in all fairness, everywhere, every state I go into, I have a favorite rink that you know, I love. Of course I love a bigger rink. I, the bigger the better because then I can just get crazy and go all over the floor. Of course, a rotunda floor makes me drool. So a favorite rink? Besides home (Sunrise Roller Land in Citrus Heights, California – that’s my home rink). For the moment that would be Portland, Oregon, The Oaks.

Jeff: 33:30 Yeah, The Oaks.

Ginger: 33:31 The Oaks. Anybody says there’s something going on up there. I’m like, oh, I got some extra miles I can fly up.

Jeff: 33:42 Do you fly to most of these or do you ever take big long cross country trips driving?

Ginger: 33:48 My rule is if it’s 12 hours or less, I’ll drive. And if it’s 12 hours or more, I’ll fly. Although lately I’m starting to shorten that little timeframe. Um, I have done a cross country trip one time. It was absolutely bonkers. And I had a ball. I flew into St Louis, I was there for a week, and then I flew up to Cleveland, Ohio and I picked up someone and then we drove back to California. And so I literally drove and hit a rink, uh, you know, at least once a day all the way back. And it took us like six or seven days. And it was awesome.

Jeff: 34:32 Wow, that’s neat. That sounds like a fun trip.

Ginger: 34:35 It was. And I’d like to do another one. I just haven’t planned out in my head completely where I want to start, and where I want to go.

Jeff: 34:43 So I’m curious, you know, I asked you about your favorite rink. Um, well we’d like to know, you don’t have to name names if you don’t want to, but I’m curious to know there’s gotta be some that you’ve been to that have just been in really bad condition, like the worst condition. And so I was curious like what, what made it that particular rink maybe just a, a really bad rink, you know, maybe some of the attributes of it.

Ginger: 35:05 Um, there’s one rink that comes to mind and the rink was, I think it was 39 years old and it hadn’t been touched in probably 39 years. And it was on somebody’s farm. And the owner was slightly intoxicated and there was dust and dirt everywhere. Like I couldn’t, I couldn’t touch anything cause I, it was just, I had dirt everywhere. I had dirt on my, my butt from sitting down. I had dirt on my skates. I had dirt on my bag because they hit the ground, you know, and it, it was just filthy. And then in the middle of the floor, he had glued some carpet to the middle of the floor.

Jeff: 36:03 Why?

Ginger: 36:03 I don’t know, when I asked, he didn’t really answer me, so I couldn’t figure it out. And the, and the floor just had huge cracks from one end to the other. Um, and then this carpet was shaped like an L right in the middle of the floor. And then the kids would be skating along and then jump on the carpet and big plumes of dust would come up.

Ginger: 36:32 You know, the, uh, the grandson was running the snack bar and I went up to the snack bar, he was picking his nose and we won’t talk about the rest of it. And then he asked me if I needed some help and I’m like, no, no, I’m good.

Jeff: 36:48 Oh Gosh.

Ginger: 36:51 No. So it was, you know, the, the, the owner was walking around carrying like he had like a, a bottle of cleaning solution in one hand and like a brush in the other. And he, he got within like four feet of me and I could smell the alcohol and I’m like, oh my God. And then he chased me out to the parking lot and he asked me if I was going to come in and review his rink and if we were going to go in his office and talk about it. And I’m like, no, I got to go. Off to the next rink. I’m outta here.

Jeff: 37:26 Real busy. Real busy.

Ginger: 37:27 Yeah. Yeah. I’m super busy. Yeah. I couldn’t get, I couldn’t have got out of there any faster than I did, you know.

Jeff: 37:37 That’s amazing. Wow. So it was indoors, but it was on somebody’s farm.

Ginger: 37:42 It was on a farm. Yeah, it was crazy. You’re right.

Jeff: 37:49 So with, with all these rinks that you’ve looked at, what are some of the most common defects you see across all the different rinks? Like usually if there’s something wrong, what are, what are the things that are typically wrong that you see?

Ginger: 38:03 The things that I see that are wrong is, is people that don’t take care of their floors. You know and it’s like that’s the most important part of the roller rink. And that’s the reason you’re in business is that floor. And so that should be top priority. And you get these people, they get these rinks and, and even though I just said the floor is the top priority because it is, however, in reality your roof, it goes above that floor is way more important. So you get people that buy these rinks and you know, maybe the roof has damage or whatever. And instead of fixing that roof, you should fix the roof first and then fix the floor. Or before winter hits, if you buy a rink in the summer, you should get up there and run some water over that rink to make sure that roof is good before winter time hits.

Ginger: 39:08 But I see these people, so first off they don’t, they don’t take care of their roof, the roof will leak and then the floor gets flooded, the floor is ruined. Um, or they don’t fix their floor. They don’t fix it correctly. They don’t sand the floor down when it needs to be sanded and recoat it. They don’t sweep it during, before sessions and after sessions. You know those types of things. Those are the worst part because that’s why you’re there is you’re there to skate. And so if the floor is not right, you’re not going to have a good time. You know, I mean, being a really good skater that I am, if I go into a rink and there’s a spot the floor’s messed up, I’m going to avoid that part. Which means I’m going to be cutting off that entire section while I skate.

Ginger: 40:08 And so that section is not getting used anyways. And it just, I see some people, they’ll, they’ll have a floor and it’s damaged and it needs repair. And then they’re showing me how they remodeled the snack bar and all these great little gadgets they bought. And I’m thinking you should have fixed your floor. That’s most important. The floor is first. So I neglect of your skate floor. It’s huge because when a skater comes into the building, all we really care about is the floor, the employees and the music and the rest of it we just quite don’t care about. As long as those three things are good, we’re good. Ready to roll.

Jeff: 40:53 I think that, uh, you, you pretty much nailed it. Those are the three things that most people care the most about. I think on the flip side, the rink owners are always probably thinking about how do we get more money? How do we make more? Right? So it’s all about snack bar, snack bar, snack bar and video games and all that other stuff.

Ginger: 41:09 You know, and their right to an extent. However, if your floor is jacked up, people are going to stop coming because they’re not having a good time skating. Their only going to spend so much money in the snack bar and the video games, but they’re really there to skate and the skating is what’s going to get them hooked and keep them going there. If your floor is jacked up and there’s another rink that’s 25 minutes away and they got a beautiful floor, guess what’s going to happen? They’re going to head over to that other rink. And they’re not going to care that you spent $40,000 on a snack bar or you know, all this money on video games and laser tag and jungle gyms and all that.

Jeff: 41:53 Well I’m going to switch gears just a little bit cause you know, I found out about you from my interview with Dyana and Tina, the directors of United Skates. And they were talking to me about how they got a lot of data from you to be able to actually build one of the graphics that they have in their documentary. And so I was curious to know, um, can you just tell us a little bit about that? You know, tell us a little bit about all the data that you collect and um, it sounds like you’re, you’ve been to 318 rinks, but you said you have a list of almost 1200 that you’re keeping track of?

Ginger: 42:33 Yes. So when United Skates documentary approached me, when they started five years ago, they were talking about all the stuff that they needed. And then when it came down to the production of there’s a scene in the movie where they put up a map of the United States and it shows the roughly 5,000 rinks that we had at one time. That was about the most rinks that the US has had is 5,000. And so they put little dots on this map of those 5,000 rinks and the areas they were in. And then they had a clock and it rolls through time to the future. And at the end of production, we had 1,265 rinks or 56 I think it’s 56 at the time. And so it rolls and it pulls those dots out as those rinks go away and die until you get down to those 1200 roughly rinks in at the time of production whereas today it’s 1,163.

Ginger: 43:45 But I keep track, as I said earlier, of all of the live rinks in the US and I also keep track of all the dead rinks. So I have a dead rink list. And so if a rink dies, I put it onto the list, you know, get the address of it, try to get the day it opened, the date it closed. You know, sometimes they changed names several times, write all that down. Just so those rinks aren’t forgotten. You know, when I’m doing searches and stuff online, sometimes I’ll run across a rink and I’ll just make a note of it. Or if I’m on my phone, I’ll take a picture of it. I’ll look later to make sure that, you know, if it’s still in business and if it’s not, put it on a dead rink list, if it’s not on there or if it is alive, put it on the live rink list. So on and so forth.

Jeff: 44:40 So I know you said you had a database that you’re keeping track of all this. How are you actually finding the new rinks as they open? Are people just contacting you and telling you, hey, I got a rink, or how do you know when they close?

Ginger: 44:51 Well, now that I’ve been doing Skate Critic for so long, people contact me all the time and tell me if a rink is closing or opening. And so it’s not as hard as it used to be because before I’d had to do searches constantly to figure out, you know, dead rinks or live rinks. But now it pretty much everybody, you know, the minute they hear when that rink might be closing their like, Ginger, oh my God, I think this rink is going to close. And then I’ll start scoping it out to find out if that’s true or not. I also, when I go to do reviews, I will ask rink owners to tell me what rinks are in the area to confirm if they have the same rinks that I have in my mind on my list, or I’ll ask them to tell me about rinks that used to be in the area. And they’ll tell me about rinks that have closed. And some rink owners, I will sit down and let them go through my book, my rink list book, and they’ll go through it and they’ll tell me, yep, all those rinks are still here, or you’re missing one or you’re missing two. And then sometimes I’ll go to….actually, it’s kind of a funny story. Sometimes I’ll go to a local rink owner here. And one time I went to him and we were talking about rinks and he said, you know, he’s in the RSA and he says, he said, oh, there’s only 600 rinks in the country. And I said, no, there’s not, there’s 1200. And he says, no, there’s not there’s 600, I bet you. And he goes, yes. He goes, what? And I said, I said, you let me see your list of rinks in the RSA and I’ll let you see mine. And he goes, okay. And so I took his, his rink list and I found 30 rinks that I didn’t have that were in the RSA and he found 600 and something that he didn’t have.

Ginger: 46:57 So when we were done, he looks at me and he goes, yes, how much for a copy of that list. And I just laughed.

Jeff: 47:10 How long did it take you to put the first list together?

Ginger: 47:13 It took me over a year and I hired two people and paid them to help. And towards the end, cause I was, you know, it was taking too long for me. But once I got the list together and got it going, and now I just sit down every other year and I physically call every rink to make sure they’re still in business. And some rink owners joke with me and they’re like, yeah, you’re just calling to make sure I’m still here.

Jeff: 47:40 And you’re like, yeah, I kind of am.

Ginger: 47:45 Yeah. The last time I did it was just like nine months ago. I sat down and 102 rinks just quietly closed their doors.

Jeff: 47:56 Wow.

Ginger: 47:57 In two years. And that’s not counting all the rinks I knew that closed. So.

Jeff: 48:04 Wow. How many have closed since you started tracking?

Ginger: 48:08 Um, since my first original list, probably about 200-300.

Jeff: 48:16 Wow.

Ginger: 48:17 Yeah. On average we lose three rinks a month. And then you might get one that reopens and you might get a new one, but the average is three rinks close a month in the US.

Jeff: 48:30 So it seems like the trend is definitely going towards continuing towards the negative. Do you see any hope of it turning in the other direction?

Ginger: 48:39 Well, I will say this. So in the last couple months I have noticed that my number 1,163 rinks has stayed the same, which is weird.

Jeff: 48:51 That’s good. That’s good.

Ginger: 48:52 Yeah. So I’m just waiting to see and when it starts climbing, I’m going to be all excited. I will be like, yes. And you want to hear another sad part. So we have 1,163 rinks in the US, outside of the US in the world, we only have 38 rinks in the rest of the world.

Jeff: 49:13 Wait, no what?

Ginger: 49:15 Yeah, there’s only 38 actual roller rinks in the rest of the world. Yeah.

Jeff: 49:23 I’m speechless. I didn’t know that. So I’m confused because I know roller skating is big in other places, I guess they just do it all outdoors.

Ginger: 49:32 They do it outdoors. They do it gymnasiums. They do it in basketball courts. Yeah.

Jeff: 49:41 Huh. Wow.

Ginger: 49:42 Yeah.

Jeff: 49:44 Well that’s, that’s really interesting. So are those all like kind of just spread out those 38? Or are they kind of bunched together in different continents?

Ginger: 49:53 They are pretty spread out. Let’s see where my list.

Jeff: 49:59 Gosh, I guess we should feel pretty fortunate than that we have 1100 still.

Ginger: 50:05 We should. So, we have quite a few rinks in Australia. We have a couple in Canada. There’s one in China. There’s one in the Netherlands, one in Japan. Where else? Um, yeah, pretty much most of them are in Australia. Yeah. There’s not very many rinks outside the US.

Jeff: 50:40 I didn’t know that.

Ginger: 50:42 But they have a huge skating population outside. Yeah, it’s just they skate. They skate wherever they can, which is good.

Jeff: 50:53 Have you ever been to any of the rinks internationally outside the country?

Ginger: 50:57 I have been to several rinks in Canada. So I have been international. One of these days I’m going to get to Australia and it’s going to be game on. I’m going to skate all of them. And there’s a bunch of rink owners there that are like, come to Australia.

Jeff: 51:16 And, you’re like, pay for my flight.

Ginger: 51:19 Yeah. I only have, I only have one sponsor, so. Yup.

Jeff: 51:24 Well that’s awesome. Who’s your sponsor?

Ginger: 51:26 That is Susan Geary of RollerSk8r.com. Yes, she’s awesome. She actually invited me to come to her house and hopefully I’m going to, I’m looking for flights right now to book to her house in June and she says, we’re going to go on this skate adventure. I’m sure she’ll write an article about me and post it on her website. I will probably write a review about her.

Jeff: 51:54 That’s great.

Ginger: 51:55 Yeah, it’s probably illegal if you put us together and let us loose. But that’s okay.

Jeff: 52:04 So you’ve been to so many rinks and obviously you’ve, you’ve talked to lots of owners and just different people. What do you think we can do to actually save the skating rinks that are out there still? Do you have any ideas

Ginger: 52:19 To save them?

Jeff: 52:21 Yeah. To save them, to keep them from closing.

Ginger: 52:24 The best thing to save them, you know, keep your rinks in good condition, keep the floor in good condition, you know, smile even when things are going wrong. So the public doesn’t know. And advertise. A lot of rinks I see they don’t advertise like they could or they should. Um, you know, it’s, there’s people out there that need to go skating that don’t know it, you know. Drag them to the rinks. Back in the old days, owners, they used to have buses for their rinks and they would go out and bus kids from the outskirts, down to their rinks to skate sessions. I mean, nobody has a bus anymore that buses their kids to the rink. Um, even myself, I mean when my kids were little, you know, we drive, if you were a friend with my kids or you hung out at our house or you were the neighbor, you were going to end up at the roller rink somehow, some way. You just skate. And skating is something that that stays with you for the rest of your life. So no matter what you do in life, say your life goes down the wrong trail or you know, you get into things that you shouldn’t be in. You always have skating and you always have something you can fall back on. Even if you go away for 10, 20, 30 years, you can come back any time and it’s something good. It’s something healthy. You know, you can’t go wrong roller skating, let me tell you. So these rink owners need to, you know, just come up with other ways to get the kids in there. Advertise, scoop them up, bring them, bring them down to the rink. I think we should bring back the buses, honestly, just bus them into the rink like they used to in the old days.

Jeff: 54:25 Yeah, I know at the rink that I worked at in Arlington Forum Roller World, if you’ve ever been there before or not, but that’s, that’s where I used to work. Actually, It’s in, it’s like right on the border of Grand Prairie and Arlington.

Ginger: 54:41 Oh Forum Roller World in Grand Prairie?

Jeff: 54:43 Yeah

Ginger: 54:43 Yes. I have been there.

Jeff: 54:46 Yeah. So that’s where I worked when I was a teenager and, yeah, that’s what they used to do. They used to bus the daycares in during the summer, and I mean we used to have 500 kids on the floor on that little bitty floor. There were 500 kids.

Ginger: 55:09 That’s how my first rink at Hayword Valley Vista was. Ed used to stand at the door with a clicker, and when it got to 600, he shut the door in your face. It didn’t matter if your best friend got in the building before you did, you weren’t coming in. Three people would exit. He’d let three more in. And it was packed all the time, you know? Yeah. Those buses help.

Jeff: 55:33 Definitely. Awesome. Well, I think it’s a pretty good place to stop. I was wondering, um, is there any other questions that you think I should have asked you? Anything else that you know, that we didn’t cover?

Ginger: 55:46 I don’t know. I could talk about roller rinks all day long.

Jeff: 55:50 Well we’ll definitely have you on the show again in the, in the future because I know that you’re just chock full of all kinds of interesting stories and this has been really entertaining.

Ginger: 56:02 Oh, I’m glad. Yeah. Everyone should go see the United skates documentary and then the scene with the United States map. It’ll bring you to tears and that’s all my work. Every single bit of that and the person that you know actually put it in into life. The first time I saw it I cried like a baby. I was like, oh my God. Finally the world is seeing what I’ve, I’ve seen for years in paper. So.

Jeff: 56:30 That’s, that’s awesome ginger. So if people want to learn more about you, where’s the best place for them to follow you?

Ginger: 56:36 The best place is on Skate Critic on Facebook. I have a page and I have a group, but more interactions in the group cause we have like question of the week and Thursday tips when I travel and there’s always something going on on there. I’ll have contest on there. Like right now I have a contest between two skating rinks and whichever one gets the most hearts is going to win, the general manager is going to win, a roller skate sticker. But yeah, you can find me on Instagram, RollerSkateCritic. You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr. You can also find me on Youtube, um, either under RollerSkateCritic or Skate Critic.

Jeff: 57:22 Awesome. Well Ginger, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show.

Ginger: 57:27 Uh huh. Thank you. This is a blast.

Jeff: 57:30 Thanks again. Bye Bye.

Ginger: 57:32 Bye Bye.

Jeff: 57:33 All right, another episode in the books. I want to thank Ginger Mathews again, so much for coming on the show. She’s a wealth of information on skating rinks and so I know we’ll be having her on a future podcast episode as well, so be sure to stay tuned.

Jeff: 57:48 If you’d like more information about today’s episode, you want to get some links to Ginger’s Facebook page or Instagram or Youtube, be sure to check out the show notes. You can get a transcript of this episode and you can also get all the links that we mentioned during today’s show. To get to the show notes for this episode, go to RollerSkateDad.com/11.

Jeff: 58:11 Also, if you’d like to help the Roller Skate Dad podcast out, a rating and a review on the podcasting platform that you’re listening on would be greatly appreciated. So please rate and review the Roller Skate Dad podcast wherever you listen. And thank you.

Jeff: 58:27 Finally, if you’re not a member of the Roller Skate Dad Club, you’re going to want to join. Sign up is free and easy. All you need is your name and your email address and you’re in. The Skate Club is a great way to stay in touch with me as well as get behind the scenes access to the show, so head on over to the RollerSkateDad.com website and join the skate club today.

Jeff: 58:50 All right everybody, that’s another episode in the books. I want to thank you guys again so much for being here. And, so until next week, get on out there and skate.

Announcer: 59:02 Thank you for listening to the Roller Skate Dad podcast at www.rollerskatedad.com. If you liked what you heard today, please be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you’re listening.

Announcer: 43:39 Thank you for listening to the Roller Skate Dad Podcast at www.rollerskatedad.com. If you liked what you heard today, please be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you’re listening.


Wrapping Up

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Jeff Stone

Jeff Stone started the website RollerSkateDad.com back in 2015. The site specializes in roller skate reviews and advice about skates and all things roller skating. When Jeff isn't skating with his two daughters Lily and Violet, he enjoys writing code, cooking, watching movies and hanging out with his wife Claire and their german shepherd, Electra.

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