Skating has a rich tradition on Long Island, and enjoyed a surge of popularity in the 70s. Back then, there was a plethora of roller rinks to lace up a pair of skates and travel in a circle with your friends for a few hours. Sadly, those places are few and far between today. Let’s take a look back at some of the more memorable places to skate during the decade.
Numerous roller rinks once dotted the Long Island landscape, but by the end of the 50s, interest in the activity waned and the future didn’t look too bright for this once popular activity. And then, disco saved the day. Roller disco which has its roots in NYC, spread to the island like wildfire. Soon after, traditional roller rinks were doing away with the organ music in favor of big sound systems and DJs that played the current hits. Soon, much of the island’s youth were taking to the rinks on the weekends, during summer vacation, and as a part of countless school field trips.
They traveled to places like Levittown, Commack and Bay Shore, and skated on the beautifully-polished hardwood floors of these grand arenas, or at least tried. Those not so blessed with a sense of balance spent much of the time gripping onto the side rails, and hoping they could make it through the experience without taking a spectacular fall in front of all their friends. There were usually video games and snack bars and places to just hang out and talk, so even if you weren’t inclined to break any speed records, there were still plenty of opportunities to socialize.
For others, the rink was the place to show off your formidable skating skills, either to the accompaniment of traditional organ music, or to the groovy dance hits of the day. Thanks to the rise of roller disco, a spinning mirrored disco ball and strobe lights became a staple at rinks around the island, making roller rinks the raves of their day.
The roller disco era would peak in the late 70s, but by the time the 80s were in full swing, disco was on the way out and so were too many of these wonderful rinks. The one in Levittown, which opened in the 40s, closed its doors in 1986. Commack’s rink closed in 1995. The rink in Bayshore (where yours truly spent considerable time in the late 70s) lasted until 2001. The building, in horrible shape, was mercifully torn down a few years later.
Thankfully, there are still a handful of places to lace up those skates for anyone feeling nostalgic. Hot Skates in Lynbrook is still going strong, as is United Skates of America in Seaford. In St. James, The Sports Arena also offers roller skating as well. It’s a far cry from the glory days of Long Island’s rich skating history, but at least the tradition hasn’t disappeared entirely and is being kept alive for future generations. But they’ll never know what it was like during the 70s, when the local roller rink was the place to be.
So, what roller rinks did you skate at back in the day? We hope you’ll take a moment to share all those roller skating recollections with all of us in our comments section below.