(Number Three of a Series)
My wife and I decided to visit the newer version of Akron’s Rollercade skating rink, the G.S.F.E. Cade on a recent Friday evening for a special skating session. We decided to forego our regular session at the Pla-Mor on Thursday because it would have been too much for us to do back-to-back sessions, especially on a work night.
The special session was to honor one of Akron’s well-known skaters, the late Harlan Ferguson. The tribute to him demonstrates the camaraderie and loyalty of skaters throughout the Cleveland and Akron area. While I did not know him personally, I know that he was a fun-loving person that the skaters in the area really appreciated very much, and their gesture of having a private skate session in his honor was very heart-warming.
The old Rollercade had a similar history to that of the old Euclid Rollerdrome where it closed and reopened under new ownership, except that the Rollercade was closed for much longer as a skating rink. For a few years, it actually operated under the name Rollercade Bingo Hall. The skating floor had remained in place for all of that time, and when it reopened under its present ownership, it was the only skating rink within the Akron city limits. For some, the alternative skating rink in the area was Rocky’s in Tallmadge, a few exits to the north off State Route 8, but it was difficult to take Rocky’s seriously as an alternative skating rink because of its poor and inconsistent floor conditions. It was dirty more often than not, and there were some warped or missing floorboards in the center area where, if you weren’t careful, you could go airborne or go down very quickly if you weren’t paying attention. Needless to say, it was exciting to hear that the old Rollercade was reopening, for there was a real need for a better floor in Akron to skate on.
The name G.S.F.E. Cade doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. I guessed that it involved the names of the newest owners of the rink, and I was right (According to the website, the rink is owned by Greg and Sissy Edwards…there is no explanation for the letter “F” in the name). Most people now refer to it as the Cade or the old Rollercade. Either way, it is easy to get to by expressway on East Market Street in Akron, and its hours of operation are actually at different times than the Pla-Mor in Euclid, which allows diehard skaters to attend sessions in Akron and Cleveland on four out of five days during the week without a conflict (The Cade has sessions on Monday and Wednesday evenings, while Pla-Mor is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings). This wasn’t always the case when the rink first reopened, but since that time it has turned out to be a good business plan over time.
The G.S.F.E. Cade has changed their floor since my first visit to the rink around 2008. At that time, the original floor was still down, and it wasn’t a bad floor. It was a little dirty at that time, and a little slippery from all of the residue that was there. I suspect that its early condition was not due to neglect from the new owners. It was an old floor with a fair amount of wear and tear from years and years of previous use, and it was likely beyond the point where it could stand much more of a cleaning or a major resurfacing or reconditioning. It was still serviceable, and much better than Rocky’s floor. The surface was a little too slick, however, to feel extremely comfortable moving quickly around the rink.
When we returned last month, we were surprised to see a brand new floor. The website calls it a new rotunda floor. It was in excellent condition, and the new ownership was careful to point out that no gum chewing was allowed on the floor, and for good reason—the wood on the floor was relatively “soft” under my wheels, which would not be conducive to a lot of scraping if something was to stick to the surface. The floor is one of the most aesthetically beautiful floors I have ever seen, and the grip of your wheels as you rolled on the floor surface around the rink was very secure. The softness of the floor, especially compared with Pla-Mor’s harder wood surface, was quite noticeable. In fact, I found that, after a brief session of skating on it, I was little more sore than normal because it apparently requires your muscles getting used to the slight difference as you push off and move.
I also noticed something that I had not noticed before when I skated at the rink a few years back. The overall surface of the rink floor was much smaller than what I was used to. It is slightly smaller than Pla-Mor’s floor and Wickliffe’s United Skates of America. In fact, it is the smallest floor that I am aware of in the Cleveland and Akron area. The size of the rink, however, is in no way a problem for the avid roller…there is plenty of room to skate if you are moving around the rink AND if everyone is skating within their proper lanes…and there is your problem. The lanes around the rink are relatively narrow if you consider that the center area is clearly defined by the direction of the floor boards, and if there is not any cooperation as you move about, you could be disappointed by the pace of the skaters if you are used to moving quickly on the outside. Another problem with the new floor is if you prefer skate dancing. Skate dancers move around to the music on the inside oval area around the edge while traffic moves around the floor in the skate lanes. If you are a skate dancer like my wife is, you can’t do it effectively at the Cade as you can at other rinks, because the new floor center area was not smoothed out in the same way as the lanes around the rink. The center floorboards are rough and uneven, and are only good for standing in place (the boards could literally hold your wheels in place without any effort, and rolling over them is like rolling over soft speed bumps!). While you are ill-advised to travel through the center area while rolling around the floor, you also can’t dance on your wheels without potentially hitting a speed bump and taking a spill…a big disappointment for dancers.
The G.S.F.E. Cade is a great alternative for skaters who want to move at a pace that is conducive to Akron style skating…it serves the Akron well with its design, and the floor’s condition means that it will be a favorite for many for a long time to come. Personally, while I like the floor, there are too many issues that prevent me and my wife from enjoying it more than just an occasional visit. My home floor is Pla-Mor, and I look forward to it every week.
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