By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Today, the Roller Garden is one of the few remaining roller rinks in the Twin Cities. It’s now celebrating more than 75 years as a skating rink, and the same family has owned it for 50 consecutive years.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us how they roll.

Funny how time just skates on by.

The Roller Garden has been a roller rink since Harry Truman was President. But the building itself goes back even further. Its first purpose was for horse riding and indoor polo and later tennis took over.

“The first indoor tennis in Minnesota was played right out there. It was all glass windows and birds would fly in and it was an asphalt floor,” said Bill Sahly of the Roller Garden.

Eventually, roller skating became the only show in the building. And on February 1st, 1969 Bill and his father-in-law bought it.

“He asked, do you want to run a roller rink? And I thought what can there be to that,” said Bill.

Turns out quite a bit as WCCO’s Dave Moore found out in 1973. The Roller Garden was the focus of a “Moore on Sunday” story.

“Roller skating is alive and kicking. At least it is at the Roller Gardens in St. Louis Park,” said Moore.

“I think that today’s young people, especially, have to have someplace to go,” said Russ Johnston, one of the owners at that time.

There was music and keyboards along with long hair, bunny hops and bell bottoms. Not to mention skates with pom-poms.

“That was absolutely the 70’s. And those pom-poms on the skates, the more you had the cooler you were,” said general manager Kim Swenson.

From the 1970s, fast forward to present day and a brand new decade. Kim is another family member that’s developed a love-skate relationship with the Roller Garden. She grew up there and while many other rinks have closed their doors, they’re still going strong.

“Getting the kids out here and doing activities. You are entertaining them the whole time. It’s a whole, lot better than having them in your house, that’s for sure,” said Kim.

“All my girls have learned to skate here. They just love it. I see them progress and get better and better and more confident,” said guest Autumn Miller, mom of three girls.

The styles may have changed slightly over the years, but the love for skating hasn’t, at least here.

“Dave Moore had a line about kids needing a place to go for good, clean wholesome fun. Do you think that still holds true today?” asked John Lauritsen. “Absolutely. Something that families can go to. Something that mom or grandma did when they were young,” replied Bill.

Bill would be the first to say it’s been a good run. But really, it’s been a good roll. After all, when four generations have kept the rink open for 50 years, you must be doing something right.

“It’s kept a roof over our heads. The whole family can work together. That’s a joy that a lot of families don’t have,” said Bill.

The Roller Garden hosts about 2,000 birthday parties a year, and they even have adult-only skating sessions.

John Lauritsen

Comments