Terrence Clarke has had a vision of Red Arrow Park becoming a roller rink for many years.
The rink, which was installed in 1999 at 920 N. Water St., currently operates about four months out of the year as Slice of Ice skating rink. Clarke – who has a roller-skating business called Roll Train with partner Ellen Fine - wants to activate the space as a community roller rink during the spring, summer and autumn months.
“This is in the center of our city and it’s empty for most months out of the year,” says Clarke. “We’re trying to create a Downtown atmosphere of healthy activity, with scheduled sessions, theme sessions, for everyone – kids, Downtown workers – to be a part of.”
Recently, county supervisors agreed this was a good idea and something beneficial for Milwaukee. In May, the Parks Department will present a report to the Parks Committee.
“This is a really positive, wholesome, much-needed activity for Milwaukee County that can provide something good for kids, adults and families,” says Ryan Clancy, 4th District Supervisor. “Dollars are tough to find, but I do know this has wide public support and it’s our job as supervisors to upgrade public spaces.”
In 2009, the Red Arrow rink briefly became a rollerskating area, but the program was short lived.
Clarke and Fine have tried to revive rollerskating at Red Arrow Park, but have been denied numerous times because park officials were concerned rollerskating would damage the surface of the rink or the pipes beneath that keep the ice frozen.
Clarke contacted the company that made the rink, Commercial Refrigeration Services in Virginia, Minn., and asked if it was safe for roller skating. He received a response in writing that indeed, it was.
“The concrete surface on ice rink floors is very durable and can be used for various dry floor activities,” reads the email sent by company representative, Vicky Merten. “It has been our experience that the surface of the concrete holds up very well under this activity."
Merten also wrote that they have installed numerous rinks similar to the one in Red Arrow Park that have served as both roller and ice skating rinks for many years including the Guidant John Rose Oval in Roseville, Minn.; Olympic Center in Lake Placid, NY; and the St. Louis Park Outdoor Recreation Center in St. Louis Park, Minn.
Roller skating has never gone out of style, but experienced a resurgence in mainstream popularity during the pandemic.
In 2021, The Monroe Street Midway, a new attraction featuring an open-air roller rink, sport courts, art, music and food trucks, opened in Downtown Detroit. The roller rink is run by Rollercade, the nation's oldest Black-owned skating rink.
San Francisco opened an outdoor roller rink in Golden Gate Park and this summer, for the first time since 1940, Rockefeller Center will use its plaza for roller skating.
“It doesn’t make sense. If the builders of the rink say the surface is safe to rollerskate on and we’ve seen this happening in multiple other cities, why not in Milwaukee? We’re the city of festivals and no one hangs out in the middle of the city during our most vibrant time of year,” says Fine.
If the plan for a Red Arrow skating rink is approved, Clarke and Fine hope to be involved in the programming. Together they have 50 years of indoor and outdoor roller skating experience. Aside from Roll Train, Clarke also leads skating groups in McKinley Park called “Skate @ the Lake.”
“The rink is not just for roller skaters," says Fine. "It's for Milwaukee."
Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for more information about a roller rink at Red Arrow as it becomes available.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.