Skatin’ Place in St. Cloud continues to provide plenty of family fun for all generations – West Central Tribune

ST. CLOUD — For nearly 50 years, Skatin’ Place in St. Cloud has been one of the go-to hangout spots for kids and adults alike. When it opened in 1974, it was one of the few entertainment venues around, so friends didn’t even have to plan to meet at the rink on a Friday night. It was just the place to be.

“It was the first social gathering,” said Jeff Jackson, rink owner and operations manager.

If anyone knew how special Skatin’ Place is, it would be Jackson, since he literally grew up with roller skates on his feet. The rink was opened by a group of investors, including Jackson’s grandfather, Harold Johnson. In 1985, Johnson bought out the others and took ownership of the rink. He handed over management of the business to Jackson’s parents, Jon and Sue Jackson. They would eventually buy the place from Johnson.

Jeff Jackson, owner and COO of Skatin’ Place in St. Cloud, practically grew up at the rink. It belonged first to his grandfather, then to his parents.

Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

“I started working here when I was about 5,” Jackson said.

Jackson began working more or less full-time at the rink in the early 2000s and took over operations from his parents around 2012. He has no plans to change careers. instead, he hopes to buy the place from his parents in the future.

“It seems like my happy place,” Jackson said. “I love everything about it.”

A skater is framed by the vibrant lights of Skatin’ Place during Emo Night in St. Cloud on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

And there’s a lot to enjoy. When it first opened, Skatin’ Place was primarily just a roller rink, but over the years the family business has grown to offer a wide range of entertainment. Today, visitors will find not only the ice rink, but also a large arcade, laser tag and bouncy houses. The concession stand offers a wide range of food, drinks and treats, including 14 different pizzas.

“We provide holistic family entertainment,” Jackson said. “We have stuff for all ages.”

The heart of the complex remains the ice rink. Visitors can bring their own skates or rent them from Skatin’ Place. It offers both traditional roller skates and inline skates. Recently, Jackson brought in some new skates, both for rent and for purchase. While in years past inline skates were the most popular skates, he said the popularity of traditional skates has increased in recent years.

Skatin’ Place employee Nick Ciarrochi sprays skates with disinfectant before putting them back on the racks for distribution to incoming skaters during the Emo party at Saint-Cloud on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Once a person has put on their skates, Skatin’ Place offers several different themed nights, including Disney skates and those focused on particular decades, like the 80s and 90s. Recently, the rink offered a night on the “Stranger Things” theme, based on the hit Netflix show. There are also Pride Skates every two months, and in March there were Addams Family/Emo themed parties.

“It gives people an excuse to…go out that night,” Jackson said.

Jackson wants Skatin’ Place to be a fun destination for everyone, regardless of background, age or interests. That’s why Skatin’ Place offers such a diverse set of theme nights and entertainment options. It is also a great place to hold birthday parties and other events.

A line forms as the doors open for the Emo Night session at Skatin’ Place in St. Cloud on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

“Skating is for everyone,” Jackson said.

Although roller skating never completely died out, just like vinyl records, it has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic has oddly helped, as people have been looking for fun things to do just with their homes.

Of course, the pandemic has been a tough time for Skatin’ Place, which was closed for a total of six months in the first year of the pandemic. Jackson said it helps that the family owns the building, so they don’t have to worry about rent when the place is closed. It was also unclear what state guidelines they had to follow when things started to reopen.

Eventually, however, Skatin’ Place came out the other side, as it has during lean times in the past.

“Now we’re done with that,” Jackson said.

Skaters roll around the Skatin’ Place rink while having a fun night at Emo Night in St. Cloud on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

None of the fun and entertainment at Skatin’ Place would be possible without the dedicated staff, the Skatin’ Place Crew. One member has been at the rink since 1998, another for almost 10 years and several others usually stay there for several years. Even the rink’s mascot, Roller Roo, has been around since 2000.

“It was huge” to have such a dedicated, long-term staff, Jackson said. “We’re generally a good place to work.”

Skaters roll on a newly installed skate-themed mat at Skatin’ Place in St. Cloud on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

More information about Skatin’ Place, including hours of operation, cost and a schedule of events can be found on the rink’s website, www.saintcloudskatinplace.com. People can also “like” the rink on Facebook.

Even with nearly five decades of skating and fun behind them, Jackson said there were no plans to close the rink’s doors. In fact, Jackson continues to improve and modernize the place as best he can. New games have doubled the size of the arcade and a brand new carpet has given the area a bright new look. It looks like Jackson, the team and visitors can expect even more skating fun at Skatin’ Place.

“We definitely have no intention of going anywhere,” Jackson said.

Mackenzie Werder, 14, reacts to losing a game at Skatin’ Place arcade during Emo Night in St. Cloud on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

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