Rockin' RollerDrome: Still Crazy After All These Years

NAMPA, Idaho (KBOI) -- Under the mirror ball, there's still life in the old Nampa RollerDrome, though it's anything but a still life.

"Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we have anywhere from 350-400 kids in here each session," explains manager Josh Lenty.

Lenty's family has owned the place since 1991 and has been in the roller-skating business a lot longer than that.

"We've been around skating pretty much since it was invented in the United States."

A photo on his desk shows his grandfather in competition at age 18, along with his aunt and a cousin.

Some peg the invention of roller-skating to an enterprising New Yorker in the 1890's. But Lenty says his grandfather first skated in the late 1920's, when the activity began to gain traction in major cities.

The RollerDrome rink goes back almost as far--to 1948. And it still boasts the original hardwood floor, a rarity in the entire United States.

Lenty says many visitors don't know how lucky they are to have a roller rink with a wood floor.

"Ours is a floating floor," he says. "It's got asphalt underneath. It's got sand and then it's two-by-six and then our floor. It gives a little when you fall."

Most newer rinks are constructed of concrete pads overlaid with urethane. Lenty says you can feel the difference in a sudden spill.

Spend an hour under the neon ceiling and you quickly learn that the RollerDrome is a world all its own.

The organ music of old has been replaced with a DJ playing the classic hits of the 80's and 90's. It's a far better soundtrack for the dreams made here.

Ten-year-old Nike Campbell already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.

"Olympic champion," he says with a huge grin.

That's Reis Lenty's dream, too.

Both kids demonstrate a prowess on skates beyond their years. And it's a health boost for them, too.

"They can burn 750 calories an hour skating and have a Kit Kat while they're doing it," says dad Josh.

That benefit isn't lost on visitors like Tiffany Cram of Boise.

"I'm trying to give my kids the same experience I had roller-skating when I was a 7th grader."

Lenty's biggest hurdle is letting the public know the place even exists because the refrain is the same wherever he goes.

"It's either 'I didn't know there's a skating rink around' or 'Omigosh, I haven't done that for years.'"

To boost attendance, he offers all kinds of join-in-the-fun games, like the limbo. As soon as the bar appears in the center of the rink, the line is 20 or so skaters long.

The idea isn't to win but just have low-impact fun.

Speed-skating coach Jeremy Campbell has his own reasons for loving the RollerDrome.

"It's a social place. People come here and get their hearts broken, fall in love."

Campbell even got married here.

The meeting-place aspect was part of the experience long before even the mural of Mickey and Minnie Mouse was added to a back wall.

It's easy to find yourself thinking there's a fantasy quality to this skating palace, but not so for businessman Lenty.

He's constantly looking for ways to boost attendance, especially because of a persistent and maddening rumor that the Nampa rink shut down years ago. He says it's fallout from the six months in 2008 when they closed the place to install a new roof.

"Winter is our time to dig ourselves out of the red, get us to next summer."

But judging by his constant grin and glad-handing, he seems happy to be ringmaster, under a big top of his own making.

Where dreams may come, where the world tends to melt away and where, like the mythical god Mercury, you can have wings on your feet.

Just watch out for Nike.