It’s a little quiet at Sk8house’s rink at the moment, yet before COVID-19 it had become one of the most successful rinks in Australia. Sk8house directors Bernadine and Kevin Geary, alongside their fellow co-owners, are proud to have created a renowned brand within the local community and the skating world.
Skating encourages families to skate together because it’s one of the only sports that you can do with generations from five years old to 70-plus. With families running out of lockdown activities and exercise options, skating has seen a resurgence, which has also been driven by viral videos of young skaters across social media.
Not only is skating a COVID-safe activity that for the majority is a non-contact sport, it’s also a great hobby to learn during isolation and a fresh way to stay active. No wonder it’s making a comeback. Much like gym equipment sales, roller skates have also become a hot commodity.
Unfortunately, there are limited areas – especially within 5km of most of us – where skating safely and on flat paths is impossible. Yet the rink at Carrum Downs is sitting dormant.
The rink’s surface is 900 square metres and the building covers more than 2000 square metres, so having 10 people on the floor at any one time would equate to 90 square metres each. The ceiling is so high that a scissor lift is required to reach it, yet it’s classified as an indoor sporting venue and isn’t allowed to open. There are hopes for outdoor classes, but these won’t be given the go-ahead until the end of October, while the rink itself likely won’t be able to reopen with other sectors on October 24.
“We have been trying to get an exemption for small numbers to come in or to at least allow our athletes to train on their own at the rink, but it seems that our voice falls on deaf ears,” said Bernadine. “Everyone we speak to is sympathetic, but no one seems to be capable of doing anything to help us.”
The rink is nearly 30 years old, and aside from Christmas and a couple of other days during the year, it’s never closed its doors. It received a major makeover when the current owners took over in 2015 and again during the first lockdown, with particular attention to COVID-safe changes – only for it to be shut down again after 10 days. For Bernadine, the prospect of re-opening on November 23 seems a long way off – which is especially disappointing given the ‘big’ contact sports are back.
“We have done so much in Australia to promote skating of all disciplines, from roller derby to artistic and speed skating,” said Bernadine. “Speed skating, in particular, we are very proud of as we’re now one of the largest clubs in Australia – if not the largest. Our team has been very successful both at Victorian and national levels, with a couple of our junior boys that were due to go to Oceanias this year and be selected for the world team. Those hopes are dashed for 2020.”
With seven of the 12 skating rinks in Victoria based in metropolitan Melbourne, Sk8house is struggling to be heard because skating rinks have no governing body and hence no voice to support them.