It’s Saturday Retro Night at the Roller King Skating Center in Roseville. Skaters of all ages, from toddlers to adults, circle the rink in a counterclockwise endless loop, as the sparkling disco ball spins to the beat of music from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
Since the mid-1970s, family-owned Roller King has occupied the corner of Riverside Avenue, off Interstate 80 and just past Cirby Way, and the scene during any session there is a timeless piece of Americana.
“It’s a unique activity,” says current owner David Jacques, whose parents first began running Roller King in 1976. “Everything has gone virtual these days, so there are fewer and fewer things where you can interact and be with other people and see them face-to-face.”
“It’s a unique activity. Everything has gone virtual these days, so there are fewer and fewer things where you can interact and be with other people and see them face-to-face.”David Jacques, co-owner, Roller King
Along with its popular Saturday Retro Nights and other public skating sessions, Roller King sponsors STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field trips, as well as hosting private parties, school fundraisers and lessons.
“We see kids who never roller skated in their life,” says Randy Nemeth, an elementary school teacher at Ophir STEAM Academy in Newcastle, who has brought several classes to be part of Roller King’s STEM program. With STEM, students learn scientific aspects of roller skating and the rink — like learning how music affects skaters, and taking a skate apart and putting it back together — before each class ends on the rink. “They’re tentative skating at first, but by the end, everybody was doing it.”
Indoor roller skating centers were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, but there was a silver lining, Jacques says. With people forced outdoors, roller skating outside became more popular, leading to a resurgence once indoor rinks reopened, Jacques says.
“We had to wait to capitalize, but nationally the trend has gone up and skating became more popular,” he says. “But since we reopened, there’s been a big boom in interest. We used to rely more on parties and groups, but the interest in walk-in trade has increased, which is encouraging.”
Jacques’ parents, Michael and Patricia Jacques, who still live in the area, are both nationally acclaimed competitive skaters. They were operating the Fantasia Skate Center in Sacramento and were brought in to run Roller King when the structure was built. The Jacques family eventually bought out the original owners and ran it until David and his older sister Kristina Sadahire took over in 2015. The siblings were both graduates of Roseville’s Oakmont High School and also youth championship-level skaters.
“The skating rink was the most fun babysitter ever,” David Jacques says about growing up at Roller King. “Unlimited video games, all you can skate, and free food in the snack bar.”
The Capital Region is one of the most bountiful areas in the state for roller skating rinks, with four other rinks operating in Sacramento and Elk Grove.
“Each of us (the other Capital Region rinks) have carved out our own area where we draw from,” Jacques says. “Most of our customers are from Roseville and the surrounding areas, and the foothills up to Auburn. We get a lot of adults from the Bay Area also.”
Roller King survived the various pandemic closures, getting help through Placer County and the City of Roseville grant programs, but also by another unusual method — selling groceries obtained from food distributor Sysco. Jacques says he was able to purchase items like rice, sugar and black beans from the company, then package and sell them to local customers.
“It was a little more work than I expected and I didn’t make a ton of money, but it kept me busy during the pandemic,” Jacques says. Roller King also upgraded the 25,000-square-foot facility (the rink is about 12,800 square feet) while it was closed, adding new carpet and solar panels, he says.
Jacques says with around 25 employees, Roller King has slowly gotten back to normal hiring levels, and takes pride in being the first job for many local kids.
“It’s special, a blast from the past,” says the teacher Nemeth. “The lessons last about an hour, and then there would be the skating. That is where the social (and) emotional learning comes in; my favorite part.”
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