People questioned Barney Lair’s decision to build his skating rink in 1948. Was it really needed? How could it be a success in such a small town? And, in fact, Barney did struggle with attracting crowds and staving off troublemakers. Since then, six other owners have dealt with the same issues. However, each had something else in common, a belief that the rink gave Perkins County something that enhanced life here, especially for our children.
And so it has.
Anyone who grew up in Perkins County, no doubt, has some memory of the rink. From the dancing, the bands, the video games, the friendships, Zambellini’s famous pizza, and of course the skating, children have made memories within the building on south central for more than six decades, and I believe it won’t stop there.
For my own curiosity, I sought out more information about the skating rink at Hastings Memorial Library last week. With Robin and Reeka’s help, we were able to find several articles on the rink in back issues of the Tribune-Sentinel. We most likely did not find all of the articles, but the ones we did find shed light on a business that has been cultivated over the years mainly for the love of our children.
Based off of what we found, and I apologize for any gaps or errors, the following is a run down of the ownership of the facility.
For 16 years, the Lairs owned the Crescent Ballroom, the original name of the facility when Lair built it. In 1964, Grady Robinson took ownership of the business and added the south addition to the building in 1966 where a café was run for the community. In 1976 the business was sold to Phil Kraft, who owned it for five years before selling it in 1981 to Vance and Esther Kirkpatrick.
The Kirkpatricks changed the name of the business to Himi’s and ran it for another five years. The article that announced the closing of the facility for “the final time” showed an emotional Esther reminiscing about the business saying it was a sad thing for her to be closing Himi’s. “I’d sure hate to see this town without its skating rink,” Esther said. But the rink wasn’t closed for long.
In 1986, Darrell and Joyce Werner bought the rink because of their “love of the town and the children here.” The Werners changed its name to the Rock-n-Roller and gave the entire facility a complete renovation. “We started with the roof and went to the floor,” Darrell said in an article announcing the reopening. Darrell pointed out how pleased he was with the support from the community during and after the project. Also opened during this time was a pizza business called Zambellini’s that was run out of the kitchen by Dave and Sherry Erlewine.
In 1992, Werners sold the business to Bruce McCormick who ran it for eight years, and in 2000 sold it to Robin Clement who changed the name to Six Aces and ran it until this year, citing a love of kids, community, and skating as a reason for taking on the venture.
So why am I writing this? Well, for one reason, I love history, especially of places that I love, and I love the skating rink. The rink is unique. There are so few of them around, especially in Nebraska. The closest one I could find was in Gering, Neb. I also want to see the rink stay open. So, here’s an idea. How about the community taking ownership for the rink? Sound crazy? It’s not. Many small communities run their recreation facilities in such a manner. Holyoke and Imperial run their theatres in this exact way.
First, a group of investors would buy it, or even the city or the county, and then a non-profit corporation would be created with a board of directors who would oversee the business. To save time and money, the non-profit could even be established under the umbrella of the Perkins County Community Foundation, which was created for such a purpose. The board might hire one manager who would get community volunteers to run the facility during business hours and also make sure things got done.
I’m ready to help, and I am betting there is a majority of you who are too. For the love of our kids, and our community, let’s keep the rink open.