MOSSVILLE — The music reflects the sounds of today while youngsters display the latest styles but, otherwise, the scene at the Peoria Palace Skating Rink could be right out of the 1950s when roller skating was all the rage.
If you recall the roller disco craze of the '70s, you know that roller skating has seen its ups and downs over the years.
But the Peoria Palace Skating Rink in Mossville is a 21st century operation, opening in 2003. Bob Randle and wife Dorothy built the rink as a retirement project on 15 acres of land they owned just off Illinois Route 6.
"There wasn't a skating rink in Peoria so we did our due diligence, visiting rinks in the Quad Cities and Indiana," said Randle, 77, a retired machinist at Caterpillar Inc., who also serves as pastor of the Higher Dimensions Praise & Worship Church in West Peoria. His wife, a former bank teller at CEFCU, is the one who takes care of day-to-day operations at the rink, he said.
What led them to a rolling retirement? While the pair had no experience running their own recreational facility, they knew roller skating.
"Our three kids were skate lovers. We used to go to the skating rink in Bloomington every weekend," said Randle, who admitted that his children initially suggested building a roller rink.
Randle now says it all makes sense. After all, he had fond memories of skating at two long-gone local skating rinks: Fernwood Roller Gardens on Farmington Road and Pioneer Skateland on Altorfer Drive.
While there are roller rinks in Pekin and Morton, the Randles' operation is now the only one in Peoria County.
"Roller derbies are still part of the industry. We got an inquiry not too long ago from a team in Bloomington that wanted to use our rink for practice," he said.
Regardless of how roller skating is trending, the sport has its followers, said Randle. "We have regular skaters from age 5 to 65 and up," he said.
"We love providing a good safe atmosphere where families can come and have fun. Families can drop kids off here and go shopping. We take the responsibility for those kids until parents return," said Randle.
Along with different themes throughout the week (Christian Music Night, Family Skating Session, Soul Nite, etc.), the Palace is big on birthday parties, he said. "On any given weekend, there might be eight to 12 birthday parties going on out here," said Randle, motioning to the numerous picnic tables set up outside the rink to accommodate kids' groups and families.
Churches and schools have made field trips to the rink over the years, he said. "Dunlap Grade School has been coming here since we opened. Grace Presbyterian Church and St. Paul Baptist Church have both been strong supporters," said Randle.
Sharon Converse is a 58-year-old Mossville resident who's been a regular roller-blader at the Palace rink since 2011. "I roller skated in my 20s with metal wheels but now I like to go for an hour on weekends," she said.
"You can have fun while you exercise. The people there are as nice as they can be plus they have the best all-beef hot dogs," said Converse, who offered some advice to would-be skaters.
"Getting your balance on skates is the hardest part. I used to hug the wall when I first started but once you get that down, it's so much fun," she said.
At the center of all the fun is the 15,000-square-foot rink. Randle remembers when the floor's planks of maple wood were installed by hand. "Every two to three years we seal-coat it," he added.
To meet the needs of skaters, Randle said the rink has 800 pairs of skates on hand for rental. "We provide both kinds of skates," he said, referring to quad skates with two pairs of wheels, or inline skates, also known as roller blades, with one row of wheels in the middle of the skate. "The kids seem to like the inline models," he said.
Randle said he can see the difference the rink has made since it opened 15 years ago. "We filled a void. Now 25 to 30 percent of the people that visit have their own skates. It wasn't that way when we started," he said.
If you want to explore the rink at the lowest possible cost, Randle suggests the aptly-named Cheap Skate Night when admission from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday is $4. Skate rental is an additional $1 ($2 if you select the inline model).
Most of the skating business takes place on the weekend, said Randle, noting that an individual admission is $7 on Friday and Saturday night while a family of five can skate for $25 on Sunday afternoon.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.