In May 2021, the Skatin Place will celebrate 25 years of providing family fun to Abilene. Although the town used to have several skating rinks back when skating was in its prime, only one rink remains and it’s still the site of birthday parties and social events.
Jeff and Terry Groban purchased the Skatin Place in 1996, a few months after getting married. At the time, it was one of the only family-friendly entertainment spots in town.
“There wasn’t a Mr. Gattis, there wasn’t a Primetime, there wasn’t a trampoline park,” Jeff said, “so we used to pack ‘em in then.”
Jeff grew up in the 70s disco skating and competing in contests in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He moved to Abilene with a family of skaters who eventually came to own the Skatin Place.
“I always wanted my own skating rink, that’s been an absolute dream of mine,” Jeff said. “As me and Terry were dating and getting married, we talked about it and we just did it. And here we are, 25 years later, still doing great.”
In the 90s and early 2000s, the Grobans would host all night skates about five times a year for big holidays. Guests would come from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and skate the night away. That got a little harder as they got older, Jeff said, so now they just host late skates until about 1 a.m.
Over the years, the Grobans updated everything from carpet, to the snack bar and “Stuff Shop.” Jeff said he keeps up with trends in skating rink design like glow-in-the-dark carpets, blue light, and a new light installation he plans to have in the center of the rink soon. The colored round balls of light that hang over the rink are one of the only decorations still original to the place.
In addition to the changes in decor, the rink also saw changing crowds. Now Jeff says he sees the same kids who used to skate when they were young, now grown and bringing their own children to learn.
“We have 2 and 3 year olds with skates that go over their shoes, called Zippy Skates,” Jeff said. “We have skate mates, it’s like a walker, and that’s helped us with kids that would never even try to skate so now they have something to help them.”
2020 brought a whole new crowd of skaters: teenagers who saw skating demos in popular Tik Tok videos. Tik Tok revitalized the skill of “jam skating” which involves a combination of dance, gymnastic tricks, and roller skating. Jeff said he’s seen many more teenagers coming to the rink in 2020 and filming their own Tik Tok videos.
Adults still enjoy skating, especially for adult nights. On these nights, old school music plays and guests can bring their own beer and enjoy a night out for only 18 and older Abilenians. Customers can also book private parties or birthday parties.
Whether guests want to get a blast from the past and dress in disco style, or make new memories with Tik Tok videos, they can enjoy socializing and skating at the Skatin Place.