Thanks to the pandemic, roller skates have made a huge comeback. Every Saturday at 9 p.m., skaters line up for the Disco Skate at Classic Skating & Fun Center in Orem, many with their own skates slung over their shoulders and some in bell bottoms and retro outfits.
As spinning disco balls, a fog machine and flashing colored lights set the mood, masked skaters dance to funky hits from the ’70s by bands like The Commodores, Parliament, Ohio Players and Kool and the Gang as they glide around the rink.
The DJ reminds skaters about every 15 minutes throughout the evening that they must wear their masks. Classic Skating limits the number of people who can attend, but on disco night, rental skates go fast.
The late-night Disco Skate is a big hit with college students, but it also attracts skaters of all ages over 16 who make it a weekly tradition. At 11 p.m., the DJ invites all the skaters to gather in the middle of the rink to dance to “Do the Hustle.” And at midnight, skaters make their final laps around the track clapping along with the intro to “Car Wash” before removing their roller skates.
Disco Skate has been around since the 1990s, but according to Classic Skating CEO Joe Henderson, the Saturday night skate is more popular than ever. The retro music from the ’70s is one reason, but the other reason is the pandemic.
When the roller skating rink opened again last summer, students from BYU and UVU discovered the late-night skate as an alternative to dance clubs that were still closed during the pandemic. It became a great place for students to meet new people. “It provides a good social scene, and ends up being a really cool way for people to get somewhat of a club scene in a little bit cleaner way,” said Henderson.
Aubrey Gooch, a student at UVU from Gilbert, Ariz., never misses a week, because she loves the carefree skating environment. Gooch said she often feels like people disapprove of college students meeting with groups of other students, even while wearing masks. She said, “I think this is the one place where people can go to just have fun and be around other people without being judged.”
Disco skaters love the traditional four-wheeled quad skates — most wouldn’t be caught wearing in-line skates. Many of them purchase their own quad skates, ranging from $300 to $500 a pair, some with wheels that light up as they roll. The popularity of skating during the pandemic has also resulted in a shortage of roller skates. Orders for new roller skates have been back ordered for months, and “about 10 times the normal number of skates have been ordered this year,” according to Henderson.
He said that there has always been a skating community of regulars who attend the weekly Disco Skate, but since the pandemic began, that community is now bigger than ever.
Figure skater Chloe Thompson loves the energy and the friendly atmosphere at the Disco Skate. “Skating has kept me grounded,” she said. “I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this has been the hardest year of my life, for personal reasons and obvious worldwide reasons.” Skating, Thompson says, provides an emotional boost. “To me, skating is euphoric, it brings me out of any terrible mood and negative headspace and it’s what has kept me going during this pandemic. I don’t feel the weight of the world when I skate.”