Orbit Skate Center ending 46-year run in Palatine

 
 
Updated 3/6/2018 5:06 PM
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  • Orbit Skate Center in Palatine will close March 31. Here, 6-year-old Kelly Siegmeier of Palatine slaps hands with her friend Michaela Lacinova as she passes skaters in January.

      Orbit Skate Center in Palatine will close March 31. Here, 6-year-old Kelly Siegmeier of Palatine slaps hands with her friend Michaela Lacinova as she passes skaters in January. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer, January 2018

  • Orbit Skate Center in Palatine, which opened in 1972, will close March 31. Its owner declined to disclose the building's new owner, but said its days as a roller skating rink are done.

      Orbit Skate Center in Palatine, which opened in 1972, will close March 31. Its owner declined to disclose the building's new owner, but said its days as a roller skating rink are done. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer, January 2018

  • Orbit Skate Center in Palatine will close at the end of the month, its owner has announced.

    Orbit Skate Center in Palatine will close at the end of the month, its owner has announced. Daily Herald file photo, 2005

Orbit Skate Center will vanish from the suburban landscape at the end of the month, ending a 46-year run as an iconic gathering place in Palatine.

The rink, which bills itself as the "original social network," will close March 31, owner Sandra Levin announced. She cited the high cost of operating a large roller skating facility in Cook County as the reason she's selling the building.

Levin declined to identify the buyer but said it plans a different use for the facility.

No official plans are before Palatine village government for what might replace Orbit, which sits across the street from Arlington International Racecourse.

"There is a group that has had some discussion with staff about acquiring the property, but nothing has been filed for village licenses or zoning that would trigger this being public, so at this point, there is nothing more we can provide," Village Manager Reid Ottesen said.

When the last patrons depart, Orbit will join a long list of closed suburban rinks, including the Axle in Niles, Mainstreet USA in Streamwood, Fireside Roll Arena in Hoffman Estates and Playdium in Glenview.

"I'll miss helping families make memories with birthday parties and special events like New Year's Eve and Mardi Gras," Levin said Tuesday. "I've enjoyed helping all our local schools raise money and promoting literacy with our Reading Rocks program."

Tom Russo, who wrote "Chicago Rink Rats: The Roller Capital in its Heyday," said the 46-year-old Orbit has been unique, with its 18,800-square-foot rotunda wooden surface and curved boards. Russo visited Orbit on a tour when his book was released in November and said it'll be missed.

"That rink had the largest roller skating floor in the area," Russo said.

About a half dozen roller rinks will remain in the Chicago area after Orbit closes, Russo said. Among those still operating are Lombard Roller Rink, Bella's Bouncies Skate on Grand in Fox Lake and Xtreme Wheels in Crystal Lake.

Russo, who grew up in the Elmhurst-Northlake area, said about 18 rinks operated in Chicago during roller skating's heyday from the late 1930s to late 1950s. Roller skating rebounded for a while in the late 1970s disco era, he said.

In July 2016, Orbit held an online campaign to raise $85,000 to repair extensive water damage to the roller rink floor caused by a heavy rain. Levin, who's owned the rink since 1992, said at the time water had seeped onto the custom-made maple floor and that the business had to pay for the damage because an insurance claim was denied.

About 1,000 roller skating centers are in business in the United States and abroad, according to the Indianapolis-based Roller Skating Rink Operators Association. The association, in part, promotes the activity's health benefits including a calorie burn of 600 per hour with vigorous roller skating.

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