CHICAGO — Mainstream roller skating has long been on the decline, with rinks closing rapidly nationwide. Despite the shuttering, a subculture of skaters has held strong at spots like “The Rink” along East 87th.
Now the dying sport is finding new life in one of Chicago’s oldest institutions, as a new group is sparking a roller rebirth downtown at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
“Most people have no idea there’s a roller rink downtown,” instructor Elizabeth Perez said. “But here it is, tucked away on the 4th floor at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel!”
What once stood as an all-men’s athletic club back in the late 1800s is now home to what’s being called, “the eight-wheel revival.” When the hotel started offering skating classes in the old fencing gym, the classes sold out in just days.
Student Kristina Brown said she hasn’t been on a pair of skates in over a decade.
“I love it,” Brown said. “It takes me back to a time when we used to have fun without all the worries of a work week.”
The classes offer everything from the fundamentals to Chicago branded moves like “Crazy Legs” and “The Big Wheel.”
“It feels like freedom. Something about letting loose on skates unleashes confidence, like a better version of yourself,” Perez said.