Stacey Hanks contributed to this story–
Despite a nationwide downturn in the popularity of roller skating, the silver lining this past week for Sunrise Rollerland in Citrus Heights was hosting the 2018 Southwest Regional Roller Figure Skating Championships. Several hundred skaters, ages 4 through 81, from California, Nevada and Arizona, competed in the championship — complete with jumps, twirls, detailed dance maneuvers, and sequined outfits.
Tucked away behind Sunrise Mall, the roller rink featured daily events throughout the five-day competition, which began on June 25 and concluded on Friday. Competitions started at 7 a.m. daily, stopping only for a two-hour dinner break and ending with a 10:45 p.m. awards ceremony each evening, the exception being the last day of the event when the final award ceremony was held at 1:30 p.m.
Winners of the competition will now advance to the Nationals in Lincoln, Nebraska. That event will be followed by a World Championship competition in October, to be held in La Vendée, France, where upwards of 25 different countries from around the world will send representatives to the competition.
While gaining popularity in other countries such as Italy and South America, roller skating as a favored past time in the United States since the 1950s has been experiencing declining popularity in recent years. Despite periodic surges of popularity during the disco craze music days of the 70s and 80s and the introduction of inline skating in the 90s, roller skating has once again fallen to the way side.
“There are so many other things to do now, electronic things,” said Kathy Newtz, a former skating competitor, whose husband now serves as general manager of Sunrise Rollerland. “When I competed in the 80s there was 150 women in my event alone, now there is 12.”
On the upside, with smaller crowds meaning no more need for larger facilities, Sunrise Rollerland offered the perfect venue for this year’s regional competition. The rink, located at 6001 Sunrise Vista Drive, opened in 1973 for roller skating and features some of the largest artistic and speed skating clubs in the Sacramento area.
“This year marks the first year we’ve been in an actual rollerskating rink in approximately 50 years, quite honestly,” said Robin Haleber, a skating coach and spokesperson for the competition.
“We’ve always had a high amount of entries that allowed us to go to a convention center, or exhibit hall,” he said, recalling past events lasting up to 12 days with over 1500 entrants competing. “At that time our region owned our floor that they would put together and it took about four days to set up.”
In contrast, Habeler said this year’s competition featured about 330 skaters, with each participating in two or three events.
Asked how Sunrise Rollerland was chosen for the competition, Haleber said the regional board had reviewed several options and determined “we were satisfied with Sunrise’s facility in the sense that the floor was plenty big and in good condition.” Noting nearby restaurants, plentiful parking, and the “convenience of being able to come and go,” Haleber also said “Citrus Heights was very appealing to those that participated.”
The Southwest Pacific region is the largest of nine belonging to the USA Roller Sports figure skating division, and is composed of California, Nevada and Arizona. Additional information about regions and competitions can be found on the USA Roller Sports website.