When area St. Louis roller skaters caught wind that Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park was offering a skate session last summer, they couldn’t wait to get their roll on.
That wait was, in fact, more than 20 years after the outdoor rink closed for roller skating, angering and disappointing area roller skaters.
The rink was once a very popular designation for St. Louis’ many and impassioned roller skaters.
According to the city of St. Louis’ website, the facility closed to roller skaters because of the summer heat, giving way to indoor rinks and air conditioning.
Longtime area roller skating legend Leo White remembers it quite differently.
“We would go to different rinks on different days, but then one summer, we didn’t have Steinberg to go to and we were just hitting the other rinks, but we really miss it.”
Now, because of a new use study, skating enthusiasts are hopeful that they will be soon be able to get their regular roll on in Forest Park.
The “Steinberg Skating Rink Feasibility Study-Community Engagement” is currently being conducted by Forest Park Forever and the St. Louis Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.
For area rollers, the feasibility of bringing back summertime roller skating is a no-brainer.
White is just one of many who are wistful about the possibility.
“It would be a dream come true,” White said, noted that “it hurt” when Steinberg closed its doors to roller skaters.
White fondly remembers the good old skate days:
“That was the happening spot on Sundays, and some Mondays too: Everybody would hang out in the park, and they would go over to the rink and we would get our roll on and people would be along the wall watching us skate.”
As a young skater in the ’80s, it was merely a regular outdoor event, because he didn’t know what the future held. But he said that if he had known, he would have treasured the experience much more.
“You never know what you have until it’s gone, and I didn’t know it was going to affect us like that during the summer,” he said.
Along with ice skating, the Steinberg Skating Rink, in recent years, has offered volleyball, and, last summer, shuffleboard. That, along with the absence of a basketball court, has raised the racial “eye” of some area residents.
“Man, that was like a slap in the face, that’s a skating rink, and that floor is sacred – you don’t put sand on it; you can play volleyball in the grass,” said White, a former competition skater who retired undefeated.
St. Louis has a reputation of having the best roller skaters in the country. Hundreds of skaters converge here annually for a weekend-long skating event put on by St. Louis Skills on Wheels. Roller skating is so popular here that there are several other skating organizations as well, and some skaters skate as often as five times a week.
Described as dancing on wheels, it’s known as an fun exercise that builds endurance and relieves stress.
For White, although it started as a hobby, it is an art, one that he says is a very different experience when performed outdoors.
Roller skating outdoors, as rollers did at Steinberg years ago, is one aspect of skating that younger skaters have missed. That’s one reason White hopes the gatekeepers and controllers will welcome this segment of the community back to the rink.
“It would mean that the newer generation gets to experience what we experienced growing up, and we get to be the pioneers to lead them so they won’t go down the same path that we went down, having the facility taken away from us,” White said.
“We can show them how to protect what we have and cherish it,” he added.
The NorthSider reached out to Forest Park Forever and the city about the possibility of regular roller skating again at Steinberg.
Katie Stuckenschneider, marketing and digital media manager for Forest Park Forever, responded with the following statement:
“At this point, the City of St. Louis Parks Department and Forest Park Forever are listening to all of the ideas from community members about year-round use at this site in Forest Park. We are at the beginning of the process, and much thought and evaluation of all possibilities will be needed before any decisions are made regarding what activities become part of a programming mix at Steinberg.”
Just “another slap in the face,” if you ask White.