Local skating rink is closing

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Monett landmark is closing its doors on April 1.

After 32 years, owners Durward "Doc" and Donna Brewer have decided to close Skateland Fun Center and Roller Skating Rink, located on Jerome Lane.

"It's with mixed emotions," said Doc, "but I think it's time."

Skateland has been a long-standing fixture in the area and has sparked more than one romance, proving there is something special about circling the skating rink hand in hand during a couple's skate.

"More than 50 couples met here and went on to marry," Doc said. "They still come in, but now they bring their kids or grandkids."

The entertainment complex provided an evening of fun and a safe haven for children and young adults alike.

"People wondered how we kept control of all the kids in here," Doc said.

"They pretty much monitored themselves," said Donna. "They knew if they misbehaved they would be told to leave, and they wanted to be here with their friends.

"We had three rules," she continued. "No hitting another person. Watch your language. Don't hurt yourself or others."

"It's a safe place to be, for kids to burn off energy," Doc said. "It provided a social opportunity without the threat of being bullied. We didn't allow that."

The Brewers are a "skating family," having owned and managed six rinks in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

"Our daughter, Catherine, started working here in the snack bar when she was barely a teenager," Donna said. "She met her husband here."

The family also owns skating rinks in Webb City, Carl Junction, Neosho, and Dennison, Texas. They are managed by the couple's children Wes Brewer, Chet and Tracy Anderson, Don Brewer, Gary Brewer and Catherine Stockton.

"We knew a lot of the kids by name," Doc said. "Especially the ornery ones. It's amazing how many kids have come up to us on the street after they were grown and said, 'See? I turned out okay.' It's been very rewarding seeing these young folks grow up."

"It proves everyone grows up," added Catherine, who manages the Neosho facility. "In this business, you have to love kids, no question. I think we have helped raise a number of kids over the years.

"There have been a billion stories," Catherine continued. "The drama, the cliques and the funny stories. We have provided a safe haven, safe transportation and served as counselors over the years. But this is a family love. We are a skating family."

There have been some changes in the industry over the years as well. There are those who enjoy speed skating and others who used the rink to initiate their inline skates. There were birthday parties, church functions and school groups that enjoyed the combined social and exercise opportunities the facility provided.

But increasing taxes, operating costs and various available activities have made gradual inroads on their finances and customer base.

"This has basically been a financial decision," Doc said. "With taxes and costs continuing to rise, it's hard to keep up with it."

"We only increased our admittance prices by $1.50 over the course of 32 years," Catherine said, "but our costs keep rising. A canister of soda [syrup] used to cost $15. Now it's $60."

While the couple's children will continue to manage the family's remaining four skating rinks, Doc and Donna plan to manage other business interests and travel.

"They are world travelers," Catherine said. "They have been all over."

Doc and Donna have been to China, Romania, Bulgaria, London, Austria, Africa, Antarctica, Thailand and Egypt. They hope to add stamps from Machu Picchu and Australia to their passports in the future.

"We have about a half-a-dozen projects in the works," Doc said. "So, even though we 'retired' in 2000, we stay busy."

There will be a free skate for patrons from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday April 1.

"Donna, Cathy, Jefferey, Christina, Terry and I will be here to visit and say thank you and farewell to our customers," Doc said. "We are really going to miss the kids."

A portion of the facility has already been leased to an auto parts store, and construction is already underway. The new business is tentatively scheduled to open in May.

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