On Jan. 31, 2023, the Cincinnati Rollergirls sent an email to Cincinnati Recreation Commission Director Daniel Betts, Mayor Aftab Pureval and members of Cincinnati City Council in support of building a larger, dedicated roller skating rink inside the redeveloped Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center. Read it below.

Dear Mr. Betts, Mayor Pureval and members of Cincinnati City Council:

My name is Lauren Bishop and I am the owner of the Cincinnati Rollergirls, Cincinnati’s amateur flat-track roller derby team. I am writing to express our team’s support not just for keeping a roller skating rink inside the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center, but for building a larger rink purpose-built for roller skating when the rec center is redeveloped.

The OTR rink is just one of two remaining rinks inside the city limits, with the other being the small rink inside the Winton Hills Recreation Center. Since our team’s founding in 2006, we have watched at least five rinks close their doors, including the Fun Factory in Norwood, Western Rollarama in Green Township, Skatetown USA in West Chester, Tri-Skateland in Fairfield, and the Florence Fundome in Florence.

While suburban rinks including The Place in Colerain Township, Castle Skateland in Loveland and Beechmont Rollarena in Anderson Township are still thriving, there is a large and diverse market that could be served by a skating rink in the heart of OTR. As reported in a recent WVXU story, many older neighborhood residents have fond memories of skating at the OTR rink — once known as “The Hub” — in the 1970s. But many others in the neighborhood and beyond didn’t even know the rink existed until recent events and publicity from Skate Downtown Cincy and Cincinnati Skate Collective.

While roller skating has deep ties to Black history and culture, it’s been experiencing a mainstream renaissance since the pandemic, thanks in large part to TikTok and Instagram. The pop-up outdoor skating rink that 3CDC opened last summer attempted to capitalize on that popularity, but it is simply no substitute for a climate-controlled, indoor skating rink that’s open year-round. This is the wrong time to shut the doors of yet another skating rink in Cincinnati. This is the right time to recognize and preserve an important part of Over-the-Rhine’s history and culture.

The market for a large, centrally-located skating rink also includes Greater Cincinnati’s two adult and two youth roller derby teams, which could provide regular rental income to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission if a rink were large enough for a regulation roller derby track. Unlike the banked-track roller derby teams of the 1970s, most teams today can practice and play on almost any flat surface large enough for a taped or painted 75-by-108-foot oval track (8,100+ square feet). Seattle, for example, has painted permanent roller derby lines in their community centers to accommodate their local teams.

As an amateur, skater-owned and -operated team without our own facility, we are in dire need of practice space. The Place is the only local rink with availability for us, and we can only practice there twice a week rather than our preferred three times a week. Warehouse space has become prohibitively expensive. And in 2016, we lost our home of 10 years, the Cincinnati Gardens, when the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority purchased it and demolished it to make way for a manufacturing facility that has yet to materialize. A larger OTR rink could provide us not only with additional practice space but also additional opportunities to teach roller skating and roller derby to the community through classes, boot camps and other events.

We understand that a skating rink is just one of many factors that the Cincinnati Recreation Commission must consider as it continues to refine plans for the new rec center and that we are just one of many groups giving input on those plans. But as you move forward, we urge you to keep in mind the passion and dedication of the local roller skating and roller derby communities and our potential to regularly fill a rink in OTR. For us, roller skating is more than just a hobby. It is freedom and it is joy. It is art and it is sport. It is history and it is the future. And we hope that its future will include Over-the-Rhine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Lauren Bishop
Principal Owner, Cincinnati Rollergirls

OTR rink photo credit: Marie Asbury, Finished Vision Photography