opinion

Skate on: Let’s not go around in circles on Geraldton’s Rollerdrome revival proposal

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Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
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Jemma Bell and Mandy Smith skating at the Geraldton Rollerdrome in the 1980s.
Camera IconJemma Bell and Mandy Smith skating at the Geraldton Rollerdrome in the 1980s. Credit: Facebook/Lost Geraldton

Weekends, school holidays, birthday parties, excursions — it’s a fair bet most of these occasions if you were a child growing up in Geraldton in the 1980s and 90s, like me, revolved around the once mighty Rollerdrome.

It was the place to be — the music, the snacks, requesting songs from the DJ’s box, the smell of sweaty shared footwear. Aahh, those are what childhood memories are made of. Where cool kids and not-so-cool kids could almost “hang out”.

I still remember how proud I felt the first time I let go of the perimeter railing and slowly skated into the centre of the ‘drome and subsequently how embarrassed I felt 30 seconds later when I butt planted it hard with everyone watching and laughing. I swear I’m over it 30 years later.

The Rollerdrome was like the 80s equivalent of video games today. A leisure activity which you didn’t have to be any good at to still enjoy. But at least you got a workout with skating.

Back in those days (and arguably still today) Geraldton was devoid of many places kids and teens could just hang out. You either went to the beach, the pool, the shops, the video store or someone’s house. Of course, there were competitive sports on the weekends, but if you weren’t a naturally gifted athlete, rollerskating offered something which netball, basketball, hockey, athletics didn’t — pure and simple fun with no winners or losers.

Geraldton's old Rollerdrome at 15 Simpson Street, Beresford.
Camera IconGeraldton's old Rollerdrome at 15 Simpson Street, Beresford. Credit: Elise Van Aken

When I heard about the plans to revive the Rollerdrome, a strong sense of nostalgia stirred inside me.

But I’m not living in the past, this proposal has merit for the present and future.

The Geraldton Sporting Aboriginal Corporation wants to use the derelict Simpson Street site in Beresford to run indoor sports including roller derby and hockey, cricket, soccer, netball and basketball as well as youth activities and cultural events. It’s also proposed the venue be opened for public skating one weekend night a week.

But just as sure as night follows day, there are some people in Geraldton who will fight to the death to protect the status quo — even if the alternative is a positive one.

A letter has been circulating calling on locals to object to the proposal, citing fears of “loitering youth”, “parking and traffic issues”, “graffiti and vandalism” and an increase in crime, antisocial behaviour and noise pollution.

The music, the snacks, requesting songs from the DJ’s box, the smell of sweaty shared footwear. Aahh, those are what childhood memories are made of. Where cool kids and not-so-cool kids could almost ‘hang out’.

Valid community concerns need to be addressed — and GSAC seems committed to doing just that — and immediate neighbours should be kept informed, but let me get one thing clear. Just because youth hang around in groups and packs, doesn’t mean they are a gang of young crims who are hell-bent on making strangers’ lives a misery.

Here’s a newsflash — young people like hanging around with other young people. Sometimes they get into trouble. But most of the time they are just being kids.

And when youth do get into mischief, it often comes down to one factor — boredom. So surely offering them a wide range of activities in a revamped venue to entertain, distract and tire them out can only be a good thing. And you know what can be a magnet for troublemakers? An abandoned eyesore of a building.

Although it’s still open to community feedback, the message I have for the proponents of this project and the council is simply roll on. Resurrect the Rollerdrome.

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