Buncombe County’s only roller skating rink is for sale

Barbara Hootman

Tarwheels Skateway may not be a roller rink much longer. The 35-year-old venue — a favorite meeting place for Valley children, teenagers and adults for more than three decades — has been for sale for several weeks. Listed at $935,000, it is under contract, according to Beverly-Hanks & Associates realty company.

“I would buy it today if I had the money,” Michelle Pruett, a mom who has skated at the rink since she was 4 years old, said.

Roller skating may seem to a thing of the past to some people. But parents and children who love to skate can’t imagine not having Tarwheels Skateway for weekend meet-ups with friends and skate nights for schools. The rink opened in 1980 and has been a major source of entertainment in the Valley.

Tarwheels Skateway is Buncombe County’s only roller skating rink. The closest rink is The Skate Depot in Hendersonville.

Skating rinks are big and costly investments, and roller skating is not as poplar as it used to be. Real estate tax increases and the high cost of utilities have hurt skating rinks. Periodic renovation costs can be staggering for large rinks.

Russell Shipman, Tarwheels Skateway manager, started skating there from the time it opened. He was a competitive roller skating speed team member in the mid-’80s. When time permits, he still skates several times a week.

“I’ve been the manager of Tarwheels Skateway for about 15 years, and I can tell you the popularity of roller skating is cyclic,” he said. “Roller skating isn’t popular like it used to be. There isn’t the interest in it that there was. It was the best indoor entertainment around in the ’80s and ’90s. But then the whole entertainment culture changed.”

Shipman said the property is under contract.

“It means that somebody is interested, but it may not stay a roller skating rink,” he said. “Only a new owner can say for sure what is going to become of Tarwheels.”

Jason Calloway, like Shipman a former competitive speed skater and current long-time employee of Tarwheels Skateway, described himself as someone who does whatever needs to be done at the rink. He is the DJ there.

“I hate to see Tarwheels sell because I love it and I love to skate,” he said. “I know the business has its ups and downs, and it has changed a lot over the years. If it doesn’t stay a skating rink, it will really be missed by a lot of people. There a lot of kids that love to skate, and their parents are always looking for good inside entertainment, especially during the winter months.”

Local school children have held skate nights at Tarwheels Skateway for decades. Pruett, owner of a pre- and after-school business, Pint-Sized PreSchool, said that not only does she still skate at Tarwheels but her six children also skate there regularly.

“By the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I was meeting my friends at Tarwheels every weekend to skate,” she said. “By the time I was 11, 12 years old, I was meeting my friends two and three nights a week to skate and hang out. I still skate a couple times a week. When I broke both of my legs in June 2015, I was forced to stop skating for a while. For me and my family, roller skating is definitely not a thing of the past.

“Tarwheels has one of the best floors around. The only thing out of date is the bathroom. Even the skates are replaced about every two years. It is great exercise for adults and kids, and I hate to think about having to drive as far as Hendersonville to skate.”