White Center’s Southgate Roller Rink Lives Again, Will Re-Open April 7th

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by Sarah Fox

After spending a few years out of commission, the Southgate Roller Rink – a White Center Institution – will reopen its doors the weekend of April 7th, beginning a new chapter in a history that goes back nearly 80 years.

In 1937, White Centerites Ethel and ‘Pop’ Brown opened the doors of the Southgate Roller Rink on 16th Ave Southwest. Formerly an athletic club and a dancehall, the new roller rink quickly gained a loyal and devoted following. The Browns were determined to make their rink a welcoming place for adults and kids alike, and over the decades “Seattle’s Friendly Rink” became a White Center institution. During the WWII years it was a well-known gathering place for enlisted men, and “Pop” Brown opened the rink every night with a flag salute. The rink hosted competitive skating, skating clubs, skating drill teams, and innumerable birthday parties across the decades. Read more local memories of the rink here.

In 2003 the Southgate Roller Rink became the home turf of the Rat City Rollergirls, an all-womens’ roller derby team founded here in White Center as part of the national revival of the competitive contact sport of roller derby. The Rollergirls became wildly popular, so much so they outgrew the Southgate rink and began hosting matches at Seattle’s Key Arena. Their roots in White Center and at the Southgate Rink remain a fundamental part of their team character though, as team co-founder Brandy Rettig told the Seattle PI in April of 2006. “It’s the place we chose to put our roots down. We could have been the Emerald City Rollergirls, but we wanted to be part of a community that reflected us — a little bit edgy, a little bit tough and rough around the edges. It was the perfect spot for us.”

After the Rollergirls moved on to bigger venues, it looked like the Southgate Roller Rink might finally be ending its nearly eight-decade run. For several years, the antique hardwood skating floor was covered up, and the rink served as an event center. As it turns out though, the Southgate Roller Rink was destined to live on. Enter Josh Rhoads, who purchased and undertook the renovation of the rink in 2011. In a few short weeks of hard work, Rhoads oversaw the restoration of the skaterink’s wooden floor, hung a disco ball, and let the community know that the “Friendly Rink” was back. He’s announced the grand reopening for April 7.

Rhoads has more than a passing interest in rollerskating; this friendly and unassuming young man has been called the greatest roller skater in the United States. Rhoads, who has competed in artistic roller skating all over the world, can do everything an ice-skater can do on a blade and an ice-rink, except he pulls off those graceful and athletic spins and leaps on eight wheels. He hopes someday his sport will gain the respect and notoriety it deserves; in the meantime, he’s the perfect person to oversee the reopening of the Southgate Roller Rink. There’s talk of a speed team, as well as rumors of a men’s roller derby team sponsored by White Center’s own Full Tilt Ice Cream. New generations of White Centerites will host their birthday parties here, and those with fond memories of the old days at Southate Roller Rink are dusting off their skates. Ethel and ‘Pop’ Brown would be proud.

According to its website, here’s the schedule:

***Schedule Effective April 7th, 2011***
Free Skate Rental if needed during all skate sessions

8:30pm-11:00pm Adult Night 18+ $6.00

8:30pm-11:00pm Adult Night 18+ $6.00

7:30pm-11:00pm Teen Night $7.50

1:00pm-4:30pm Family Skate $6.50
7:30pm-11:00pm All Ages Skate $7.50

12:00pm-1:00pm Beginner Skate Class $10.00
(Includes 1:00-4:30 Family Skate following the class)
1:00pm-4:30pm Family Skate $6.50
7:30pm-10:00pm All Ages Derby Skate $6.00

More info:


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4 Responses to “White Center’s Southgate Roller Rink Lives Again, Will Re-Open April 7th”
  1. Carrie says:

    Yes! Best news out of White Center since Full Tilt Ice Cream!

  2. Ian Gunsul says:

    I loved this place as a kid!
    A little skating, a little pho and then to Big Al’s for an Irish Red- sounds like a good time to me!

  3. Jennifer Fichamba says:

    Woo Hoo no more driving to Federal Way to take my son roller skating 🙂

  4. Feraldog says:

    YES!!, Bring back the rats,,, The Rat city roller girl rats that is!!!

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