You’ve probably seen the “very-70s” road sign in front of Rainbow Rollerland on West Jefferson Street. This Brooksville icon has survived since the mid-1970s and, according to owners Leonard and Colleen DiGiovanni, things are looking up once again.
“Last year was really tough,” admitted Leonard. “But come January first, things started to turn around. We see business coming back.”
Roller skating has been an American pastime since the first rink opened in Rhode Island in 1863.
Present-day enthusiasts strap on skates for recreation, competitive sports and transportation. The two basic skate types are “quads” (two wheels in front, two in back) or “inline” (two-to-five wheels in a single line).
At Rainbow Rollerland, young beginners mainly use quads, which the DiGiovannis modify so the wheels don’t turn too fast. Most youngsters and teens prefer inlines while many parents, according to Leonard, “Like to knock the mold off their old Riddell speed skates and have some fun.”
He added the rink plays “all kinds of music” and takes requests via request sheets.
He said they keep prices reasonable and find things so far have “worked out no matter what.”
The DiGiovannis purchased the rink in 1999.
Colleen manages the daily activities, Leonard maintains the property and daughter Jennifer Goff is coach and resident DJ. Rainbow Rollerland is the only rink in Hernando County.
Colleen and Leonard said the rink is a place where families can have good clean fun for a small amount of money.
“You’ve got to use your imagination today in Hernando County,” said Leonard. “There’s a lot of unemployment, money is tight and families need to find outlets for entertainment at low cost.”
Sundays after 5:30 p.m. admission is only $1, and nonskating parents get in free. Sunday is the only night they charge $1 for renting skates. All other times rental is free. For those in the know, their rentals are called “brownies.” (Yes, they’re all brown.)
The DiGiovannis keep careful watch over the crowd and don’t allow “hanky-panky.” If you start trouble, you’re out.
They want their rink to be a place where parents can interact with children and where everyone has fun.
“We get people from age 2 to those in their 80s,” said Leonard.
The rink offers birthday party packages and hosts schools and other groups who organize skate nights.
For birthday parties, an $8 or $9 fee per guest (depending on the day and time) includes skating, games, reserved seating, house skates, pizza, drink, ice cream, snow cones, balloons, setup, a host to serve and cleanup, and the birthday child gets his or her name on the outside marquee, a T-shirt or glow necklace and a free pass. Parties must include at least six children and all transactions are cash only.
In addition to recreational skating, the rink is home to a speed-skating team coached by Goff. The Team is USARS (USA Roller Sports) sanctioned and participates in all sanctioned meets in Florida and surrounding areas.
Rollerland speed skaters range in age from 4 to mid-20s. They practice for two hours, three days a week.
Goff and her husband Shane have both competed in speed skating championships. Their two children, Thomas, 13, and Joshua, 14, are also members of the team.
Leonard added, “We also get a lot of world-class skaters in here to practice. In the past two months we’ve had skaters from Sweden, China, Yugoslavia, Columbia and France.”
Goff also team-coaches with world-renowned speed skating coach Renee Hildebrand. Hildebrand is the coach of Team Florida, based in Tampa.
In the entrance a display case includes a sampling of trophies and nostalgic skating memorabilia, some donated by customers.
Inside, the obvious color theme is red, yellow and blue. The yellow walls have the same red and blue swirls (ending in a giant skate, of course) that are on their road sign. The colors reflect off the highly-polished rink.
The snack bar/party area has red, yellow and blue stools and benches. More red benches stand back-to-back in front of the skate rental counter. Blue benches face the pool tables and air hockey game.
Bright red lockers let you store valuables while practicing your skating artistry or reliving your disco days.
Streamers and colored laser lights accent the music, and there’s that thing no rink should be without, the giant disco ball.
The pro shop carries the latest skates, outfits, accessories and gifts. It is reminiscent of earlier days: It’s lit with black lights for that glow-in-the-dark shopping experience.
The long DJ booth window offers a commanding view of the action while discs spin, keeping skaters’ adrenaline pumping and entertaining game players, partygoers and spectators.
Rainbow Rollerland is open Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus other times by reservation. Call for specific times and prices.
Biz at a glance:
Name: Rainbow Rollerland
Location: 1125 W. Jefferson St., Brooksville
Hours: :Tuesday: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. by reservation (for private parties/admission $3)
Friday: 7 to 11 p.m. usually (admission $6); occasionally they have all-night skates (7 p.m. to 7 a.m. – admission $15)
Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (admission $3.50); 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (admission $3.50); 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (admission $6)
Sunday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (admission $3.50); 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (after 5:30 p.m. $1 admission)