In the Beginning
Ken and Ruby Sasek came to Topeka and built Starlite South Skate Center in 1966 at 301 S.E. 45th Street. Ken and Ruby chose to build in South Topeka where they would be close to then Forbes Air Force Base. At that time base was active military and roller skating was a favorite past time of service personnel.
As time passed, Ken and Ruby determined that Topeka could use yet another roller skating facility. They decided to, and built, Starlite West Skate Center at 815 S.W. Fairlawn Rd in 1970.
Change of Ownership
In 1976, Pappy Winkler purchased Starlite South Skate Center from the Sasek’s. Pappy originally owned a Radio Shack in Kansas City, and Ken would occasionally come in to purchase items for his rinks in Topeka and Kansas City. Over time they became good friends. Eventually, Pappy shared with Ken that he was interested in purchasing a skating rink and the two of them came to an agreement that Starlite South Skate Center was a good fit.
Over the next 4 years the two rinks thrived, and in 1980 Pappy purchased Starlite West Skate Center from the Sasek’s. Once again, both rinks were owned and operated by the same individual. This remained the case until 1990 when Pappy sold Starlite South Skate Center to Loretta Long. In the summer of 2020, Starlite South Skate Center closed its doors, and was sold to another business. It would no longer be a roller skating establishment.
Another Change is Coming
And now back to Starlite West Skate Center. In 1989, a woman known to all of 31 years later, Tina Robertson (affectionately called Miss Tina) went to work for Pappy. Six years later, in 1995, Tina purchased Starlite West Skate Center from Pappy. For many years, you could still go to the rink on the weekends and see Pappy hanging around and making his presence known. He loved making balloon animals for the kids. The smiles he brought to our youth over the years were priceless.
In 1998, Miss Tina renamed the rink to Skate-A-Way Skate Center and in 2001 she changed it to Sk8away, Inc. and it remains under that name even today in September of 2020.
Look and Feel
As with everything, over time things change. That includes life at the local skating rink. Everything from the customers, to the employees, to the music, to the décor, to the skates and the skate floor. Nothing is ever static.
Every year, usually just before the new school year starts, the skating floor gets resurfaced. For people that come on a frequent basis, the first few times they come in after that, it seems like a whole new experience. After resurfacing the floor, it has a newfound tightness about it. Things like hockey stops or even just using your toe stops have a whole new feel. For a little while there is nothing slick about the new floor. But after a little bit of use it returns to its old familiar smooth sailing ride.
Every year or two at the most, there is a new paint job to admire. Miss Tina likes to keep it looking fresh. With her artistic abilities and the help of staff, it is like the whole place getting a facelift. From the various different geometric hanging shapes, to her own roller skate images that she builds, paints, and hangs on the walls, to the balloon and party images that she paints in the Party area, it is always something to amaze.
Music is no exception when it comes to change. Sure, some of it stays the same for nostalgic purposes. Some of it changes based on the age group in attendance. And some of the music changes due to the times. The music world changes daily, though it is usually measured in weeks, months, or years. New artists, new songs, new arrangements of old songs, and so on, makes for a whole world of change to keep up with.
Sk8away has been a part of this community, under one name or another, for 50+ years, and they aren’t going away. Let’s face it, Roller Skating is one of our favorite past times. People from the newly walking child, right on up through some of our “Senior” population, enjoy Roller Skating. It is Fun, and it is Healthy. As our motto says, “Where Fun is the Name of the Game”.
We certainly hope you have enjoyed finding out a bit more of the history of our rink, and we hope to see you out here, on skates, having the time of your lives, real soon!