Legacy continues to Skate-A-While-Longer

Nicole a hawley

Skaters at Skate-A-While-Longer, 220 Ridge St., can have peace of mind that the good times will continue to roll as the company becomes a new owner.

It was in 1977 that Gene S. Tamburino’s roller skating rink opened after building from scratch the 162 by 70 foot recreation center in southern Rome.

Her daughter, Deborah Harris, said she appreciated the family being able to pass her father’s business on to someone who is a long-time Skate-A-While customer.

Russ Brookins, owner of Time Out Full Service Vending on Turin Road, is the new owner.

Over the years, Harris said the rink had been an “emotional investment” and passing the family business on to Brookins was “bittersweet.”

“We knew if we sold the business to him, he would continue to run it like a roller rink,” Harris said of Brookins.

“Russ has a passion for skating similar to my father’s, and we love to see my father’s legacy live on, even if it’s not through us,” she said.

Skating was known to be “in the blood” of the original owner, Gene Tamburino, who spent several years helping his older brother run his ice rink in Rome.

His brother, Sam, built Tamby’s Rollerdome in 1946 on West Dominick Street.

He has also helped ice rinks in Clinton, Sylvan Beach, Utica, Alexandria Bay, Ephrata, Madison Lake, Mattydale and Walton.

Harris recalled that his father struggled to get support to build his ice rink in Rome.

In his own words, according to a story published in the Daily Sentry at the time, he said: “Years ago, ice rinks had a bad reputation because they were operated part-time by passing people looking for ‘quick money. »… In addition, in the past, many rinks were associated with roller derbies known for their violence.

But Tamburino’s passion for roller skating grew as he became involved in the business with his brother and beyond.

Tamby’s closed in 1949 and since then, “It has always been his dream to have a roller skating rink in Rome,” Harris said of his father. That’s why when Gene started building the rink in 1976, he invested a lot of money and expertise in his state-of-the-art maple flooring.

“It’s a 45 year old floor and it still looks great today. It’s because most of his money went to that floor, ”Harris said with a laugh.

Harris said his father started out as an avid dancer, but in the 1940s skating started to gain popularity. Unfortunately, that popularity waned about a decade later when bowling became the rage of recreational pursuits. But with disco music in the late 1970s, rollerblading once again celebrated a comeback.

Harris even remembered when inline skates became the “skate to have” and how his dad wasn’t too keen on inline skating when it became the “new thing”.

“He knew he had to give in to the lure of inline skates and adapt with the times, but he didn’t like it,” said Harris. “I know I had to inspect all the roller skates before they were allowed to come out because I had to make sure they didn’t ‘hurt’ the floor. “

When Gene was running the business, he joined the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association of America – an organization that was like “one big family” – fellow rink owners who helped and supported each other.

Customers were like family too, and Harris said there were stories of couples meeting at the rink for the first time and still together today. Sometimes there were buses full of skaters visiting the rink, from Utica and Camden, all the way to Syracuse and Watertown.

“Everyone had a nickname and my dad treated everyone special,” Harris said. She even recalled, with tears in her eyes, all the Facebook messages she received from current and past customers when her father passed away in 2016, and when the family announced the sale of the business, which included fond memories of skating at the rink over the years. .

Brookins remembers first coming to Skate-A-While in the late 1980s when he moved to Rome with the Air Force.

“I moved here in 1989 and looked for rinks in the area,” said Brookins, who was already an avid skater. “I found Skate-A-While-Longer, and have skated the rink almost every Saturday since.”

About three years ago, the new owner said the Tamburino-Harris family had considered selling the business.

“I started to ask, ‘What can I do? To get the rink, he said. “I always wanted to skate so I was like, ‘What am I doing now? “”

Brookins has had his own sales business for approximately 27 years and believed his experience and passion for skating would make an ideal choice as the new owner of Skate-A-While-Longer.

The new owner said he not only plans to preserve the legacy created by Gene Tamburino, but also hopes to grow the business. So far, he has added additional arcade games to the rec room and plans to prepare additional options for the snack menu.

“I brought a few games straight away,” he said, adding that some “longtime favorites” were among the selections. There will also be new games for the ice rink, such as a longer pole and equipment in all four corners.

“I’m also upgrading the audio system and working on getting more disco lights,” Brookins added.

Brookins also plans to expand snack bar options, in addition to the fries and candy, hot dogs and nachos on offer now.

“I want to try personal pan pizzas and then go from there,” he said.

Harris said she appreciates that Brookins also plans to bring back some “old traditions” her father started, including adult skate nights on Wednesdays. The rink also continues to be a popular destination for children’s birthday parties, and maybe adult roller derby will always find its way to the rink, she said.

Harris, who just retired in the spring, said she and her husband now look forward to having more time to visit their out-of-state children and will be there to help Brookins take Skate-A-While-Longer to new heights.


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