The Rollerland Skating Rink was a popular Gold Coast venue for those who enjoyed the thrills and spills of this fashionable pastime. Situated on the corner of Chalk and Warner Streets in Coolangatta, it was the longest operating skating rink on the Gold Coast.
The genesis of Rollerland occurred in the late 1930s. In December 1938 Messers A. G. and V. Wright obtained permission from the Coolangatta Town Council to build a skating rink. The lease was to expire in April 1940 with the option to extend. Mr Vince Wright was already well known in the skating industry and took his mobile rink and other amusements to a variety of different locations. It’s believed that Vince Wright had already visited Coolangatta and set up his rink in 1937 where he enjoyed the support of the Coolangatta Town Council. It can only be assumed that the venture was such a success that it influenced his decision to return and build a more permanent structure in the early 1940s.
In 1941 permission to construct the rink on a short term lease on land on the ocean side of the retaining wall was given by the Coolangatta Town Council. Members of the local council considered outdoor skating to be a healthy amusement for children and holiday makers. The Coolawai Skating Rink, known locally as Wright’s Skating Rink, became a permanent fixture on Marine Parade.
The Coolangatta rink was located in front of the Beach House Guesthouse and offered outdoor skating on a metal floor. Photographs from the period show the rink as a large structure dominating the foreshore. People would purchase a ticket and skate to music played on records and amplified on loud speakers. In addition to the standard programme of activities and skating lessons offered at the rink, a range of fancy dress carnivals, dances and benefits for local organisations also drew crowds until late in the evening.
In 1947 the Queensland State Government ordered the rink closed despite over 12,000 people using the facility in the previous twelve months. Private businesses were not permitted to operate on the foreshore and the Land Administration Board indicated that it had never given approval for the structure built in 1941. However, after extensive petitioning by the public and with the support of the local council, the rink continued to operate until May 1953. At that time road expansion around Kirra headland required that the land be reclaimed and the rink was closed. The week before the auction of the rink, Mr Wright held a party for 200 children and their parents. He then built a new skating rink across from Goodwin Park on Lanham Street and shifted his operations to the new building in 1955.
In 1967 Ray Otto, a former national figure skating champion, purchased the rink from Mr Wright. As an astute businessman and promoter of tourism to the area he recognised the potential of such an amusement centre in Coolangatta. He renovated the rink by installing a new sound system, lighting and flooring. Ray became a well-known local identity and would often be seen driving around in his ‘Town Crier Car’ which was a mini with cut-out skates on the roof.
Coached by Barbara Cossil from 1967, local lad James Beard won the Australian Roller Skating Championship and went to Europe to compete in both Germany and Spain. His success was no doubt helped by the support of Mr Otto who supplied James with a key to the building so that he could train whenever he pleased. James’ mother Joan ran the snack bar in the rink for 20 years, supplying the crowd with both sweet and savoury treats while keeping watch on the younger children making their way up and down the practice lanes.
One night in 1970 a fire in the rink caused considerable damage to one corner of the building. Friends and customers provided support to quickly repair the damage and the rink was back in operation within 24 hours. Although Mr Otto had redevelopment plans for the site including a new rink, transit facility and budget accommodation the building was demolished in 2001.
Sources of information and further reading
- “History of Roller Skates.” http://www.skatesgalore.com/history-of-roller-skates/ Web. Accessed 21 Nov 2016.
- “Gold Coast Roller Skating History.” http://members.ozemail.com.au/~hanrahan/skaters/backgr.html Web. Accessed 21 Nov 2016.
- SKATING. (1938, July 27). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), p. 13. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article174124124
- Skating Booms Along Coast (1949, September 22). The South Coast Express (Surfers Paradise, Qld. : 1949 – 1951), p. 1. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226280920
- BORDER NEWS (1953, May 20). South Coast Bulletin (Southport, Qld. : 1929 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226266284
- SKATING IN MARYBOROUGH (1941, May 9).Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), p. 4. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article152120339
- SKATING RINK TO BE BUILT. (1940, March 29).The Dalby Herald (Qld. : 1910 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216795637
- COOLANGATTA COUNCIL (1941, March 12).The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44907964
- NO SKATING AT THE BAY (1937, November 26). Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), p. 7. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article151221084
- COOLANGATTA COUNCIL ITEMS (1941, June 13). The Border Star (Coolangatta, Qld. : 1929 – 1942), p. 2. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226643785
- SKATING RINK AT COOLANGATTA (1946, September 26). Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW : 1914 – 1949), p. 5. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193129237
- COOLANGATTA SOCIALITIES (1952, January 2).South Coast Bulletin (Southport, Qld. : 1929 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225640094
- Ray’s skating rink amuses through the years. Daily News (Tweed Heads, Qld.) 9 Apr 1996, p. 12.
- Rollerland produces a champion. Daily News (Tweed Heads, Qld.) 16 Apr 1996, p. 9.