CRESTVIEW — A whirl of lights from the disco ball, dancing lasers and the beat of Michael Jackson heralded an Old School Night at SkateTopia. The community’s newest family-friendly venue opened Dec. 15 in Hot Wheels’ former location.


CRESTVIEW — A whirl of lights from the disco ball, dancing lasers and the beat of Michael Jackson heralded an Old School Night at SkateTopia. The community’s newest family-friendly venue opened Dec. 15 in Hot Wheels’ former location.



The business had closed for nearly 10 months before Dave and Nancy Brown purchased it in December.



“Kids in Crestview don’t have much to do here,” Dave, a Crestview Fire Department battalion chief, said. “We’re thrilled when the kids are smiling and skating and having fun — and they’re getting exercise instead of sitting in front of the TV.”



Everybody in the Brown family skates, so buying the skating rink was an easy decision, Dave said.





It took an intensive couple of weeks of scrubbing, cleaning and painting to get to opening day. A pair of retired firefighter friends from New York came to Crestview to help the Browns prepare.



“We worked 16-hour days to get this place up to standards, cleaning and painting,” Dave said.



“We still have work to do,” Nancy said. “We have to redo the floor and replace the carpet.”



Dave wants to refinish the floor — which has some paint peeling in a couple of sections — so the rink can host skating events such as competitions.



“I dance-skate,” Dave said. “I want to get the floor really good and then we can hold events.”



The couple’s daughters, Summer, 10, and Alyssa, 16, both skate and give their parents a hand. As Dave spins music from his iPod in the control booth, Nancy works the ticket and skate rental window. Summer helps pass rental skates to customers, and performs “quality control” on the rink.



During a recent Wednesday Old School Night — “That’s when it’s disco music, funk and ’80s music,” Dave said. Thursdays are Country Music Nights — families, children and teens whizzed in traditional counter-clockwise travel.



“We thought it would be a fun thing to do tonight,” Mary Weighknecht said before joining her husband, Herb, and children, Autumn, 13, and Wyatt, 9, on the floor. “It’s great because it’s local. We didn’t have to go to Milton or Fort Walton Beach like we used to do.”



Mary, a competitive skater with the area Okaloosa Rollers roller derby club, known on skates as “Petty Officer Panic,” soon gave Wyatt some helpful hints.



“Bend your knees a little!” she called. “There you go!”



Crestview’s Michael Long and his pal, Connor Watkins, both 15, liked having something to do in town.



“It’s great,” Michael said. “I used to have to skate in Pensacola.”



Connor said his parents were comfortable knowing an emergency responder ran the business.



“We never skated here before,” Connor said. “I don’t really skate a lot but I like doing it.”



Parents and kids aren’t the only ones glad to see SkateTopia opened.



“It is one of the few places in town where kids can go,” Crestview Police Department spokesperson Lt. Andrew Schneider said. “I’m glad it’s open. It’s better than having kids wandering town doing nothing. It’s better than having them out causing trouble.”



“When I can please the kids, when they’re smiling and laughing, that’s what it’s all about,” Dave said, cueing up a tune by K.C. and the Sunshine Band.



Want to go?



SkateTopia roller rink, 383 Coleman St., is open 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 6-11 p.m. Fridays; 1-3, 5-7 and 9-11 p.m. Saturdays; and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.



Standard and inline or speed skate rentals are available. Military and emergency responders receive a discount. Private parties are available.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.