Sunday, June 23, 2013

Goodbye, World on Wheels: An L.A. Treasure

If you grew up in Los Angeles during the 80's and 90's, World on Wheels was a place to be. Growing up in Mid-City, I attended birthdays there as well as several church outings. Even though there was a worry about a gang presence in the area, somehow the place felt cool where you could just enjoy yourself.

After this weekend, World on Wheels will be no more. Another Los Angeles memory of my childhood gone as time has passed it by and revenue was harder to come by.

I've realized that growing up means saying goodbye to things and people. Skating is a lost art these days and yes, World on Wheels' days were numbered but it's still sad to see something you grew up with become a memory. It's one of the last remaining indoor skating rinks in the city and for 32 years, it made its mark here.

W.O.W. became famous in the 80's because KDAY would host hip-hop concerts there, including NWA and LL Cool J. For me, it was just a great place to go skating. It was where I learned to get comfortable with it like my peers would with roller blades and for a brief part of my life, it was a great place to be.

Last year, I was glad that I was able to go back there with my youth group for an outing. It was my first time there in over 10+ years. The venue looked smaller, the crowd was sparse and after an adjustment, the skating was still smooth. Still fun to chill in the hangout area at the center of the rink. Great hearing the DJ's spin gospel music.

On Saturday, I took my final trip down to the strip between Venice and San Vicente. That whole drive I debated if I was going to pay the $9 to skate around one more time. I wanted to just take pictures but as I got closer, my reporter instincts kicked in. What's the best way to tell a story? From the outside or being knee deep in it as an active observer?

So I went in. I gave myself an hour to soak everything up and when I came in, I saw a few birthday parties of kids all around. I saw parents trying to keep an eye on them and on the rink, everything was happening like a normal Saturday. As I laced up my skates, I hit the rink for old time's sake.

Truth be told, I'm a decent skater. I won't fall down but I can't skate backwards or do any tricks. Kids whizzed by me going backwards or just fell down trying to stay up. A few really good skaters were doing tricks - spins, gliding backwards and mini choreographed routines. All I did was just glide, dance a lil bit and enjoyed the moment.

One little girl had a shirt that said "I'm a Rollerskater 4 Life." I saw adults helping kids stay up and even though they fell, they laughed and loved every bit of the experience. That's what W.O.W. was about - a place to have fun in a part of L.A. that doesn't really offer that much fun these days.

Overall, I was just glad feeling like I was a kid again except I was watching kids do just that. Now it'll be gone and probably given a makeover. Thanks for the good times, W.O.W.

(All photos and the video in this post were taken by Evan Barnes)

The lobby you'd wait in before you walk in to rink. I remember it'd always be packed on a good day.

The last skates I'd lace up at W.O.W.

One last look inside

A fitting last shot.
One last skate around.

The sign says it all. Thank you, World on Wheels, for serving Los Angeles and being an outlet for so many to have fun.

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