Indoor roller rink Guptill’s Arena drew in big crowds during the 1950s, back when teens frequented drive-ins, wore poodle skirts and sipped soda out of glass cola bottles.
“People heard Guptill’s was going to open and they had lined up at the front door,” said owner Charles “Skip” Guptill. “My father stood at the door and he hollered down the rink and he says, ‘Put away the sander, we’re open!’”
Cars still turn off Route 9 in Colonie, N.Y. to frequent the local roller rink, which Guptill said is as busy as ever. But his booming business also has an unintended side effect: fighting off childhood obesity.
Guptill’s son Danny Guptill, 23, said children don’t realize how much exercise they get while roller-skating, adding, “you get the whole package: you get the fun, the entertainment and the exercise.”
Nine times around the main floor of Guptill’s Arena equals one mile, and Charles Guptill—whose father built the rink after his own health improved from rolling around—said the average person skates 26 miles per session.
“My father had in inflammatory rheumatism and after a period of six months, he got so that he could walk again because of the exercise of skating,” he said. “So he got home and he says to my mother, ‘Margaret I’m going to build a roller rink.’”
In the 1970’s, Guptill’s was named the world’s largest roller rink by the Guinness Book of World Records— a title it still holds today. But Guptill’s Arena has since expanded its layout. Children and adults can learn to skate by lacing up on one of the two smaller rinks, while more experienced skaters can glide around the main floor under a large disco ball. Skaters can also roll almost anywhere in the building—even by the bathrooms, concession stand and arcade.
Yet one thing that hasn’t changed is the ownership. Charles Guptill said the venue has been in the family for 60 years, and is considered a second home by his eight children.
“We’re a family business and we’re so dedicated,” Danny Guptill said. “It means so much in our hearts to keep it alive.”