By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
Retired 1st Sgt. Steve Evans doesn’t allow fighting, cursing, kissing or hugging at his roller rink. Skaters — even adults — may hold hands, but only while maintaining an appropriate distance.
Other than that, Evans said, Skateworld Killeen is all about fun.
“This is Kiddieland U.S.A.,” he said Wednesday while sitting on a blue party table bench and framed by the stuffed animals he’ll give away when Skateworld opens at 7 p.m. Friday. “Anybody’s allowed to come, as long as they follow the rules.”
Behind him shone Skateworld’s giant blue rink, at the center of which stood a police car permanent centerpiece, its lights flashing during a concurrent laser light show. Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” thumped from the sound system.
Evans, a former military police officer, has worked at roller rinks on and off since the 1970s, during skating’s glory days. His love of the business stems from an early childhood spent on Southern California’s skate-friendly Venice Beach.
His love of rules and respect stems from those memories, too. Venice can be a rough place, said Evans, 63, and he was frequently bullied.
Kids deserve a chance to be kids, and that’s what they get at his rinks, he said. “I treat them like they’re my own. I have a ‘timeout’ bench.'”
Evans’ sister, Patricia Dewberry of Lampasas, helped him renovate the rink. She chuckled as she described his disciplinary style.
“If he catches them writing on the table,” she said, “he calls the parent and tells them they can’t come back for a month, or they’ll write 400 sentences, ‘I will not write on the table.'”
It’s tough love that makes Skateworld a place where parents can drop off their kids, worry-free, for hours at a time, Evans said, and at $8 a skate, including rentals, he’s the cheapest baby-sitter in town.
Most recently, the longtime Killeen resident owned Skateworld in Copperas Cove. He left the location after 17 years, however, he said, because business had waned. It’s now a body shop. He believes Killeen will provide a bigger, fresh supply of young skate enthusiasts.
Although the skating craze comes and goes about every 10 years, he said, both children and parents are hungry for wholesome, active ways to have fun.
The rink, located across from Ellison High School at 702 E. Elms Road, once operated under the name of Southside. The building was leased intermittently by dance and other businesses until Evans found it 2½ years ago. It’s taken that long — and $65,000 — to get it up to his standards, he said.
He has a “before” picture album, showing the disrepair it was in. Among other life forms, he found raccoons and a water moccasin living in the building.
“We had three raccoons, two possums, a big, heavy-set cat and that big snake,” Evans said, laughing.
Skateworld looks remarkably different from the building in the pictures. The walls are painted green with colorful trims, and a snack bar is stocked with treats, such as hot dogs and chips. A rental station is full of skates and a first-aid room is ready for skaters with the occasional scrape or bruise. Tables can accommodate up to 15 birthday parties at one time.
“It’s got all the flavors (from my past rinks),” Evans said, smiling. “It’s the final frontier. This is my last rink. It’s scary and nerve-racking. It makes it hard to sleep at night.”
Skateworld is open from 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It is open Monday through Thursday for private parties only.
For more information about Skateworld Killeen, call (254) 200-0220 or go to www.skateworldkilleen.com.