This week’s post is compliments of Tom Holmberg, one of my fellow Reference Librarians. After noting that people have been looking for info on the Fireside Roller Rink in Hoffman Estates, I asked him to write a posting. He was happy to comply and this is the result. Since neither he nor I ever skated at the Fireside, maybe you can tell us of your experiences there?
From 1975 to 1985, Irv Basich, Ray Keegan and their partners owned the Fireside Roller Arena on Roselle Road between Bode Road and Higgins Road in Hoffman Estates. Prior to the roller rink, a series of failed grocery stores occupied the site, including, for a mere three weeks, a grocery store called Guido’s which was quickly shut down when it was discovered that the ground beef contained food coloring and rodent hairs. The building was then empty for two and a half years before the roller rink opened.
In its heyday the Fireside was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest indoor roller rink. The skating area was reportedly 26,789 sq. ft. and the whole building was 60,000 sq. ft. (At the time two Schaumburg Township attractions were in the Guinness Book of World Records. Can you guess the other?) The rink surface was constructed of 1 ½ inch tongue and groove rock maple that had an estimated replacement cost in 1984 of $300,000. The facility included three rinks– an outer rink for forward skating, an inner rink for backward skating and a side rink for practice. The rink also boasted a $50,000 Rodgers Olympic theater organ to provide music for the skaters. By 1984 the organist was replaced by taped music except on Sunday nights when you could still hear the organ being used.
One unique feature of the rink was its “roller skating coaster boasting dips, curves and angles guaranteed to exhilarate at every turn.” “We had a lot of dead space we wanted to use,” Basich told the Chicago Tribune in 1976, “so we first thought of the coaster idea for skateboarders. But after members of our family and friends tried it out, we decided to keep it strictly for roller skaters. It’s not a disco rink.” The rink also included an electronic video games area. After the Fireside closed in 1985, the building became an F & M Distributors store which sold beauty, health and food items at a deep discount; it is now Valli Produce.