SKATING AWAY AT THE FIRESIDE ROLLER RINK

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.

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20 Responses to “SKATING AWAY AT THE FIRESIDE ROLLER RINK”

  1. Betty Helsper Says:

    My sister Jean Helsper and I (sisters married to brothers!) were Girl Scout leaders back in the day. One of our activities was taking our girls to the roller skating rink in Hoffman Estates. Jean had just recently purchased a beautiful wig, which she was wearing that day. Unfortunately, one of the scouts got in her way and Jean went sprawling! Her wig came off and scooted off to the sidelines. Embarrassing? It sure was…but we had fun anyway. Jean passed away last year…she would have enjoyed this story.

  2. Dave N Says:

    My sister was a skating guard at Fireside. Basically, she and the other guards would skate around and make sure you were not goofing off and skated up to check on you if you fell. I am sure the guards had more responsibilities but those are the two I remember. Fireside was the place to be for me as a kid. I remember the roller coaster and think back now and am amazed it was insurable because it was all concrete and wood walls if I remember. I wasn’t a strong skater so I spent lots of time in the video game area or practice rink. I seem to recall a KFC in that same parking lot and my Dad would stop to get a bucket of chicken for us kids on the way home from picking us up.

  3. Jerry N Says:

    My parents used to take my sister, brother, and myself to Fireside when we were growing up. I can still picture the place in my head and it was huge. The roller coaster was a lot of fun but it was concrete and it did hurt when you fell. I would say that what I loved about it the most was that it was a great place to go to and I loved the hard wood floors. Rinks now a days don’t even come close to how nice Fireside was. And if you were fortnate enough to skate there you know what I’m talking about. They even did the hokie-pokie on rollerskates. I miss it a lot.

  4. Lou Tomassi Says:

    I skated at Fireside from 1976 until sometime around 1984. I was a weekly regular there. I was there most Firday and Saturday nights, rarely ever missed a weekend. Met a lot of good people there, to include my wife. At that time it was the place to be, a lot of fun , safe and clean enviorment, and I LOVED TO SKATE TO THE MUSIC OF MICHEAL JACKSON as well as all the other music they played….the organ was pretty nice too…I Had a Fireside Skating reunion last year July 10th 2010 at Orbit in Palatine, had a pretty good turn out Mrs Keegan even stopped in to say hi ….Miss the place too bad it’s gone….Still skating to this day even at my old age…all over the place but mostly at Orbit in Palatine, Skateco in Rockford, and sometimes at Lombard Rink….

  5. Duane S Says:

    How about ice rinks? Anyone remember the city rink near Lakeview School? I remember some long, cold hours skating there. Fortunately there was a warming house.

  6. Kristine Says:

    I skated there from 1976 to 79 .. I have such great memories as a 14 year old girl. My best friend June and I were regulars. We skated Friday, Saturday and Wednesday nights! I remember the pom-poms on our skates, bell bottom jeans, Linda Ronstat..( ohh Baby Baby )and having the last dance right before midnight with my boyfriend Kevin… The Fireplace, The Organ Music, The Disco Music, drinking the “Suicide” at the Snack Bar… Pac Man, Galiga, and the guy with the greasy hair that gave us our skates… lol… kissing in the corner when we were not suppose too! Mr. Basic getting onto us! Bubble Yum, NIck and Joes right in front of the rink… Fun Fun!

  7. Jim Says:

    Hey,,,
    I might have been that guy with greasy hair handing out skates. I remember going there when they had 3 rinks and me and a friend of mine took lessons. i ended up getting a job there and worked repairing skates and also as a guard. I remember the Basics and the Keegans. Them were good days.

  8. Todd Schultze Says:

    Just looking back

  9. Todd Schultze Says:

    My name is Todd Schultze and I started skating at fireside in 1978. I also worked at fireside around 1979. My first job there was to pick up the trash in the parking lot and cut the grass. Mr Basich gave me that job so I could get in free. I did that in till I turned 16. Then I worked the skate room and fixed skates after school. I also help the Basich family with other job around the rink like sand the floor and paint and so on. I also met my wife at fireside. I worked and skated there in till I got out of high school. I did still skate there in till the rink closed. I am still in touch with all of the Basich family to this day. I also made a lot of good fiends there when I was a kid. I still keep in touch with some of them but as the time goes on people grow and move on to start there own family’s. Be for I go I would like to say one more thing Mr Basich was I good man if it was not for him and his family my life would have no turned out as good as it has. I will always have a spot in my hart in till the day die for Mr Basich and his whole family plus my lovely wife’s family the Beilfuss who I meet at Fireside.

  10. Freda@Esunis.com Says:

    wow! Fireside was my first job. I started in April 1975. The owners, employees, regulars: we were like family. Many people came and went. I still can tell you the schedule. Private parties. One group from Chicago, man they could skate. like 30 miles an hour. Only Todd had the endurnace to skate with them for a length of time.
    Irv and Marge // Ray and Barb: they cared for people. they wanted folks to have a good time. I miss those days. We were family.

  11. Mary Jorgenson (Yaste) Says:

    I was one of the first employees there. I loved working at Fireside. A great first job!

  12. william anthony provenzano Says:

    I walked into Fireside and put on my skates and did all my tricks out on the floor. The next thing I know the owner calls me up to the office on the second floor, I thought I was in trouble, but he asked me if I wanted to be a skate guard. He said you don’t know anyone here, you would be perfect. I spent many years at Fireside please let me know when the next reunion is

  13. Sammy BASICH Says:

    My GRANDPA WAS THE OWNER. Sadly I didn’t get to skate . My grandpa died when I was 5 And now I am 13 years old . I’m a jam skater an speedskater I hope my grandpa proud of me and watching over me

  14. Matt Briski Says:

    I met my wife while skating at Fireside. We met there in the summer of 1980 during a “Trio” skate. We married in May of 1982 and are still happily married today. If not for this rink, maybe we never meet. It must have been written in the stars that day.

  15. Ashley Says:

    Does anyone have any pictures of Little Ceasars Family Fun Center which eventually replaced Fireside?

    • jrozek Says:

      Unfortunately, the library does not have any photos of Little Caesar’s Family Fun Center. Is there anyone else out there who does?

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  16. joe Says:

    I went to school with one of the Keegan kids and stopped by there with him occasionally to hang out. I was never a good skater and stuck to the arcade games !

    Wasnt there a Phar Mor (sp?) store at that sight for a while also ?

    • jrozek Says:

      You are completely correct–there was a Phar Mor in that location for a while. Loved that store!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  17. Lawrence Says:

    The time I skated fireside was 75-80 and outside of my dad breaking his ankle there one night my memories of that place has followed me fondly to CA. I only just found out they closed. Thanks Fireside for all the fun you brought my life and the memories are priceless.

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