Thursday, March 3, 2011
Roller Skating Rink Restoration
I always believe it's important to help out and give back where you can. I wanted to share a cause that I am going to be donating some time and support to. For those of you who know me I absolutely love to roller skate. :) When I was little my parents use to bring me to the rink all the time. I can remember spending hours upon hours just skating around the rink. My favorite one was called Babb's roller skating rink in West Suffield, CT. It is about 15 minutes from where I live. The rink was actually built in the 1890's and started out as a summer lake resort on the edge of Congamond Lake. Babb's was utilized as a dance hall in the 1930's. It was then turned into a roller skating rink until 1996. The way I fondly remember it from my childhood. :)
Babb's Rink Rich with History
By Matt McCloghry
"It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing."
For Babb's Rink, the swing era is long gone. As are the days of poodle skirts and roller skates. In fact, most of the patrons of Babb's Rink during it's heyday are long retired. Babb's is just a distant memory of their rollicking youth.
Yet, the rink still remains as a reminder of the glory days. The reclamation project, now entering its eighth year, still has a long way to go. But no one involved with this multi-million dollar undertaking is ready to retire as yet.
The Babb's Roller Skating Rink Restoration Project began in 2003 as the Citizens Restoring Congamond (CRC) entered into a lease with the town of Suffield to use its status as a non-profit to begin the fundraising necessary to repair the historic building.
The Babb family began operating a resort on the shores of the Congamond Lake in West Suffield near the Southwick border in the late 1890s. The main building opened as a dance hall in 1932
In its early years, teens flocked to the new location to hear the big band sounds of swing made popular by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. In the post-war days, the advent of rock 'n' roll became the thing for kids of the era to listen to. From big bands to rock, new music played and skaters rolled around the dance floor. Babb's soon became a hotspot on Lake Congamond and enjoyed a thriving clientele.
As rollerskating became less popular, Babb's prospered and even experienced a resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s as it adapted to disco music and rollerblading. However, as expenses rose, the Babb family opted to donate the seven-acre property to the town of Suffield in 1977 and retain the rights to operate the skating rink. The rink as a business closed in 1996 as the property needed significant code compliance updates beyond its budget.
The building fell into disrepair and the CRC purchased the rights to redevelop the property with thoughts of restoring the luster and starting a thriving new business. But the change is taking time.
The CRC did receive a $100,000 grant from the state of Connecticut and has been able to rebuild the roof and insulate some of the walls. Old windows have been restored and much of the charm of the basic structure remains. It was registered as on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks in 2006.
To achieve the dream of the CRC and the many fans of the property, the Babb's Rink Restoration Project is going to need an influx of capital. The property has a good roof but still needs many of the basics such as heat, electricity and water.
“In round numbers, we have raised and spent about $250,000, and we are going to need about $900,000 before we can complete the project and get a [certificate of occupancy],” said CRC President Jerry Crane.
The certificate will allow the CRC to begin using the building for business purposes and thereby generate revenue. It is the first step to Babb's again becoming a viable entity that generates income.
Vandals set progress back to the tune of $7,200 on November 20, 2010, specifically targeting replacement windows, a donated antique piano and the rink floor. Police have no leads at this time and the CRC is seeking information to catch the culprits. However, the vandalism has not dampened the spirits of volunteers working diligently on the project.
Crane, volunteer engineer Bill Norcross and site manager sScott Feron lead a dedicated group of worked who have braved the cold weather to do some of the basics needed to keep the project going. Numerous local businesses have donated their time, materials and money to help the project.
Crane noted that the project still can use help in many ways not only on-site, but in fundraising, grant writing, publicity and networking to find other people who can help.
“This is such a wonderful place with a rich history and we have so much demand from local people to use the building for many purposes that I am confident this can be great place again,” Crane said
If you happen to live in the area and can donate your time to help out you can find out more information here: http://www.babbsrink.org/contact.htm Even if you don't live in the area, if you would be willing to donate money to this cause it would be greatly appreciated! http://www.babbsrink.org/donate.htm
Love and Blessings,