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Empire Roller Skating Center (former)

About this listing

Brooklyn's last large-scale roller rink, closed in 2007

Place Details

Borough : Brooklyn
Neighborhood : Crown Heights
Infrastructure, Highlights in Central Brooklyn, Recreation, Play

Place Matters Profile

Editor's note: Sadly, the Empire Roller Rink was closed on April 23, 2007, after being sold. The word is that it will be turned into a storage facility.

Place Matters entry from ca. 2004.

The Empire Rollerdrome has been a fixture in Brooklyn for over 60 years, regularly transforming itself to reflect trends in popular culture. Particularly known for its pioneering role in the roller disco craze, the Empire is now the last remaining large-scale roller rink in Brooklyn.

The Swanson Family opened the Empire Rollerdrome (now the Empire Roller Skating Center) in 1941 in a former Ebbet's Field parking garage. They converted the garage to a roller rink using speakers from the 1939 World's Fair and adding a state-of-the-art maple floor (they also owned a flooring business), lending the rink its nickname "Home of the Miracle Maple." The rink was later owned by Sonny Durante, who in turn sold...

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Alston, Sam. Interviewed by Elena Martinez for Place Matters. September 24, 1999.

Butler, Bill and Schoen, Elin. Jammin': Bill Butler's Complete Guide to Roller Disco. New York: Pocket Books, 1979.

Clayton, Robert. Interviewed by Elena Martinez for Place Matters. September 7, 1999.

Fisher, Terence. Interviewed by Elena Martinez for Place Matters. September 20, 1999.

Jean, Francis. Interviewed by Elena Martinez for Place Matters. November 28, 2001.

Kamber, Michael. "Age of Empire: The Reopening of a Brooklyn Roller-Skating Mecca." Village Voice, April 12-18, 2000.

Marzano, Dale A. Roller Disco. New York: Domus Books, 1979.

Shaheed, Khadijah. Interviewed by Elena Martinez for Place Matters. July 28, 1999.

On The Web

"The Last Lace-UP" New York Times article


Pamela Koeppel

Memory - A Poem

Back 1984,

we wandered into Brooklyn to the Empire Roller Rink to hear Gregory Isaacs switch his hips and sing in that melodic, romantic, but cranky voice of his "Night Nurse" and "I'm just a Stranger in Your Town, Once in a while, I'll stop around. Let's make friends. Friends that Never End."

Please don't shut down this building. It has memories of great artists who performed there. I especially remember the 80's calypso and reggae revolutionary artists. This is part of my children's culture.

The physical details of the place matter. Brooklyn still needs indoor venues for the teenagers. We can make this a dry club and Caribbean arts and crafts, and cultural education center. Don't tear down the building. Let the West Indian community have its culture.

This is how children grow into adults with healthy self-esteem and pride.

And we did.

All of us there, and

memories that would last an eternity

as the Glass Mirrors on the walls reflected our love and humanity.

(April 2007)

Khadijah Shaheed

Nominator submitted place name to the Census of Places that Matter.

I recently learned that the empire roller rink was sold to become a storage facility. I am shocked! The empire roller disco - the only place in New York that has dance skating. Ii was planning my 50th birthday party there.

I don't understand how the empire roller disco can be turned into a storage facility. It is like using the statue of liberty for a storage facility because it is too much trouble to keep order.

The empire roller disco sign is a landmark for people to remember and pass on to other generations. It tells of a time past when everyone came together to enjoy healthy recreation. The roller disco is a Brooklyn, New York institution. There is no where else to roller skate like it!

(submitted April 2007)

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