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Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’: Life after the legacy of Lloyd’s Recreation

When she first found out that Lloyd’s Recreation was set to close in February 2018, Debbie Shipley-Nance was in denial.

After 54 years in Calgary, the popular roller-skating venue had decided it was time to hang up their wheels.

The closure of Lloyd’s hit the roller sports community particularly hard. Shipley-Nance, founder of the Roller Recreation Association, went to the iconic roller rink every weekend for 25 years.

“It was so much a part of my identity, I couldn’t imagine a life without Lloyd’s,” Shipley-Nance said.

‘It’s the people that kept it going, not the building.’

It was the closure of Lloyd’s that inspired Shipley-Nance to start the Roller Recreation Association.

“If we can keep skating going, then that was the heart of Lloyd’s. It’s the people that kept it going, not the building,” she said.

The appeal of Lloyd’s spanned generations. The community that frequented the roller rink described themselves as a family, and Shipley-Nance knew she couldn’t let that go.

Calgarians responded enthusiastically to the return of roller skating: the first Lloyd’s Legacy Skate organized by the Roller Recreation Association last year sold out with 400 attendees.

This year they’ve found a bigger space – 15,000 square feet of wood floor to roll on.

Shipley-Nance said that the silver lining to Lloyd’s closure is the opportunity it gave their community to come together and ensure the legacy lives on.

“We want to invite and embrace new people to come in, to experience the same stuff that we love,” Shipley-Nance said.

The 2019 Lloyd’s Legacy skate sold out. CONTRIBUTED

Legacy Skate important for younger generations

For Trina Wenner, Lloyd’s was a positive place to go as a teenager. It kept her out of trouble and gave her a sense of belonging. She went to the roller rink five days a week and felt like she “literally lived at Lloyd’s.”

Wenner said it’s important to keep community events like the Lloyd’s Legacy Skate going for younger generations.

“We are losing a lot of that now with the young kids. They stay at home and play video games for hours on end, not really connecting to the outside world and other people,” Wenner said.

For some roller sport enthusiasts, school programs introduced them to the activity they love. Bill Mcleod started roller skating in 1972, thanks to a school trip to Lloyd’s.

“The teacher asked us if we wanted to go bowling, swimming or roller skating. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for this,” Mcleod said. He’s worried that with the Lloyd’s closure, children won’t have the same opportunity to discover the sport like he did.

“I would love to see it back in the curriculum,” Mcleod said. Currently, Alien In-Line still offers their school programs in Calgary.

Roller skating options available

There are still multiple organizations that allow Calgarians to get their roller sport fix during the cold months. Keep Em’ Rolling and Calgary Roller Skate both hold monthly events, and the Compound YYC offers an indoor space with ramps. Additionally, Calgary Roller Derby offers training programs for thrill-seeking roller skaters.

“We want Calgary to know just how much is going on. It didn’t stop with Lloyd’s. Lloyd’s will always be with us, and our heart is all about Lloyd’s, but we are carrying on with this to keep it going in Calgary,” said Shipley-Nance.

The Lloyd’s closure had different effects on Calgarians. Don McGeachy didn’t commit to roller skating until the announcement of the closure. He bought his own skates and gradually visited the rink more until the closure.

“It’s funny that it took the announcement to ignite my passion. I don’t get it, but I love what it did to me,” said McGeachy. Despite his brief stint at Lloyd’s, McGeachy said he’s met a second family through roller skating. The sport even inspired him to try out other activities like ice skating.

Another roller rink in Calgary?

Although the Roller Recreation Association is driven to keep roller sports alive in Calgary, Shipley-Nance thinks it is vital that the city invests in another full-time roller rink.

“We’ve got the people there that need it, and it’s been proven time and time again we have people that need it,” said Shipley-Nance.

“It is therapy. Everything disappears when you get on that rink,” said Wenner.

For now, Calgarians can get their roller sports fix at the next Lloyd’s Legacy Skate organized by the Roller Recreation Association. The event is on Feb. 15 at the Junior Varsity Volleyball Training Centre. All experience levels are welcome.