Roller skating has long, unique history in Nebraska

Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 6:57 PM CST
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While many people have gone roller skating at least once in their lives, most have never heard of competitive roller sports.

Like the ice skating competitions seen in the Olympics, figure and speed skating are both done on roller skates as well as roller hockey and roller derby.

Skating's history in the heartland is extensive.

Since the early 1960s, The Pershing Auditorium has hosted 27 roller national championships until it closed its doors in 2014. In 2016, the championships moved across town to Speedway Village.

Lincoln also hosted the national championships in 2017 and 2018 and will do so again in 2021 and 2022.

Omaha hosted the event in 2007 at the now-demolished Civic Auditorium.

Furthermore, Lincoln is home for the national headquarters of the sport's governing body, USA Roller Sports, and the national roller skating museum.

With such a lengthy history, the executive director for USA Roller Sports, Eric Steele, says there is a reason the once-popular sport isn't as prominent as it once was.

"Probably about the late '90s, early 2000s, with rinks closing, is what diminished it on the knowledge base with the folks that are sitting out there and the general public," Steele said.

Roller skating competitions extend all the way to the international level, but not the Olympics.

Steele says being selected for the Olympics would be massive for the sport which calls Nebraska home.

The same sentiment is shared by Ryan Jones, a senior defenseman on the UNO hockey team and a former national champion figure skater.

"A lot of people don't know it, which I wish they did because it honestly is a cool sport," Jones said. "I think more people know the ice skating side versus the roller skating side, but It's nothing different from ice. It's the same thing as ice, but you have four wheels."

Jones was drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He plans to have a long career on the ice after what he calls the best years of his life in Omaha.

He says his success skating on ice comes from his time as a roller skater.

"I think that there's a big correlation of why I am the skater I am today," Jones said.

Roller skating has also proven to have great health benefits.

So, grab the family or grab some friends and get rollin'!

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