Second-Generation Owners Planning An Open House Event To Celebrate Milestone
By Molly Allen
Walking through the front doors of Skateland in Union Gap on a Friday night may be the norm for local high-schoolers and young families.
But most roller-skaters and roller-bladers don’t know that, for the past seven decades, Skateland has developed a rich history with the local community beyond those doors.
The Yakima Valley’s only roller-skating facility dates back to 1948 in its current location, 2506 Old Town Road, and owners Kim and Connie Eisenzimmer will be celebrating its 70th year in business this weekend.
“My parents built this business literally from the ground up,” Kim said. “We’re excited to be able to celebrate its history.”
Kim’s parents, Johnny and Irene Eisenzimmer, opened Skateland as a way of providing a larger family fun center for the community.
After opening a rink in downtown Kennewick in the 1930s, the Eisenzimmers decided Yakima — the bigger city at the time — would offer more opportunities for the business.
At the time, the city of Yakima had recently ordered the existing city rink to close.
Kim Eisenzimmer said his parents presented their business plan to the city, acknowledging they would run a clean, safe operation. They were granted permission to open a 30-foot by 60-foot rink in downtown Yakima.
But just after the couple got the business up and running, Johnny went into the Army, serving in World War II, while Irene and Johnny’s mother stayed home to run the rink and turn it into a success.
“At that time, women were working in factories if they were working at all, nothing even close to running a business,” Kim said. “It’s amazing what they accomplished.”
Years later, when it came time to expand, the Eisenzimmers bought the property where Skateland currently sits, as well as an old Army theater in Medford, Oregon.
The couple salvaged materials from the theater, including the boiler system that is still in the Skateland building today, to build the new rink, with a 10,000-square-foot hardwood floor.
“A majority of the original materials they trucked up from that theater are still a part of the building today,” Kim said.
Kim Eisenzimmer grew up around the rink, but he also had a great interest in music.
Primarily a saxophone player, he was going to college to pursue music, when his father was involved in a near-fatal car accident.
“At the time, I had to save the family business,” he said. “And I had to save the rink for the community.”
A Lifetime Of Skating
Kim took over ownership of Skateland on Sept. 1, 1980, and he has been running it ever since. He and Connie met at Skateland in 1992.
Connie Eisenzimmer grew up skating at the rink at least once a month with her family, particularly for Christian Skate Nights, which were started by Kim’s father and are still hosted every third Monday of the month.
Connie continued the family tradition, often bringing her two sons to skate at the rink as well.
“I never remembered seeing Kim before we actually met,” she said. “But my mom and sister have told me they remembered seeing him in the DJ booth.”
The couple got married in 1993 and started to remodel the building shortly after, adding some much-needed new space and reconfiguring the layout.
In addition to offering five public sessions per week, with more during the summer, Skateland also hosts private sessions and events for community organizations.
The Eisenzimmers also have been working on finding instructors who want to utilize the space for dance classes, live music, workout classes and more.
“We have a great, large hardwood floor that the community could be using for other things as well,” Connie said. “We want to see the space used by the community.”
Kim and Connie will be celebrating Skateland’s 70th anniversary in business, as well as their 25th wedding anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 1, inviting the community in for a free, open house-style event from 1-5 p.m.
Guests can enjoy visiting the booths of more than 20 local vendors and skate from 2-4 p.m. for only 70 cents.
A dedication toast will take place at 1:30 p.m. and local youth musicians, including Tempest NW and Jayleigh Ann & The Lost Boys, will be performing throughout the afternoon.
For more information about Skateland and the anniversary event, visit http://www.skatelanduniongap.com.
*Originally published in the Yakima Business Times