Dreary winter days are about to get a little darker and longer for Rogue Valley roller skaters.
Roller Odyssey will close its doors April 6, ending a 37-year skate party spanning multiple generations on South Pacific Highway.
"I've been coming here as long as I can remember," said Hedrick Middle School eighth-grader Jace Greene. "I got skates for my birthday a long time ago, started skating around the house, then I came here. I come here every week, so I'm pretty upset."
Longtime manager Heather Derry said Roller Odyssey operator Cheryl Masterson was unable to reach a satisfactory lease agreement with landlord Anne Shaw Tudesko, whose family has owned the property and building for decades, and so elected to shutter the business.
"They wanted $9,500 a month in rent, plus $100,000 worth of upgrades within six months," Derry said. "Then after six months, it was going to be a month-to-month lease. This is not the kind of business you can easily move."
Roller Odyssey sits on property south of RoxyAnn Lanes, where the Coquille Tribe hopes to develop a casino, and just west of Charles Point apartment complex, which has nearly filled the surrounding acreage.
"It's become quite a sought-after property," Derry said. "We've been approached by both the casino people and the apartment people and they're not looking at the building, they are looking at the property."
Tudesko, who lives in Sloughhouse, Calif., southeast of Sacramento, did not respond to telephone and social media messages Tuesday.
For regulars like Jace, who skates around the Roller Odyssey floor for about four hours a week, practicing skills and learning new tricks, the challenge will be to find a new outlet.
"I'll have to skate around the neighborhood now, which isn't as fun," he said. "I may have to switch to ice skating."
Three decades ago, Jack Sterling's mom brought him to a spanking new Medford Skate University — the venue's former name. Now, the 36-year-old electrician regularly brings his daughter Hannah to the rink on Friday nights.
"It's all really, really sad," Sterling said. "Even when I don't have my kids I like skating, because it's a good workout and fun at the same time. There aren't too many things that are fun and give you exercise at the same time. I'm really bummed; I'm hoping for some kind of miracle."
Among the many elements lost when such a venue closes is the party room.
"My childhood is filled with fond memories of roller skating and my two daughters are now finally old enough that I take them to roller skate there and it is something we can all enjoy together," Kim Samitore said. "We even had a birthday party for both my daughters — because their birthdays are a month apart — there last year and it was one of the nicest party experiences we have had."
Granted the décor is dated, but that has a certain appeal as generations pass.
"Walking through the door is like walking back in time to 1987 when I was a kid, but the youth of today are looking for something more modern," said Samitore, who gives horseback-riding lessons. "Long story short, my daughters and I are extremely saddened to see the business go. I don't know where we will be able to go to have the mother-daughter fun that we do there. We live on a farm, so skating through our neighborhood is not an option. As a working mom, opportunities to step away from life for a few hours and find something that I also enjoy doing in a childlike fashion is rare, and that is what the roller rink offered us."
Derry said Roller Odyssey managers trolled the valley looking for a suitable location to move the business.
"Finding a free-standing building without (support) poles and with an acoustic-tile ceiling isn't easy," Derry said. "We haven't been able to come up with anything that meets our requirements."
Cheryl and Sheldon Masterson bought the business in 1991. Sheldon Masterson died in an automobile accident near Glendale in September 2009.
"When the economy went down in 2007, we struggled," Derry said. "We've worked hard the last few years to turn it around and were finally on the upswing. Anyone who thinks they can come in and buy the property is going to have to compete with some pretty big businesses."
When a lease couldn't be worked out, the decision was made to continue through the winter — the peak season for indoor rinks — and finish on a high note during spring break.
Jason Childress, another manager, said a crowd of 200 skaters on the floor wasn't unusual at a facility that could handle 1,200 visitors.
"After we get to 350 or 400 people," he said, "that's when we would start running out of (rental) skates."