Slip Slidin Away

June 5, 2002
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The cotton candy now comes in a foil wrapper and the hotdogs cost a buck and a quarter, but for generations of Grand Rapidians, the memories are priceless.

The sale and imminent closure of Woodland Sports Center, or as anyone who has grown up in Grand Rapids knows, Woodland Skating Rink, brings to an end at least half a century of school skating parties where the once-around-the-rink racing was intense and the speed you used to skate away from Susie during “couples skate” was even more so.

At last count, 96 Grand Rapids area schools were making the pilgrimage to Woodland Skating on 28th Street SE to do the Hokey-Pokey, hold hands with a partner or skate backwards and loiter in the concession area to scarf down 60-cent hot pretzels and 30-cent Juicees (because Mom only gave you a dollar, and that left money for two Jolly Ranchers later).

On Feb. 3, however, that slice of Americana dries up. And by the end of February, the tennis and fitness stuff will be gone, too.

Alice Roodvoets has owned the place for at least 40 years (ever since her husband died), and it’s been good to her. She’s sent six kids through the local Christian school system and seen their friends and thousands of others come back time and again for a twirl around the Woodland oval.

But times do change, and it involves more than foil wrappers (not the great paper “sticks”) for the cotton candy and inline skates instead of rollers. In this day and age of lawsuits over coffee that’s too hot or offices that are too cold, everything you’ve worked more than 40 years to build up can be gone in the blink of an eye.

So it’s time to sell the rink.

The new owners are keeping a low profile, probably because they don’t want a host of schoolchildren knocking on their door.

Early indications are that the buildings will stay, but instead of tennis courts and roller skating, better bets would be a banquet facility, warehouses or even a flea market.

Money talks, and a sale price of $3 million has been bandied about, but the real culprit is the loss of trust.

It’s too chancy to own and operate a roller rink these days.

In this case, it’s better to skate with Susie than to be sued.

  • E-mail is a wonderful communications tool. Everyone has a “broadcast list” to whom they send information. It’s usually a convenient way to let everyone else know what you’re doing. Unless, of course, some people on the list don’t care what you’re doing.

Such is the case with MelVandegevel and the Grand Rapids Public Schools, which is sending out news releases to a variety of media outlets, including Advance Newspapers in Jenison. It would make sense that MikeWyngarden and his news crew would have a Web presence called news@advance.com, but that’s not the case. That address belongs to Landmark Graphics Corp. in Denver.

How do we know this? Because a systems administrator named NickWhite says so in an e-mail sent back to Vandegevel.

“OK, I’ve asked several times, but could someone please take news@advance.com off of this mailing list? This is a software company in Denver, Colorado, and we don’t care much about the Grand Rapids Public Schools (although we hope you are educating exceptional computer scientists).”

Ah, humor will get you everywhere.

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce, in cooperation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, and the Specialty Equipment Market Association, will lead an automotive trade mission to the ASEAN countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

This tour, which takes place April 1-12, features stops in Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

For applications and information, contact JeffreyDutton, Office of Automotive Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce, (202) 482-0671. Deadline for applications is Jan. 26.

The participation fee is $3,600 per company. According to Commerce, the fee does not include airfare, hotel accommodations or meals.

Hmm, what does it include?

  • The economic slowdown predicted by analysts across the country apparently has little impact locally, according to a WZZM 13-SurveyUSA Poll. Officials say 500 Kent County area adults were survey, and 56 percent said that despite concerns about the economy and recent layoff and slowdowns in the auto industry, they were no more or less likely to purchase an automobile in the next six months. In other words, they couldn’t care less.

They do care about the John Ball Zoo, however, as 74 percent of those surveyed said the zoo should be able to expand into John Ball Park.

  • STARBRIGHT World, a protected, interactive computer network created by StevenSpielberg for hospitalized children across the country, has a new star.

Last Thursday, JamesFahner, MD, chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, became the first physician at DeVos Children’s Hospital to answer questions posed by children in 55 hospitals around the country during a “Ask The Doc” chat program.

“It’s a real treat for me to be able to chat with hospitalized children from around the country who have questions that may not necessarily be medical, but are certainly important to them. I’m sure that I will learn as much or more from the children as they learn from me,” Fahner said.

Five portable units dedicated to STARBRIGHT World were made available to patients at DeVos Children’s Hospital through gifts to the DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The units are located on the fifth, seventh and ninth floors, as well as the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic playroom, which is where Fahner set up his Internet chat.

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