Published DateLACONIA — In August, 2010, the mother-and-daughter team of Janine Page and Erica Duncan converted a vacant hardware store into a roller skating rink. Skate Escape, using a business model borrowed from the middle part of the previous century, quickly established itself as a home-away-from-home for many local young people who wanted a place to hang out and have fun.
With the success of Skate Escape, Page and Duncan have decided to move forward with the second phase of their business plan; expanding their operation to include a family-friendly indoor sports facility.
Plans are still yet to be finalized — funding has yet to be ironed out and they haven't decided on where the new facility will be located — but Page and Duncan have been encouraged since going public with their plan. Early conversations with potential lenders have been positive, even more encouraging are the reactions of local athletes, parents and sports leagues that struggle to find a nearby place to play and train during the cold months.
Plans for the new facility call for 56,000-square-feet of interior space, about five times the size of Skate Escape. Roller skating fans will have a rink 50 percent larger than the current one, a space that will double as a laser tag course. The facility will also include a small workout area, a basketball court, a café and what they call a "children's adventure center." A critical component of the new facility will be a 200 by 85 feet indoor turf field, which will accommodate uses such as flag football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse.
Page and Duncan see the venture as filling a large void — there's no comparable indoor athletic facility nearer than Bow. They hope their new facility will serve not only athletic families in the Lakes Region but also those further north.
Page emphasized that, in building their plan, there was just as much consideration given to what they should leave out as to what they included, so as to avoid direct competition with other local establishments. As such, there's no swimming pool, tennis or racquetball courts, and the small workout area won't threaten nearby fitness clubs. "We're not trying to offer anything already in our bubble," said Duncan.
While they aren't sure where the new facility will be located, they are sure they want to remain a Lakes Region business. As of right now, they're working with the goal of beginning construction this coming summer.
Skate Escape has cultivated a group of about 60 local young people — Page and Duncan lovingly refer to them as their "rink rats" — who will visit at least once each week, often several times each week. The proprietors pride themselves on offering a safe, comfortable place for people to have affordable and healthy fun. In their current space, they have a maximum capacity of 160 people, a limit they've hit several times. As recently as this Sunday, they had 140 visitors.
"We've outgrown our space," said Page.
Duncan added, "It was a great starting point. We feel like now is a great time to make the next step."
CAPTION for SKATE ESCAPE SIGNATURES in AA:
Shown here are Janine Page and Erica Duncan, owners of Skate Escape. They're standing next to hundreds of signatures of people who would like to see the Laconia business expand. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)