These days, you simply go to the skating center, put wheels on your feet and you’re ready for fun, food, music, games and skating. Two centuries ago, it wasn’t quite so easy.
A Belgian inventor named Joseph Merlin introduced the first recorded roller skate in 1760. And, what an introduction he made! He wore his new skates to a party in London, where he crashed into an expensive mirror. He wasn’t very interested in skating after this experience. However, other inventors produced some roller skate models, most with in-line wheels to imitate an ice skating blade.
The first patent ever taken out on a roller skate was for an in-line skate in 1819. The patent went to Monsieur Petitbled, who claimed that people using his skates could do the same tricks as ice skaters. However, skating turns and curves with Petitbled’s skate proved to be a major difficulty, if not impossible.
In 1863, James Plimpton, a businessman from Massachusetts, invented a roller skate that could turn. It was called a “rocking” skate — the first one that really let people skate curves and turn. Plimpton opened a skating club in New York where gentlemen enjoyed showing off for the ladies by doing fancy figures, steps and turns.
Within 20 years, roller skating had become a popular pastime for men and women. Wealthy men in Newport, R.I., played “roller polo,” a hockey game. Others held contests in dance and figure skating. Outdoors, men and women were racing in speed contests. The more the public saw of skating, the more they wanted to try it themselves. The roller skating industry started to prosper.
Just before World War II, a group of skating rink owners formed an association to promote roller skating and establish good business practices for skating rinks. The Roller Skating Association (RSA) International, which was originally named the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA), has played an active leadership role in the roller skating industry since 1937.
Under the guidance of the association, roller skating enjoyed steady growth through the 1940s, 50s and 60s. It became known as a family activity that provides fitness, socialization and fun — an image that prevails today.
Miami had three facilities during this time that included an Armory in Hialeah that featured a terrazzo floor, Sunland Roller Rink on Bird Road that featured a wooden floor and wooden wheels… and an outdoor facility in Crandon Park.
In the 1970s, there was a big improvement in roller skating. Skating floors became easier to care for. Plastic wheels that provided smoother, easier skating became the standard. The music and lighting at skating centers was also modernized. When skaters discovered how easy it was to skate with the new wheels, another big skating boom exploded. By 1977, people everywhere were skating to music.
In September of 1977, Three gentlemen, Stuart Cuaff, Norman Sholk & Bob Shapiro opened a new wave of skating… starting with the first Super Skating Center located in Kendall. Disco Lighting and booming sound started a second coming of roller skating. Kendall, Kendall Lakes, Midway, Westland… to name a few!
In April of 1987, Stuart along with marketing wiz, Wayne Lippman, opened what soon was to become legendary… and Internationally reknown, the Hot Wheels Skating Center in south west Miami. This facility introduced fog to the incredible array of lighting and total entertainment DJ’s with live concerts by today’s top artists. While competitors try to steal the look or style, no one has come close to the extensive operations and entertainment programs.
Because of other business interests, they could not handle the sudden popularity and with it, the attention needed to run this new style of facility, they sold the facility one year later to skating mongul, Byron Sharp who launched a new generation in community service relations working with over 120 “Partnership” Schools.
In February, 1998, Kendall resident James Ritter, a six time national roller skating champion, purchased Hot Wheels and started an extensive renovation program by expanding the snack bar, offering three types of rental skates, opening a “candy store” and introducing a complete Redemption Center.
On October 15th, 1999, Hurricane Irene took an unexpected turn and was a direct hit on west Miami Dade and the Kendall area. Extensive amounts of water poured thru the roof causing extensive damage to this legendary facility.
A year later, local competitor, Thunder Wheels opened at the same locations that Hot Wheels occupied for 12 years. While the location was popular, their style was different, in part causing their closing 11 months later.
In June of 2001, local business manager Milad Wanna launched “Super Wheels”.
In early 2009, the Super Wheels name was bought and now has a new set of owners. Plans include a new expanded game room, new lighting & graphics, an expanded snack bar menu and heavy community inter-action are just some of the “tools” that Super Wheels will use to create the ultimate skating experience.
Roller skating is now as diverse as ever. From special customized fund raising programs, to elaborate private parties… from “quad” skates to ultra modern in-lines… skating centers have evolved into true community entertainment centers where families can truly inter-act.
For more information, call or visit Super Wheels and see what the next generation of skating is all about.
Thomas G. Mitchell – President & CEO
Tom’s commitment to skating dates back over 34 years, where he was involved with over 42 skating facilities. Tom designs all of the Super Wheels flyers, special events, games and food! He also owns a concert production company called Reflections Productions, and spends a lot of his free time working with the Special Olympics & the American Cancer Society.
Michelle Wellman – Corporate Manager
Michelle is the proud mother of Sabrina, and while working here at “the wheels”. She graduated with a nursing degree and is pursuing a masters in business administration. She lives, sleeps and dreams about skating (and her family).
Bobby Doyle – General Manager
Our outdoors man. He loves to ride the ATVs, boats (who doesn’t) and spend time with his two boys. He is a driving force to “Get it done”.
Mario Alvarez – Shift Manager
Another original “old school crew” member, Mario enjoys working with people. He is a senior Audio Visual Engineer who loves being in the entertainment field. The pride of his life is his wife and children (as well as their dog RPI).
LeRoy brings leadership and innovative ideas to keep the DJ’s and the food fresh. He is part of the original “old school crew” and in addition to providing his skills to our management staff, he teaches auto mechanics (and sometimes football) at South Dade Sr. High.