East Bay’s last roller rink closing in July after decades in business
SAN RAMON — Da’Kiya Banks unslung her black and white Riedell roller skates from her shoulder, held them up by the laces and snapped a photo outside of The Golden Skate’s doors last week, memorializing one of the last evenings she could spend hours circling the slick wooden floor.
After 47 years, the San Ramon roller rink is on its last wheels — closing its doors for good July 31, and leaving the greater Bay Area with only three indoor roller rinks from Antioch to San Francisco to San Jose.
“I am disappointed, because so many of them keep closing down,” Banks said. “This was my adult ‘home’ skating rink, and Cal Skate was my childhood skating rink. Now, I’m going to have to travel even farther.”
By the time disco soared to popularity in the 1970s, there were more than a dozen roller rinks across the Bay Area. Milpitas’ Cal Skate closed in 2011 and San Jose Skate shut down in 2014.
Eight years later, it’s Golden Skate’s turn — and what will replace it? Housing.
Located just off Interstate 680 — nestled below the Las Trampas’ rolling hills with a view of the Diablo mountain range — the property will be redeveloped into the Windflower Fields Townhomes. The development is slated to include 47 units on the 3.5-acre lot, spread across eight, three-story buildings.
On one of Golden Skate’s last Wednesday “adult skate” nights this July, a line of people snaked out the doors, then flooded onto the roller rink’s fluorescent kaleidoscopic carpet floors and skated for hours to a playlist of Mac Mall, T.I. and 50 Cent.
By the end of the night, more than 300 people had hit the floor — from the “OGs,” as the seasoned skaters are known, whipping around the rink in a blur, to the “roller dancers” showing off moves underneath the center disco ball, to the newbies gripping the outer walls for dear life, trying to keep their ankles upright with every inch.
Trekking from her home in San Jose, Banks said the Golden Skate quickly became a welcoming, genuine destination for the tight-knit skating community. But now, the 23-year-old isn’t sure where else to find that same culture, music, creativity and connection.
“This might draw people further away from wanting to skate, because no one wants to fall on concrete — believe me,” Banks said, talking about outdoor spaces like basketball courts and trails. “This place has always been welcoming and warm. All walks of life come here — it’s been special.”
The Golden Skate’s owner, Hassan Sharifi, first purchased the rink and its Hooper Drive property to successfully stave off another planned closure in 1995. But after the pandemic shuttered operations from March 2020 to May 2021, he said the financial strain and a lackluster flow of returning skaters proved too difficult to carry on.
“It makes me sad to close a business that I have enjoyed running and worked so hard to revive,” Sharifi wrote in a public letter in October. “My hope is that the memories created over the decades of the Golden Skate will live on and will be cherished by those who have visited us.”
Preliminary plans for the Windflower Townhomes were first proposed to San Ramon’s Planning Commission in October 2020, filed in April 2021 and approved by December. A majority of the 47 total units will feature three to four bedrooms with roughly 2,000 square-foot floor plans. However, 16 units will be 260-square-foot accessory dwelling units (ADUs) for people with “very low,” “low” and “moderate” incomes.
It’s unclear how deeply Sharifi is involved in the impending development, but he is listed as an officer of the property owner, Windflower Fields LLC, which was incorporated in 2007. Sharifi did not respond to several requests for comment before publication.
But San Ramon Mayor Dave Hudson, who served on the city’s planning and redevelopment commissions prior to his 25 years on the city council, said the idea of constructing housing on The Golden Skate property has “been on the books forever.” That includes a proposal to build more than 200 units on Hooper Drive, which fizzled in 2017.
Even if a push to preserve classic features of San Ramon, like the rink, had emerged, any efforts would need to be weighed against the region’s need for housing, Hudson said. The city of roughly 85,000 residents must figure out where to build more than 5,000 homes by 2031 to comply with state housing goals.
“(Sharifi) is not some guy that just came in with a carpet bag and said ‘I’m gonna make money,’” Hudson said, adding that the rink’s owner is now in his 80s. “There was no way there was going to be anything but housing there.”
Still, Doug Adams, who has been skating for nearly four decades, questions why another housing development was more worthwhile than a beloved rink, especially since one of the only options left for skaters to find the same type of energy is hours north, at Roller King outside of Sacramento.
“(San Ramon) is trying to accommodate people, but are you really trying to accommodate the people that are here right now?” Adams said. “The next generation will never get the chance to know what it was like to grow up skating.”
Since 1985, the 58-year-old has bounced from East Palo Alto, to Redwood City, to Milpitas and finally San Ramon to find a rink.
Adams — always prepared with two pairs of roller skates, extra screws, wrenches and bearings packed in a suitcase, just in case — said he’s left disheartened, wondering if he’ll be able to continue using adult skate nights as his “woosah:” a way to relax, center himself and keep moving.
“It feels like another family being broken up,” Adams said. “A lot of us who have been skating for so many years have been going from skating rink to skating rink in the Bay Area. It’s sad to have watched it all change.”