In Lowell a skating rink was built by 1884. It stood south of Train's Opera House, on land now occupied by King Milling Company's silos. Skaters skated to music from an orchestra, and there a gallery above for spectators. Professional skaters traveled around the country and Lowell brought in some of these acts. Initially there was some controversy with the sport. Saloon owners were not happy with the trend. They thought the young men ought to be sitting in their saloons instead of spending their time and money at roller rinks. In 1885, the newspaper, in defending roller-skating stated, “Properly managed, the roller rink is all right and roller skating, not carried to excess, is a healthful amusement. The Lowell Rink is patronized by scores of the best people of Lowell and was never more popular than it is today.”
At the Presidential Election of 1884 it was announced that “Managers of the Lowell rink have at great expense, made arrangements to receive by telephone the election news of the night of November 4, and will give an election party on that evening. Good music and a big time expected. Supper will be served at W. J. Medler’s and J.C. Train’s. Election news will be received there as early as at Grand Rapids.”
This original rink later burned and was not rebuilt, as the popularity of the sport had decreased.
Another brief roller-skating era occurred around 1940. The United Methodist Church opened up their gymnasium for roller-skating for the community during the winter months.
The next experience in roller-skating was made by William (Chris) Christiansen and the American Legion. The Legion wanted a memorial for those who had served in wars. They decided on a bowling alley and recreation center. They purchased the old East Ward School on Main Street and work began in 1945. The skating rink opened in November of 1958 with managers, Neil and Pat Johnston. Pat was a professional skater and instructor. Neil instructed the crowd that “skating was a dress up sport and participants were expected to keep the atmosphere of dignity and good manners in effect and still maintain a place where everyone could have a good time”.
Jack Adams followed the Johnstons as manager, and worked for 27 years at the rink, now called the “The Legion’s Big Wheel”. Bands played live music, and Sammy the Roller-Skating Chimp performed for the crowds. Speed Skating contests were popular. Local winners went on to State and Nationals. Cindy Adams Kropf is one local champion. Cindy earned first place in the State Speed Skate competition but was unable to go to Nationals due to her inability to endure long car rides without getting carsick. The National Champion that year for her age group was the skater Cindy had defeated to earn the State title. Cindy’s brother Jerry also represented Lowell well as State Champion one year and going on to take 4th at Nationals.
Church youth groups came from neighboring communities for outings at the skating rink. Jack Adams used an American Legion bus to pick up skaters from surrounding communities to skate then brought them home. Later the rink and bowling alley was sold and run as Rollaway. Currently the owner of the building and land is working through the process to put apartments on the property.