CHATHAM — After a months-long hiatus, a beloved skating rink has reopened on the South Side with a fresh look.
The Rink, 1122 E. 87th St., reopened Sept. 1 after closing in November. Owners Curtis and Ramona Pouncy celebrated the occasion with a grand reopening, welcoming about 400 young people back to the space.
Curtis Pouncy said area kids were “grateful” the rink reopened so they had something to occupy their time.
“One of the things that I noticed was that when the kids came in, they just stopped and looked around, and they said, ‘We’re home. I am so glad to be home. We are home,’” Ramona Pouncy said. “They were smiling. [There were] some kids [where] you could see little tears were welling up in their eyes.”
Curtis and Ramona Pouncy bought The Rink in 2019. They are skating enthusiasts who frequented the rink themselves when the previous owner announced he wanted to sell the business to someone who would keep it a skating rink.
It wasn’t open for long before the pandemic forced them to shut down, Curtis Pouncy said.
They eventually were able to reopen as pandemic restrictions eased, but they closed in November to renovate the building, which was an electric company before it was a skating rink, Curtis Pouncy said.
The couple installed new carpeting, flooring and lighting, redid the rink’s two floors and repainted, Curtis Pouncy said. The exterior was landscaped and tuckpointed.
“It was an opportunity to do a great deal of work on the building that we couldn’t when we were open,” Curtis Pouncy said.
The Pouncys announced in late August they were ready to relaunch, gaining hundreds of supportive comments from excited neighbors.
Ramona Pouncy said it was important for her and her husband to keep The Rink open because of its cultural impact on the community.
“The rink has been around for almost 50 years, and it means so much to this community,” she said. “If it was gone, it would leave a vacuum. These kids, it has saved lives for so many people. We have generations that come in and say, ‘This rink has saved my life. Now I’m bringing my kids and their kids to skate.’
“So, it’s a way of us preserving the family unit in our community and giving them something to do because there’s not a lot of things for the family to do on the South Side of Chicago.”
Now that the space has reopened, the couple is exploring other ideas for new services and events.
One idea is “Rink Skate University,” classes where people can learn skating at different proficiency levels.
Ramona Pouncy, who is also a holistic nutritionist, plans to offer nutritional classes and healthy food options such as organic juices, fruit smoothies, sweet potato nachos, salads and more. They will still sell classic food items such as hot dogs and pizza, but it’s important for The Rink to be a resource to those seeking out ways to lead a healthy lifestyle, she said.
“We’re basically talking nutrition, teaching families how to eat better for better health, and then incorporating the physical aspect of skating with it,” Ramona Pouncy said. “It’s like a whole wellness package, and I don’t think I have heard of any skating rinks doing this to this extent.”
The couple is committed to preserving skating for the next generation and helping get people of all ages involved. They’ll also hold future community outreach events which will be posted on The Rink’s website and social media pages.
“The Rink is for the community, it’s for the kids, families that live in that general area, and it gives them something to do. And we feel it’s kind of our mission to continue that rink for this underserved area,” Curtis Pouncy said. “They don’t have much to do in terms of recreation, and we feel we’re providing some good clean, wholesome fun for these kids in this area.”
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