Photo Essay: Neville Roller Drome |

Photo Essay: Neville Roller Drome

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Lights illuminate skates for sale in the pro-room window as people make their way around the floor at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Saturday, July 23, 2016. 'We were kind of territorial of this place as kids,' said Melissa Scalise, 38, of Freedom, who grew up in the on Neville Island and came often to the rink. ''The Island Kids,' they called us... Now we're bringing our kids.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Michelle Manners, left, 20, of New Kensington, gets some help with her roller blades from Kelly Kagels, right, 27, of Ingram, as they suit up for a Cosplay Skate Party at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Sunday, April 24, 2016. 'When you come into Neville in particular-- whether you’re a novice or you've been skating, in my case, 47 years-- if you’re a dance skater, shuffle skater, speed skater, we don't care, we want you to enjoy your evening with us,' said rink owner/operator Jim Park, 53, of West View.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
People laugh together as they dance to 'The Hokey Pokey' at the Cosplay Skate Party at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Sunday, April 24, 2016. 'I consider basically anyone who walks in these doors family,' said Sean 'Shaggy' McEachern, 20, of Rochester, who showed up at the rink to skate and hang out on his day off from working there as a rink guard. 'I grew up in this rink, my parents actually met here,' he said.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tee Apperson, center, 19, of Washington, dressed as character Mayuri Shiina, waits for a drawing to begin during a fundraising skate for Cosplay Kitchen at a Cosplay Skate Party at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Sunday, April 24, 2016. One of a slew of different themed events at the rink, the night raised money for Cosplay Kitchen to open their own studio to teach people how to make costumes.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
John 'Big John' Cook, front, 72, of Homewood, laughs with Eric Mulvihilo, 47, of Ingram, as they take a break from skating at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. After one of his lungs collapsed, Cook's doctor said he would never skate again. 'One of these days, I'm goin' back out,' Cook told the doctor. Three years later, he stepped back into the rink. 'I put my skates on and I went hay wild,' he said. 'I've been skatin' since.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Darcy Mitchell, 25, of West Mifflin, chews on a fake cigarette that is part of her anime 'Franken Stein' costume, as she takes a break from skating during the Cosplay Skate Party at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Sunday, April 24, 2016. Rink owner/operator Jim Park, 53, of West View, seems to leave no skater without a proper welcome, giving skating tips to those who want them, or want to trade them. 'For me, it was an excuse to come out here in my favorite cosplay and skate,' said Mitchell, who said it was her first time skating in 15 years.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Leslie McCartney, 28, of Dormont, leans in to give a quick kiss to Pete Martin, 30, of Dormont, at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Sunday, April 24, 2016. For some, skating and the rink provide a refuge and break from everyday life. 'I had such a stressful day,' said Eric Mulvittilo, 47, of Ingram, head referee for the Pittsburgh Derby Brats roller derby team that calls the rink home. 'I was like, I need to skate.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Jeffrey Hurst, 9, of Upper St. Clair, displays his bandaged knee for the camera after a spill at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Saturday, July 23, 2016. 'I also tell mom and dad, when they’re going, don’t make a big deal about it when they fall,' said rink owner/operator Jim Park, 53, of West View. 'Failure is an option. We fall. Okay, I messed a move up... Okay. Whatever. We’re gonna do it again. We don’t let the failure hold us down.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Emily Kuzma, 20, of Downtown, stands with her rental skates by the skate room window at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Sunday, April 24, 2016. 'We're trying to rebuild the skate community here in Pittsburgh,' said rink owner/operator Jim Park, 53, of West View, a lifelong skater himself. This marks the fifth year under Park's ownership for Neville Roller Drome, the rink where his father first took him to learn to skate as a six-year-old.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Skate clerk Katelyn Fowler, 18, of Sheraden, closes up shop at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Fowler was part of the rink's junior roller derby team before she aged out and started college nearby with dreams of becoming a veterinarian. The team, the Pittsburgh Derby Brats, had four skaters in this year's junior olympics.

Jim Park is smiling warmly at one of the Derby Brats, the girls roller derby team that calls the Neville Roller Drome home.

“You’re allowed back tonight?” he asks. “You’re off punishment for being a smart aleck?”

She nods, bashful, shifting her weight from one skate to the other as they stand outside the glowing DJ booth at the far end of the rink.

“I heard, I heard. I’m glad to have you back tonight,” Park says. With that, she flashes him a smile and pushes off to join the whirl of skaters making loops around the wooden floor.

Show me what is taken away from a child when they are punished, and I’ll show you who they are, said someone, maybe.

“Punishment — no skating — that kills a skater, absolutely kills us. ‘Cause you gotta skate,” says Park, 53, of West View, who left behind years of working in IT to follow his dream of owning and operating the rink with his wife, Sophie, with the help of their son, Jon.

Park’s parents met and fell in love with roller skating and took Jim to the Neville Island rink when he was 6 so he could learn how to skate. Forty-seven years later, everyone who walks through the doors of the rink is moments away from becoming a part of the Parks’ self-described “skate family.”

The Parks know the backstory of every senior lacing up his or her skates along the shaggy orange and yellow walls for Thursday morning’s artistic skate. They are ready to trade dance moves with the blue-haired young man that travels an hour for the Thursday evening skate. Even their employees come in on their nights off to hang out under the rainbow rink lights that pinwheel across the ceiling.

“This place has become like her second home,” said Connie Feda, 52, of Robinson, whose daughter “Smother” Theresa, 13, plays on the Derby Brats team at the rink. Dubbed an honorary “rink rat,” Theresa, who is home-schooled, came into her own during her time at Neville Roller Drome, says Feda. “This is her social circle. It’s been ridiculously empowering.”

Talking to others at the rink, the sentiment is shared too many times to repeat. Seniors in khakis and collared shirts smile as they glide alongside families with young children clinging to the rink wall. Teens in crop tops with green- streaked hair weave in between, turning to one another and singing along when their favorite song comes on the sound system.

Like a family, when someone falls, there is someone there to help you up.

“Don’t make a big deal about it when they fall,” Park advises parents helping their children learn how to skate. “Failure is an option. We fall. OK, I messed a move up… OK. Whatever. We’re gonna do it again.

“We don’t let the failure hold us down.”

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