The Ashland Beacon
The Garden Roller Rink has been a staple in Ashland for several generations. Many people have memories that were made there; from birthday parties to weekends out with your friends, marriage proposals and broken bones, the Garden Roller Rink has seen a little bit of everything. Although COVID has kept it closed for much of the year and has unfortunately taken the life of Bill Franz, on-site manager and part-owner of the rink, there are now plans in place to raise the money to reopen the rink and keep it open for future generations.
When the owner of the rink, Bill Franz’s father, passed in November 2019, it was left to an estate with four people having equal ownership. Bill Franz had been approved for a loan last spring to buy out the other three owners, but COVID hit and he had to shut the rink down for safety precautions. That put the loan on hold. Franz was able to temporarily reopen the rink last summer before having to close it once again while he went into quarantine for COVID. He lost his life to the virus on October 4.
Shortly after his father’s funeral, Chris Franz was driving by the roller rink and saw some people putting items on a temporary memorial that had been set up for his father. “I wanted to stop and say thank you,” Chris said, and that’s how he met Debbie Qualls and her grandchildren. He and Qualls started talking about fundraisers and how to go about trying to keep the rink open for the community.
“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am at now: trying to raise funds to buy [the rink] outright and open it back up for the community,” Franz shared. Qualls has become his local event planner for the fundraisers as Franz is trying to keep his dad’s dream alive while living in Tampa, Florida.
On Saturday morning, Osuch racing held a “Roll With It 5K” pop up race out of the Mill Cafe and Bakery. They had more than 30 runners sign up to run, walk, or just to contribute to the event to help save the skating rink. Alan Osuch explained that COVID has been hard on his business, too, as he’s lost a lot of his regular events this year. So he has focused on raising money for charity this year and holding pop-up events at small businesses to try to help raise their sales at the same time. Osuch will put the money that was raised on Saturday into an escrow account to be saved and later added to whatever loans Franz is able to get to reopen the rink. In the event that the rink is not able to be reopened, the money raised will instead go to the Ashland Community Kitchen.
Franz wants the skating rink to be “a safe haven for the kids” because everything else has closed. He wants it to be “a place where memories can still be made, as it has been for the past three to four generations.” The main obstacle for reopening the rink right now still continues to be COVID, but Franz is determined to get the money he needs to keep the rink within the community.
Future fundraisers and other plans can be found on the Facebook page, “Garden Roller Rink Reunion Tour 1985-95.” There are currently ongoing orders for T-shirts and masks that say “Roll with It #wesk8” on them. Although fundraising has just begun, Franz has so far raised about $8,000. He will need roughly $450,000 to get the rink opened, but is confident that he will be able to get the loan that his father had been able to obtain before COVID shut everything down last year, thanks to the incredible community that the rink is located in.