By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A San Fernando Valley skating rink that has been closed for nearly eight months because of the coronavirus pandemic will close permanently and be converted into a homeless shelter.

(credit: Los Angeles City Councilman John Lee)

Skateland Northridge at 18140 Parthenia Street has been a favorite of San Fernando Valley families for more than 60 years and is one of the last of Southern California’s roller skating rinks. But, like other indoor entertainment centers, it was forced to shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And that forced closure for eight months just destroyed our business,” David Fleming, who owns Skateland with his brother Mike, said. “And so we started to think about, ‘Well, you know, maybe this is time for us to consider retiring.'”

For Fleming, the rink holds decades of memories and is a cherished part of his family history.

“My father had always wanted to be in the skating business,” he said. “He and my mom met skating when he was in the service in Chicago.”

The skating rink has been a gathering place for generations — including some of Hollywood’s elite.

“My brother trained Olivia Newton John for ‘Xanadu,’ and I trained James Caan for the original ‘Roller Ball,'” he said.

But, with the inevitability of closure growing clearer, the brothers decided to sell the beloved rink and give back to their community at the same time — calling longtime friend Ken Craft, CEO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission.

“We’re standing here in Council District 12, and in Council District 12 there is a family shelter, but there are no shelter beds for single adults,” Craft said.

The organization is set to enter into escrow this week. And, with a $6 million loan from the city, Skateland will be transformed into a 100-bed Bridge homeless housing facility where people will stay before finding more permanent housing.

“There’ll be mental health services on site, there’ll be drug and alcohol recovery programs on site, life skill classes,” Craft said. “Everybody that’s here will have their own case manager.”

And, Craft said, the shelter will serve those living on the streets nearby — including in an encampment currently set up behind the facility.

The Flemings hope to be able to reopen for a few days early next year, if it’s safe, before the facility is renovated to allow people the chance for one final skate.

Hope of the Valley said it plans to start construction in April and be open by this time next year.

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