The City's Still Trying to Skate on Southern Skates, But HUD Will Have Last Word

No need to recap the sad history of Southern Skates -- our October 19 item about the beleaguered roller rink on East Ledbetter Drive should bring latecomers up to speed, while old-timers know the song by heart. With that, second verse same as the first: The council's Economic Development Committee's still trying to figure out what to do with the joint, which lost $100,000-plus during FY2008-2009 and came up $9,000-plus short during the first quarter of FY2009-2010. And, sure, that isn't much all things considered, but City Hall can't spare a dime at present.

Park and Rec, which wound up with the facility when former Black Panther Fahim Minkah defaulted on a $400,000 loan years ago, could still wind up operating Southern Skates -- but only Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway appears keen on that idea. Vonciel Jones Hill wants it closed, while the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development, which actually funded the thing with a $500,000 loan, just wants its money back; hence, its heavy hand in instructing City Hall how to take bids from for-profits or nonprofits interested in an all-skate. HUD's guidelines and demands, hashed out with city officials since last this was on the agenda, are strict: three- to five-year leases; two years of prior roller-rink experience for for-profits; nonprofits must return to HUD any extra coin not necessary for emergency reserves or repairs; and so forth. But nothing can even be considered till bids are advertised, proposals are pondered and public hearings are heard.