Fundraiser to support Jasper Skate Palace

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Since being closed due to the pandemic, the Jasper Skate Palace has undergone renovations including recoating the skating rink, steam-cleaning the carpets, repainting the bathroom and installing plastic protective barriers. "Not being able to open as soon as we hoped has been bad for us," said Manager Austin Rawlins, son of owners Brian and Stephanie Rawlins. "It's such a big building that to leave it empty is expensive. My family is concerned about finances."

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Jasper Skate Palace has been part of Chad Huckelby’s life since he was 16 years old.

It was the first job the now 32-year-old held, and he credits Skate Palace owners Brian and Stephanie Rawlins with teaching him how to be a good employee. That’s why when Brian and Stephanie told Huckelby and the Skate Palace’s other staff members about the dire financial situation the business is facing due to COVID-19, Huckelby knew he had to act.

“They’ve always helped me, so I wanted to do something to repay them,” he said.

Huckelby also works at the Jasper Papa John’s Pizza, so he asked his manager there if it would be possible for the restaurant to run a fundraiser to help the Skate Palace. His manager and the store’s owners — who live in Jeffersonville — were on board, Huckelby said, and set up a fundraiser that will donate $1 for every pizza purchased from June 19-21 to the Skate Palace. Huckelby announced the fundraiser this week, and there’s already been an outpouring of support from the community.

“People have been asking if we can set up a GoFundMe, if they can just send donations or if they can donate above the $1,” Huckelby said. “It’s humbling.”

A GoFundMe has since been set up here.

Brian and Stephanie have also been blown away by the support.

“For-profit businesses don’t typically do fundraisers for other for-profit businesses,” Stephanie said. “It’s kind of a unique partnership.”

A plastic barrier will separate employees and customers at the Jasper Skate Palace.

At the staff meeting that sparked Huckelby to pursue a fundraiser, Stephanie said, she and Brian told their staff that the COVID-19 closure has left Jasper Skate Palace with a loss of about $20,000, which is the same amount the Skate Palace profited last year. With the weather warming up, the Rawlinses knew they would need to turn on utilities soon, too, which is about $3,000 a month. They also lost all the food stock that was in the building when the order to close came. Most of it expires after 60 to 90 days, Stephanie said. By the time they can reopen, even the items with a longer shelf life will have expired.

“Things were getting pretty bad,” Stephanie said.

Since Huckelby announced the fundraiser on social media, Stephanie said she’s heard from many community members offering support and asking how they can help. They’ve also shared stories about how Jasper Skate Palace impacted them or their children.

“They remember their birthday parties,” Stephanie said. “They remember sitting at a table listening to music because they can’t skate, but they came to hang out with their friends.”

The stories have served as a reminder to Brian and Stephanie, who both work full-time jobs outside of Jasper Skate Palace, that the skating rink is important to the community.

“It really makes me feel like we’ve made a difference,” Stephanie said.

The Skate Palace in Jasper on Wednesday.

The Jasper Skate Palace opened in 1978 and the Rawlinses took it over in 2002.

Even with the donations and upcoming fundraiser, the future of the Skate Palace is still rocky. It will reopen Friday with a “Reopening Skate” event from 7 to 10 p.m. Admission is $6.50, plus skate rental.

The entire facility has been cleaned and sanitized, and has COVID-19 signage and floor stickers.

Brian and Stephanie know they will have to make hard choices to make up for what the business lost during the closure. They haven’t raised entrance or concession prices since they took over the business, but now they will have to. And even when patrons come back at pre-COVID-19 levels, the $20,000 loss will be hard to make up.

But they are determined to try.

“The kids need a place to go and hang out with friends,” Stephanie said. “I don’t want to sell it. I don’t want it not to be a skating rink.”




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