Rural recreation

Area woman's goal fulfills entertainment void


Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 12:00 a.m.
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Johnnie Copeland ties her son Kendell's skate Friday at her skating rink in Cross City.

GREG UNDEEN/Special to The Su
CROSS CITY - Johnnie Copeland's dream of owning her own business has filled a long-time void in Dixie County. In mid-January, Copeland opened Roller Stage Skating Rink in a former sewing factory building, creating one of the few recreational opportunities available for youngsters in the rural county.
"My dream has always been to be a business owner, and I knew it would be in some kind of entertainment," Copeland said. "At first I thought about putting in a movie theater, but then I came up with the idea of a skating rink a few months ago and it has all worked out."
In its first three weekends, the roller rink has drawn several dozen skaters to each session and created five part-time jobs that have gone to mostly first-time workers.
"I really like having a job," said Courtney Elton, 15, whose duties include handling admission fees. "I spent my first check on some new skates for myself, and I saved some of it."
Copeland said she used to spend portions of her teenage weekends at a roller rink in Trenton in neighboring Gilchrist County that closed before she graduated from Dixie County High School in 1990. Since then she has had three sons, now ages 12, 8 and 5, and taught them all to skate on the Nature Coast Greenway that runs through Dixie County.
"I realized this was something that other kids would enjoy doing, too, and it would keep them closer to home," Copeland said.
Lindsey Hall, Amanda Peach and several other middle school students who have already become Roller Stage regulars, said they expect they will get to do more skating now because there is a rink closer to home.
"We used to have to get someone to drive us to Perry or maybe over to Gainesville," Peach said.
"This is something that's cool and it's fun and all our friends can come here," Hall said.
Copeland, who also works the night shift at Cross City Correctional Institution as a correctional officer, said she realizes her 16,000-square-foot skating floor may not be as flashy as some of the others in Florida, but that it could easily become as popular as any other.
"We used to love going roller skating in Trenton when we were kids, and I think this has the same potential," Copeland said.
For those adults like Copeland who have fond memories of their own youthful skating days, Roller Stage is open Monday evening from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. exclusively for those age 30 and older. Skating sessions open to everyone are held Fridays and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. The fee - which includes skate rental - is $4 for the first two-hour session and $2 for each additional session on the same day.
Roller Stage is located south of Cross City in the building that used to house Great Bear Manufacturing and is adjacent to Harvest Wind Ministries.
For more information, call Roller Stage at (352) 498-5900.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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