For the past four years, as many as 150 youths laced up a pair of roller skates on weekends and rolled around the former Hacketts department store in Northland Plaza while their favorite tunes blared in the background.
But all of that soon may come to an end. The future of Showtime Skating appears to be up in the air.
The 22,000-square-foot indoor skating rink is slated to be turned into storage units.
Last week, the citys Planning Board recommended giving Randall B. Soggs, owner of the plaza at 144 Eastern Blvd., a special-use permit to turn the storefront into storage units.
Its the first Ive heard of it, Showtime Skating manager Ron Brown said Friday night.
He runs the roller rink for an unidentified owner. The owner was at the roller rink earlier in the day and failed to tell Mr. Brown about its apparent demise, the manager said.
The roller rink owner was working with Planning Board member Neil Katzman, who also works as the plazas maintenance man for Mr. Soggs. On Tuesday, Mr. Katzman abstained from the vote because of his involvement with the plaza and Mr. Soggs, who could not be reached for comment.
When the Planning Board approved the special use permit Tuesday, Mr. Katzman said he had heard Mr. Soggs kept the roller rink open just to pay for heat. He thought it already had closed.
But about 50 youths were skating at the roller rink Friday night when a Times reporter inquired about its future.
The owner has a lease, Im sure of that, Mr. Brown said.
Open only on weekends, even through the summer, Showtime Skating lets customers rent a pair of skates, play skee ball, air hockey and several arcade games, and snack on pizza and other foods at a concession stand. Birthday and private parties also are held in a dedicated section.
In 2009, former owner Isaac Alexis III, a retired master sergeant at Fort Drum, opened Showtime Skating with his wife, Darla L. The couple, who previously ran a rink in Roswell, N.M., moved away about 18 months ago, Mr. Brown said.
If it does close, Showtime Skating will be the second recently shuttered business that caters to teens and young people. Velocity, the family fun center and music venue in Empsall Plaza on Court Street, closed in July.
Mr. Brown said youths need somewhere to go and have fun in Watertown, noting that teens from the Childrens Home of Jefferson County across the street often come over to roller skate.
When the issue came up at the Planning Board last week, Timothy M. Hogan, the local engineer representing Mr. Soggs, said he did not know much about the plaza owners plans.
He wasnt even sure whether Showtime Skating was still open or when the business would be turned into storage units.
I was told just two days ago about it, he said. Thats the way he works.
Plans call for having a walk-in lobby, keeping existing restrooms and turning the remainder of the space into storage space, he said. There is a growing trend of storefronts and warehousing facilities being turned into storage units in urban settings, Mr. Hogan said.
The plaza owner needs a special use permit because the citys commercial district does not include storage unit businesses, said Kenneth A. Mix, the citys planning and community development coordinator. After much discussion, city planners concurred it was essentially a change of occupancy.
But Syracuse attorney Anthony A. Marrone, who represents an unidentified client with property across the street, disagreed.
He expressed concern about security and the type of clientele that may use the business, mentioning how a storage unit played a prominent role in the television drama Breaking Bad, about a science teacher-turned-meth-manufacturer, that just wrapped up its final season on the AMC network.
Were voicing our general objections, Mr. Marrone said.
The Watertown City Council will be asked Nov. 18 to schedule a public hearing on the special use permit Dec. 2. Council members could vote that night.