There's nothing more satisfying to me as a skater than to have a set of wheels perfectly dialed into a specific floor. For one of my frequent haunts, Ozaukee Skateland, it's my green Sure-grip Fugitives. Tonite, I returned to Skate On Grand in Fox Lake, Illinois. I'd been here twice last year. The first time is when I shot the photos included in this review. The second time, I brought a friend of mine from Burlington one week when TraXside, where we usually skated on Tuesday nights, was closed for maintenance. As I'm writing now, that was to, now today, exactly one year ago. Skate On Grand was also exactly one hour away from the apartment in Hales Corners I no longer rent. Now, I've got to go a little bit further to get there. If it weren't for this long distance, I can assure you I would skate here much more often.
I have absolutely no clue what the floor here is made of. My suspicion is that it is some type of sheet laminated board elevated on top of a concrete base. I don't know that! That's merely my guess. I've never spotted a seam of any kind on this floor as it is painted in orange, green and purple, moving from the outside to the center. The floor seems very level. Like TraXside, the area of the floor is on the small side of rinks I visit. Skate On Grand's floor is probably the smallest floor I skate. What I found out tonite from an employee was that the floor was just coated with new urethane four weeks prior to my skate here. I asked about that because the floor was shinier than I remembered it being.
Last year, I was using a set of Backspin Deluxe Lites I'd purchased some time ago on eBay used. The wheels behaved closely to Backspin Scribbles I'd owned in the past, only without the flex/pitch feel I would get when rolling on the two front wheels of each of my skates solely. Those wheels became my wheels of choice for TraXside and Incrediroll, both epoxy-coated concrete surfaces. It was just by default that those wheels were on my skates the two times I rolled at Skate On Grand last year. I've since acquired a set of these same type wheels which were hardly used at all if even but are of the same low-90s duro as the others I had before. For some reason, newer stock of this particular model are much softer and won't work with my 185 pound frame.
That last paragraph is just some background of how I got to this point. What's more important is that this combo of new-old-stock wheels and freshly refinished floor was absolutely awesome! I forgot how tight Skate On Grand's floor felt the two times I was there last year. I now remember remarking to my friend that I was able to do things on the floor which were just sick and should be illegal! Tonite was no exception. Whatever that floor is made of, I want to make my own skate place outside the door of my house with that exact same material and coating combination. The only thing I would change would be I'd like it to be about three times bigger. I can only imagine how fast I could go in a facility fashioned like that. As it is, Skate On Grand has a narrow center if you follow the paint transition line around between the green and purple. This makes the ends really tight turns. But the floor just sticks! I can torque the living hell out of my skate and my leg with just one foot down on the floor! I did go down one time but it would be better to attribute that to "user error" than anything wrong with this floor. The best way I could describe the feeling of hammering on this floor is to imagine you're a steel-tracked roller coaster at <pick your amusement theme park here>. It is some serious fun!
There is also a small practice floor in the southwest corner just past the lockers. I've seen this at other skate rinks, Star in Racine comes immediately to mind but I think there's more than that. It's a really good idea for beginning skaters or for those who need to practice some moves without the worry of slowing up traffic or worse; collisions!
Skate On Grand has my second favorite black light setup to Ozaukee Skateland. It has eight of the newer four foot LED-type black lights to Ozaukee's fourteen. But what's really neat about how Skate On Grand uses them is they're combined with just as many or more fluorescent lights with red lense covers. This has an excellent effect to the entire skate ambiance.
Every time I've been here has been on the two dollar Tuesday night. I guess this is a very popular special as employees intimated at how busy they were. I don't think the ill effects of that would be so apparent if the facility was a bit larger. The next time I go, I'll have to try a different type session. As it stands, however, this place has the one key ingredient that keeps me coming back to skate; FUN!