Get your skates on: LaPlace Skate Center prioritizes affordability, safety
Published 12:05 am Saturday, December 23, 2017
LAPLACE — Seeing a need for more family-oriented recreation in St. John the Baptist Parish, Nolan Noel Sr. closed his skating rink in Opelousas to open LaPlace Skate Center at 1005 Cambridge Drive.
The new skating rink recently celebrated its “soft opening,” welcoming more than 550 children over the past three weeks.
LaPlace natives might recognize the building as the site of the old Riverlands Skate Center that operated for decades before being shut down by Hurricane Katrina.
Noel has fond memories of skating in the rink as a child. Though he’s redesigned and refurbished the interior, he decided to keep the Looney Tunes paintings on the wall after hearing what it meant to the community.
Over the past several months, Noel has worked with his sons, Jeff Wheaton and Nolan Noel Jr., to bring the skating rink back to life and reach a new generation.
“Everybody came here when they were kids,” Noel said. “I just think it’s something that’s lost.
“Not only is skating good recreation; it’s good exercise. We need less Grand Theft Auto and more active things for kids to do to get out and meet other kids and be sociable.”
LaPlace Skate Center is open from 7 to 11 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. Music themes vary by night, with Fridays dedicated to rock, pop, hip hop and country, while Saturday nights feature rap, dance and bounce.
On Saturday night, the skating rink will turn into a dance floor from 9 to 11 p.m.
Noel is proud to say his skating rink is the most affordable in the region.
Admission is $7 per child and free for adults who come to watch or skate with their children.
The admission price includes skate rentals and access to unlimited free arcade games, Noel said.
“We want to be fair, and we want to be reasonable,” Noel said. “We want kids to be able to come and have a good time, and a lot of kids can’t afford high prices.”
Birthday parties are also reasonably priced, Noel said.
Private birthday party packages accommodate up to 75 guests and include two hours of skate rentals, free arcade games and a fun jump for $200. Food and refreshments are not included.
Parties can be scheduled 7 days a week and must be reserved at least a month in advance.
Noel said uniformed police officers would always be the first to enter and leave the building whenever LaPlace Skate Center is open because safety is top priority.
“If parents can’t trust you with your kids, you’re not going to succeed in this business,” Noel said.
No one is allowed to loiter outside or enter without being buzzed in, and Noel is working on adding additional outdoor lighting as an extra safety precaution.
Noel’s longtime friend David Teague introduced him to the skating rink business when he was 17, and the two have been in contact ever since.
Though Teague lives in Pensacola, he’s visited LaPlace Skate Center to see its progress and brainstorm promotional ideas.
“I think it’s got a lot of potential,” Teague said.
“It’s a big, viable market. You can’t get enough good, clean entertainment for families.”
Some of the ideas he discussed with Noel include reaching out to local schools and churches.
As the business becomes more established, Noel plans to expand operating hours to other days of the week.
Beginning after Jan. 1, Noel said the rink would be reserved for families with small children from 2 to 4 p.m. each Sunday.
Christian nights, adult nights and bargain nights are also in the works, giving different groups a chance at nostalgic fun.
“Every community is different,” Noel said. “We’re just going to feel it out and see which direction to go in. All we ask for the community to do is come and check it out.”
For more information, call Noel at 337-290-9821.