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By Mike Hazlip—
With the exception of a few days in June, Sunrise Rollerland in Citrus Heights has been closed for the past year, as COVID-19 health orders have prevented roller skating rinks in the state from reopening.
A fundraising account set up to help Sunrise Rollerland owner Ken Neutz meet his financial obligations has collected over $5,000 as of press time Saturday night. The GoFundMe page was set up by skater Tim Laskey to benefit Sunrise Rollerland and Neutz’s efforts to keep the Citrus Heights tradition rolling.
Neutz told The Sentinel in an interview Friday the pandemic closures have taken a toll on his business, with his roller rink still not allowed to reopen in the less-restrictive “Red Tier.”
He says water and electric bills must still be paid, despite the forced closure of his facility. As an added problem, Neutz said he’s had to deal with illegal dumping and an increasing homeless population on his property.
“This has been my life for the last twelve months, just cleaning up junk and garbage,” Neutz said. “Now I’m getting back to work hopefully to get some employees and get opened up again.”
Neutz has now installed a sound system to discourage homeless camping on his property.
He said the state’s guidelines are unclear about roller rinks, and he believes decision-makers at the state level are not considering businesses like Sunrise Rollerland.
Neutz, together with 20 other roller rinks and what he called “other interested parties,” such as skate manufacturers throughout California, each paid $1,000 for a lobbyist to convince policy makers with the Department of Health to classify roller rinks in the orange tier along with bowling alleys. But those efforts have been unsuccessful so far, he said.
The small business owner said he’s considering rebranding his facility to emphasize the health and fitness benefits of roller skating in an effort to reopen under the state’s gyms and fitness center classification. The Roller Skating Association reports one hour of skating will increase heart rate, burn calories, and work major muscle groups.
Facilities like Sunrise Rollerland are classified as fitness and recreation centers in the North American Industry Classification System, according to Neutz. This system is used by federal agencies to classify businesses and collect data, according to the Census Bureau.
A Sentinel search for the terms “roller skating,” “skating,” and “roller rink” on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard returned a message that read “activity or business not found.” The terms “bowling alleys,” “skate park,” and “family entertainment centers” did bring up information specific to those activities, however.
For Neutz, he is hoping to reopen soon, but is facing the added challenge of recruiting new employees to fill the vacancies left when he was forced to lay off his staff. Sunrise Rollerland employed about 30 people, according to Neutz, and he says the good ones have moved on.
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