Skate center manager hopes to restore rink, hire full time staff

MADISON, Wis. — In the nearly 30 years since it opened, Justin Alling says there hasn’t been a lot of police presence at the Fast Forward skate center.

Typically the center’s busy season is January through April, but Friday night’s crowd reached three times the typical number of customers for this time of year.

Alling, the Operations Manager, has been affiliated with the center since 1998, and trying to buy the business since 2014. His goals are to update the interior and hire full time staff, the likes of which the center hasn’t seen since 2010.

“Quite literally, we’re probably doing about a fourth of the business we should be right now if we were fully staffed,” Alling said. “There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done.”

But he needs public support, primarily funding, to make the necessary changes.

“What I’m looking for is support of the community for me to be able to buy this to revamp it to bring it back to prominence,” he said.

Friday night’s violence gave Alling a renewed sense of urgency in pushing for change. Ultimately, though, he says it comes down to the perpetrators. His skate center just happened to be the venue.

“This certainly could’ve happened anywhere in the city,” he said. “We put up with probably more than we should here but we’ve done a good job, I think I’ve done a good job of being able to handle any incidents and any issues that come up.”

Michael Johnson, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, agrees.

“We have to stop pacifying bad behavior and these sorts of incidents,” Johnson said. “When young people think they can get away with it and other young people see young people getting away with it, people will think that behavior is normal.”

Johnson is worried about local kids, and the future of places where they’re supposed to feel safe and have fun.

“Pretty soon, kids in our community won’t have a place to go on weekends and evenings,” he said.

Safe and fun is exactly the type of atmosphere Alling is trying to cultivate at Fast Forward.

“It’s a fun, family oriented atmosphere, someplace that you can come and be safe and enjoy yourself,” Alling said.

This website catalogues Alling’s goals for the skate center, as well as offering a place for community feedback and donations.