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Updated: August 15, 2022

Happy Wheels revival is on a roll in Westbrook as long-awaited rink prepares to open

Courtesy / Happy Wheels Skate Center A photograph shows skaters at the former Happy Wheels in Portland. The rink closed in 2019 after more than 40 years in business.

Nearly three years after Portland’s only indoor roller-skating rink closed, and nearly a half-century since the business began, the wheels are in motion for its successor to open this Saturday.

Happy Wheels Skate Center is now located in Westbrook, at 3 Chabot St., but less than 2 miles from the old site at 331 Warren Ave., Portland. Skaters can start rolling at noon on Aug. 20, according to the Happy Wheels website.

The original rink went dark in December 2019 after the building was sold to developers. But longtime manager Derek Fitzgerald pledged to revive the rink and has been working steadily to finance and build the new version since receiving Westbrook Planning Board approval in March 2020.

The project broke ground in January 2021 with a structure from Gorham-based Maine Metal Buildings Inc. and work by contractors including Doten’s Construction. Costs have not been disclosed.

The new rink incorporates the original kickboards from the Portland rink, and the familiar Happy Wheels sign from the former building has been installed at the Westbrook site, Happy Wheels has said.

The original rink opened in 1973, and Happy Wheels once operated a total of seven skate centers in Maine and New Hampshire. Families flocked to the rinks. They also became teen hangouts and were buoyed by the popularity of discos and disco music in the 1970s.

gray, industrial building with "Happy Wheels" sign
Photo / William Hall
The new site of Happy Wheels Skate Center is in Westbrook, a short distance from the original Portland rink, and displays the original sign.

But in Maine and across the U.S., the roller-skating craze plateaued during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the Happy Wheels locations closed, and the Portland site was the last to go in 2019.

Thousands of Mainers, many recalling fond memories of their youth, have followed the progress of the new rink on social media.

A Facebook post on Thursday about the opening had been shared 1,100 times and received 417 comments by Monday morning.

"We cannot wait to welcome you back and are so humbled to see all new and old faces," Happy Wheels posted. "Thank you to all of our volunteers, friends and family that took time out of their own lives to help us accomplish this huge build."

One Facebook user responded by posting, "Awesome!! Glad to see it back!! So many wonderful memories!”

Another wrote, “Can't wait to bring my grandkids and share the experience I had when I was growing up.”

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