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Roller rink reopens

Skaters: Come in from the cold. Twin Ports skaters who traded wheels for winter blades get another chance to strap on their roller skates and go for a spin when World of Wheels reopens for business Wednesday. The roller rink closed in late Septem...

Skaters: Come in from the cold.

Twin Ports skaters who traded wheels for winter blades get another chance to strap on their roller skates and go for a spin when World of Wheels reopens for business Wednesday.

The roller rink closed in late September when the Wright family decided to settle the estates of their late parents, Bob and Gerry Wright, founders of the World of Wheels Skate Center.

The Wright's five children put off the probate for three years after Bob's death, while they worked to keep the business going, but they couldn't put it off any longer, said Terrie Wright, company president.

They started looking for an owner this fall and Steve Grapentin of Zimmerman, Minn., was interested. The family had a farewell party in October for friends and longtime skaters, which Grapentin attended.

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He's been preparing to purchase the business since and is close to closing on the business with his bank.

Buying a business is a long process. Grapentin had to get the city council's approval to take over the lease of the land World of Wheels sits on. That request passed the council Tuesday night.

"Having had one of the Wrights as my neighbor for quite some time, it's really hard to see that building change hands. It's been in the family for so many years, but I'm sure you will continue on," said Council President Ed Anderson Tuesday night.

Until the sale is final, the Wrights are reopening World of Wheels with Grapentin who they'll introduce to Superior's skating community, Terrie said.

Both family members and Grapentin will be on hand for the Wednesday night opening, she said.

"We'll be there to help him -- step back and let him take the lime light. It should be fun," she said.

Nothing much will change with the rink for the time being. Grapentin plans to keep the business as the Wright family ran it, adding some paint and updates both inside and outside of the building. Eventually he plans to inject a little of his own style into the rink and add some extra skating sessions and a few all-night skates, Grapentin said.

He's bringing some fresh ideas up from the Twin Cities area where a lot of rinks are still up and running. He knows what works there, and he's bringing his knowledge to the Twin Ports, Terrie said.

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Grapentin is a Twin Cities disc jockey who has 26 years of experience in the roller skating world. He started skating at Cheep Skate in Minnetonka on the day it opened 30 years ago. That's the only day he paid to skate. He moved from a kid who helped take out the trash, swept the floors and assisted the disc jockey to an employee of 26 years until the day it closed four years ago, he said.

"I was there from the day it opened to the day it closed," he said.

Grapentin's been looking to get back into the roller skating business ever since.

"I see great opportunity up there for me and a need for kids and families -- for family entertainment," he said. "I've always been kind of looking and this one just kind of fits."

Grapentin sees skating coming back into vogue. Skating goes in cycles and its becoming popular again. Not many rinks are available for sale. There are still many rinks open in southern Wisconsin, but they're rare in the northern part of the state, he said.

This fall Grapentin found a listing for World of Wheels online and decided to buy the rink. There's a need for a rink in the Twin Ports, and he loves the area, he said.

"It's kind of a lifetime dream," he said.

Grapentin has good morals and wants to come to Superior and reopen World of Wheels as a family establishment. That's what we wanted. "I think that's what my parents would have wanted," Phil Wright said.

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Bob and Gerry Wright owned Rainbow Roller in Proctor and opened World of Wheels in 1975. They raised their children in and out of both rinks.

"When the reality came around that we'd have to close it ... that definitely affected me," Phil said. "It's exciting someone stepped up to the plate to keep it open as a rink."

One important condition of the sale for the Wright family allows them to continue skating as long as Grapentin owns World of Wheels, Terrie said.

Phil Wright said he will be back to skate at the rink as he's done since it opened when he was in the seventh grade. But skating at a World of Wheels that isn't owned by the Wright family will seem strange to him.

"I'm going to want to put my two cents worth in every time I go in there ... of course things are gonna be different there and you have to except that," he said. "It will be nice to see what some new blood can do. What he'll add."

Skating at Grapentin's World of Wheels won't be odd for Terrie -- because she'll be skating. It would be more sad to drive by and see the building being used for some other purpose. That's what the whole family feared, she said.

The Wrights received a lot of interest from people wanting to buy the building for a variety of uses, but wanted to sell the whole business, Terrie said.

The Wrights aren't the only ones excited to see World of Wheels reopen. People have been calling the rink to inquire about its reopening, Terrie said.

They've been calling daily. Since the reopening date was set this month they've been calling to book parties. Private parties, birthday parties, school and church parties are already booked. Area skaters are excited for World of Wheels to reopen, she said.

"We just want people to come back," she said. "Superior doesn't need another warehouse in the downtown. It needs a roller rink.

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