Star Wheels Skate Center Bonds Two Kindred Spirits to the Community

by | May 2024

FOR HOURS, they circled the wood floor, their wheels a muffled whir, keeping pace with the spirited music and crescendos of laughter. Then came the call signaling the end of the evening for many: “Last song before the all-night skate!”

Parents crowded at the entrance, waiting to take their children home. Wheels clunked on the rental skate counter, the boots attached to them still warm. Diamond sparkles from the disco ball danced with the colored lights above as some skated backward, some made the evening’s last spins, and couples reluctantly let go of their partners’ hands. The song’s final notes receded into the Saturday night air, spilling into the room from the door’s open-close routine.

On a nearby bench, a girl around 3 years old begged to stay for the all-night skate. Her mom, convinced she’d fall asleep, attempted to unlace the skates despite the girl’s attempts to pull them from her.

“I promise you, I won’t go to sleep,” the mini skater insisted, and her mom, unconvinced, gave in. Around 2:00 a.m., teenagers losing the battle with sleep filled the concessions tables while a few remained on the floor. Among those still on the floor at Star Wheels Skate Center was the persistent child, Summer Southern.

Keeping one eye on Southern that night was the rink’s owner, Tim Mitchell, whose persistence when seeking a loan for the construction of the rink years earlier matched that of his young charge. A 13-month process for an SBA loan challenged Mitchell’s vision of a safe place for Lincoln County’s youth to spend time on the weekends but finally came through.

Thanks to the tenacity of Southern and Mitchell, countless rotations around the hickory floor fill the time and the memories of Lincoln County residents. Mitchell opened the doors at Star Wheels on Aug. 26, 1982. Forty-one years later, on Aug. 26, 2023, he skated onto the floor for the last time as owner and handed the keys to Southern.

Recalling that night, Mitchell said, “I had mixed emotions. I knew it was time to pass the torch and let someone younger and ambitious pick it up. Summer is very smart, intelligent, and energetic, and I can’t think of anybody I’d rather have take over the rink than her. She’s done a tremendous job remodeling the skating rink.”

Mitchell operated Star Wheels for 41 years despite the challenges of a colon cancer diagnosis in 2000 and a successful racing career. He raced in the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) series for about 15 years and worked four years as a driving instructor for Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure. Again and again, the grit and determination he poured into opening the rink enabled him to stay on the lead lap in the race of life.

“I used to think that I made a lot of good decisions, but later in life, I realized God was with me, helping me make the decisions,” reflected Mitchell. Again, Southern’s story and Mitchell’s parallelled, a thread of faith clearly visible.

Southern said, “It’s like a dream come true. When I started skating again during COVID, I saw [Star Wheels] through different eyes. I saw that it needed some love and attention, and that’s when it formulated in my head that if he was getting ready to sell it and didn’t have someone in his family interested in taking it over, then I wanted to talk to him about it. While it wasn’t a lifelong dream, it quickly turned into a dream. And it’s one of those ‘God dreams’ where He gave me a better dream than I could ever dream for myself.”

The recent renovations include upgraded visual equipment and new restrooms, and upgraded audio equipment is coming soon. Southern hopes the community thinks outside the box when considering Star Wheels for their events. “We want to find ways for the whole community to use [the space] and have a good time. We’re really focusing on finding ways to broaden its use, so not only kids and younger folks can enjoy it,” Southern said optimistically.

One thing will remain unchanged: the name of the rink. Southern said, “I wanted to hang onto the name because nothing I could have called it would have made it any better. I couldn’t do anything better than what it’s always been. I feel like we bought a legacy.”

Mitchell knows it’s a legacy that wouldn’t be possible without the community’s support. “I would just like for everyone who supported my business, showed me love, and shared my joy to know it’s certainly appreciated. I couldn’t have done it had they not supported me,” said Mitchell. “ I’m so thankful Summer didn’t change the name. I’m grateful that even when I’m gone, I will still be remembered as the owner and builder of Star Wheels.”

Today, that persistent little all-night skater watches as another weekend comes to a close at the rink. Young people reluctantly remove their skates, in no hurry for the evening to end. They may think it’s only over until next weekend, but it might have ended for good without the persistence of two kindred spirits. GN

More Good News

Setting the Stage for Success

Setting the Stage for Success

GAIL GODWIN said, “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre.” Tim Hobbs has utilized theatre in the classroom throughout his Fayetteville City Schools (FCS) career and...

read more
Leave it Powerless

Leave it Powerless

HOW CAN a word trigger so many emotional responses, and why is it fair that it does? While we could erase the word from the dictionary, doing so would do nothing to erase it from our lives. However,...

read more
Nothing to fear

Nothing to fear

A CHILD STARES at the blank page. She can’t remember the teacher’s instructions and believes she can’t draw. Only artists can do that. And she’s not alone. From childhood to adulthood, it’s a...

read more
Loving on Lincoln County

Loving on Lincoln County

LOOK AROUND the grocery store today andsee bewildered faces in every aisle. Buggies once packed to the brim are now carefully curated from half-empty shelves. Coupons and calculators are in hand....

read more
Chicken Wings & other things

Chicken Wings & other things

WHEN ENTERING a particular local restaurant located at 2715 Huntsville Highway Suite C in Fayetteville, the first thing you will notice is the friendly servers taking your order, happy that you are...

read more
The Warrior’s Exhibit

The Warrior’s Exhibit

ON MAIN Avenue North, in downtown Fayetteville, a particular building sticks out. It is hard to miss with its red, white, and blue colors bursting with patriotic pride. On the exterior of the...

read more
The rhythm of determination

The rhythm of determination

INSIDE THE pages of her favorite books, Sierra Arguello found a place of belonging but still longed for something that she couldn’t quite identify. In the early days of fifth grade, Arguello’s...

read more
Called to Help

Called to Help

AS CHARLOTTE HOOPER attended regular services at The Father’s Refuge Church, she saw more than hymnals and church bulletins; she saw children and families in need. Wanting to help, she and her...

read more
Juneteenth

Juneteenth

“FREEDOM” enters the chatroom, and immediately it’s all, barbecued meat and who’s got the biggest bang of a firework show. While Independence Day is our nation’s designated time to pause and...

read more
Keeping it real

Keeping it real

DICK CLARK said “music is the soundtrack of your life.” Eric Michael Taylor would say music is his life, and he enjoys writing and performing the soundtracks of your life.  Taylor’s music style...

read more
Juneteenth

Leading the Way

IT’S HARD to imagine now, but there was a time when women weren’t allowed to cross the Fayetteville downtown square unattended. In the mid-1800s, several saloons were located around the square, and...

read more