Evanston roller rink plans develop

Sara Grossbarth

It’s a Friday afternoon, and school’s out for the weekend. Where will Evanston’s youth be tonight?

If Timothy Barfield is able to “turn a dream into a reality,” they’ll be skating around a brand new roller rink.

Barfield, a transportation coordinator at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Ill., said he hopes to open a rink in Evanston. Though he said it would benefit residents of all ages, his focus is on providing a “safe haven” where children can have fun.

“I’ve been working with kids all my life,” Barfield said. “I know (some) are scared to go out and enjoy being a kid, and I think a roller skating rink is the ideal setting for them to do that.”

One of Barfield’s goals for the rink is to reduce the influence of gangs and violence on children, he said.

“The younger generation can be so barbaric,” he said. “There are kids killing kids, and nobody’s doing nothing about it and nobody’s caring about it. We need to create some type of activity for these kids to give them some hope. We’re doing a good thing for humanity with this.”

Barfield said he thinks the rink would appeal to Northwestern students as well, especially during weeks when they have a lot of exams.

“College kids need an outlet to get stress out,” he said, “And we could have college night, when college kids can come and roller skate and exercise.”

Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said a business like the one Barfield is proposing would not take root overnight.

“Sporting and athletic facilities take up a lot of room,” Perman said. “It’s just the nature of the business he wishes to start.”

Barfield estimated he will need 25,000 square feet of space to open the rink.

Finding a space of this size has proved a challenge. One location on Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue fell through because its zoning agreement does not allow buildings like roller rinks.

Barfield is currently assessing a space on Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard, about three miles from the NU campus. Barfield said he hopes to secure a location by the start of 2010, which could require a great deal of fundraising.

“It could cost a million dollars, but I think a million in donations and funds could make it happen,” he said.

So far, Barfield said the response from both residents and local government has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

However, his idea has not been accepted by everyone.

Michael North, an Evanston resident and NU library employee, said he would probably not frequent an Evanston roller rink.

“I could see how it might generate interest, though,” he said.

Sinan Atac, a Weinberg senior, had never visited a roller rink but said he might be interested.

“I might go once to see what it’s like,” he said.

Still, Barfield remains hopeful that his idea will garner public support.

“I see Evanston as a family community,” he said, “So I think it can really become a family venture.”

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