“We get a lot of people who come in saying they used to skate here when they were little. Now, they’re bringing their kids [or] grandkids,” Manager and Operator Anthony “A.J.” Monjure said. “The [customers] say it looks the same.”
Monjure said those customers take their loved ones on a trip down memory lane pointing out highlights from their youth. They walk by the party room and say, “I had my ninth birthday here,” or, “I used to go in the money machine,” he said. And when they say the carpet looks the same as from 20 years ago, Monjure says, “It is.”
Just as in years past, a DJ announces skating activities, such as the limbo, dice games, fast skate and opposite direction skate. Music spanning hits from the 1970s to current tunes play while multicolored lights and strobes create a festive atmosphere.
In addition to continual upkeep of the original wood rink floor, improvements, such as new paint, lighting and a music system, have also been made.
Skaters as young as 2 years old can make their way around the rink. Advanced skaters, also known as “jam skaters” gravitate to the center of the rink, so “they can hang out in there and do their tricks,” Monjure said.Nell Sims is the original owner of Thunderbird Roller Rink and remains the owner today. Monjure’s father was the rink’s manager and operator for eight years and provided A.J. and his fiancé Sonya Gowens with on-the-job training for the last three years.
Gowens has a simple reason for why she believes Thunderbird has been in business for 50 years.
“It’s a family environment, and that’s what keeps it going,” she said. “[And] people like to skate.”
Thunderbird Roller Rink
3200 Thunderbird Lane, Plano
Hours: Tue.-Thu. 1-4 p.m., Fri. 6-10 p.m. Sat. 1-9 p.m., Sun. 2-5 p.m., Mon. closed