In the era of A-ha and parachute pants — the 1980s — a young James Croft would spend his nights skating at the Roller Barn.
More recently, he volunteered at the barn after it was converted to the Boys & Girls Club.
After the club listed the barn for sale in 2019, Croft said he decided to buy it in the hopes of keeping the iconic red structure safe and sound in Oak Harbor. To realize that goal, Croft is raising money to restore the historic barn to its former glory.
Croft, who owns Toppins Frozen Yogurt, launched the “Save the Roller Barn Campaign.” His mission is to raise $80,000 by March 31. So far he has raised $15,000.
He has a little over a month remaining to reach his goal.
“It’s going to take everything we have, every dollar, every hour, everything we have as a family,” Croft said.
Croft said he’s almost cleared the biggest hurdle, which is acquiring the barn. He is closing the purchase on March 31 and is raising money for the down payment. The next hurdles are restoration and modernization.
The roof of the barn has old shingles that need to be replaced and sagging that needs to be re-engineered. He estimates restoration of the roof will cost $750,000.
The towering building, originally known as the Neil Barn, was built in 1912 and transformed into a roller rink in 1950. As Oak Harbor developed, a mix of commercial and residential development surrounded the building. Today, the red paneling can be seen peeking over the surrounding buildings on Highway 20.
The barn is not protected from urban growth and was at risk of being bulldozed. To ensure the barn remains in the community, Croft said, it needs to get listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
Preserving and protecting the barn is his long-term objective.
The barn has remained unchanged for most of its history. Croft said he remembers buying tickets from JoAnn Sample at the same ticket booth. Even some of the skates are still stored in the barn. He remembers paying 50 cents extra for the precision skates so that he could skate faster in the races.
Croft said he plans to reopen on June 30, the 70th anniversary of the skating rink.
“Regardless of how the barn is, because it is fully operable now, we will be open,” Croft said.
The first song he will play during the reopening will be his favorite, “Take on Me” by A-ha.
Croft said he will be putting an arcade in the basement and converting the Frightville Haunted House to a laser tag arena. Half of the arcade will feature pinball machines and the other half will include more modern games.
He said the Boys & Girls Club will still have access to the haunted house as a fundraiser.
Croft said he would like to bring the barn back to the community by offering it as an events center.
“It’s a big space and Oak Harbor doesn’t have a lot of space for big venues so this is an area that can be rented for whether it be a wedding or a Navy pinning or something like that,” Croft said.
“The barn watched the city rise, don’t let city watch the barn fall,” said Croft’s daughter, Megan.
• Donations can be made at www.therollerbarn.com or at www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-roller-barn