Macon’s iconic skate rink sold, bringing a 60-year family business to a close

Roller Derby, hockey league in search of new home

Former owner Joyce Skelly reminisces about the Bibb Skate Arena as it officially closed Tuesday.
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Former owner Joyce Skelly reminisces about the Bibb Skate Arena as it officially closed Tuesday.

The iconic Bibb Skate Arena in Macon has been sold, and the sounds of music and metal wheels on the wooden floor will end.

The new owner plans to turn the building at 5335 Hawkinsville Road into an event space, said Bertha Cranford, a real estate agent with A Home for Your Realty in Macon, who represented the buyer.

The skating rink, originally called The Barn, had been in Mike Skelly’s family for about 60 years. It was sold to Anthony Hernandez, and it will be renamed Monarca Ballroom, Cranford said.

Skelly had put the property up for sale more than once.

Chuck Minshew, a real estate agent with Fickling & Co. commercial real estate, said Skelly was “just ready to sell. ... It really is one of the last pieces of nostalgic architecture. ... It’s got some history, that’s for sure.”

Three years ago, Skelly leased it to Leslie and Tim Johns, who had continued to operate the skating rink.

“So many kids depend on this and for some it’s a safe place,” Leslie Johns said. “It was my safe place when I was a kid.”

Johns said she met her husband of 30 years at the skate center, and she was emotional talking about the end for the business.

Attendance at the skating rink has been “dwindling down,” she said. “Kids have so many things to do now. When they do come, if we had 100 kids, 60 of them would be sitting on the side with their phones.”

On a good night, about 50-60 people show up, but “10 years ago there be 100 more than that,” she said.

The last time the rink was open to the public was last weekend and Tuesday night was the last time it would be used for practice by the Central Georgia Hockey team and the Middle Georgia Derby Demons, a women’s roller derby team. Johns said it was a shame the teams were losing the skating rink for practice.

On the Central Georgia Hockey website, the schedule after Tuesday night showed the team would be at Avalon Park in McDonough.

Cranford said that Hernandez plans to paint and add new lighting, but the space would basically be left as it is. However, she said he doesn’t plan to use it for skating because he doesn’t know anything about that business.

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz