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Owners of Puyallup skating rink plan to come back strong after fire

Smoke from the KING Family Fun Center fire from a Puyallup neighborhood nearby. (Photo courtesy of Lanita Miller)

The owners of the KING Family Fun Center in Puyallup — commonly known as Tiffany’s Skate Inn — plan to rise from the ashes after a fire last week ravaged the skating rink.

The fourth generation of owners, Dennis and Melinda King, now run the roller-skating business that has been in their family for 50 years. It has cemented itself during that time as a recreation tradition among Pierce County families.

“Many people have grown up there, brought their children, brought their grandchildren,” Melinda King said. “I think if you’ve lived in Puyallup any amount of time, you’ve visited us at least once. Many people have come weekly, when they were growing up, especially. It’s very much a community gathering place.”

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier said he has many happy memories there from when his kids were young.

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“I spent more than one evening there skating with my kids at PTA skate night, that was our place,” Dammeier said.

One of the firefighters sent to the building, Captain Darrin Shaw with Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, has also been known to frequent the roller rink in his spare time.

“It’s devastating. It was built in 1969, so it’s been serving families — including my own — for 51 years in November,” Shaw said. “It’s not just a building, it’s an icon in the community.”

The business was just coming out of being mostly closed due to COVID-19 when the fire occurred. Mini-golf outdoors reopened at the start of the summer, and small fitness sessions indoors had just been allowed to start up again.

“Two devastations back to back,” Melinda said. “I thought COVID might be the worst that we would experience, and then getting started and having some hope and getting some real momentum, or trying to — and this has certainly put a damper on things.”

The fire that broke out the afternoon of Sept. 8 coincided with brush fires that day in nearby Sumner and Graham, but the Kings said the cause of their fire was electrical. Melinda was outside — for COVID-19 safety — interviewing candidates for job openings at the skating rink when she noticed smoke coming from a maintenance room and immediately called 911.

The electrical fire quickly spread and engulfed the roller rink, requiring assistance from other fire departments.

At the moment, the building is too unstable to enter, and Dennis King said he has only been inside once after the fire.

“As it is right now, it’s extremely dangerous, and they’ve stated that the walls and the ceiling could collapse at any time,” Captain Shaw said.

He noted that firefighters could not even fight the fire from inside due to the structural danger, and had to instead fight it from outside, in what is termed a defensive fire strategy. That means the focus is on stopping the fire from spreading to other structures rather than trying to save the building and get every last ember inside. Because of this, the building had to be on 24-hour fire watch for days after the fire.

It is not yet known whether the building can be salvaged or must be torn down and rebuilt. The Kings are waiting for more definitive information from the City of Puyallup and their insurance company.

“The City of Puyallup told us that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when it’s going to cave in,” Dennis King said. “It’s going to be an interesting road ahead to figure out what’s going to be the next step — whether it’s going to be feasible to repair the building or to start fresh.”

He said the portion of walls and roof where the fire occurred appear to be cracking and caving in. The skating rink floor and ceiling need to be replaced, and much of the interior has water damage.

One item remained unharmed — perhaps a symbol of rebirth and hope for better times.

“We all scratch our heads looking at it — but the mirror ball still stands and it has not melted or been destroyed,” Dennis said. “Hopefully one day, we’ll be able to get that off the ceiling and put it in whatever is in our future.”

“We can have a disco party,” Melinda laughed.

They plan to reopen mini-golf when the wildfire smoke is gone, as they have been told that the outdoor area will be safe. Melinda said they plan to extend mini-golf past its normal season, and they are already planning holiday-themed mini-golf ideas.

In the meantime, they are grateful that no one was harmed and are incredibly appreciative of the outpouring of love from the community over the past week. Family friends have set up a GoFundMe drive to help the business through this time.

“We just want to thank everyone for their support, for donating, all the words of encouragement, all the prayers, for offering to help,” Melinda said. “We just want our community to know how much we love them, and that we’ve been doing this for them.”

The Kings plan to come back strong and get the skating rink rebuilt as soon as possible.

“We know how much it means to the community, and that’s what saddens us the most, is not having a place for the community,” Dennis said. “We hope to be back — we have all the intent to be back, and we hope that everything will work out just fine.”

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