All Over The Map: Beloved Federal Way roller-skating rink saved by local non-profit

Sep 30, 2022, 11:01 AM | Updated: Oct 25, 2022, 4:19 pm

Skaters roll past the "ALL SKATE" sign at Pattison's West on Thursday morning. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio) Manager Darin Pattison is a fourth-generation skating-rink operator; his family sold Pattison's West to El Centro de la Raza. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)
Walls of coin-operated lockers are integral to skating rinks. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)
A colorful mural is the backdrop for the arcade section of Pattison's West in Federal Way; the rink was built in 1979. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)
The skate rental counter at Pattison's West in Federal Way. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)
The "Pattison's" name has already been removed from the exterior of the building which has housed the family-run skating rink since 1979. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)

The big building housing a beloved roller-skating rink in Federal Way has just been purchased by a new owner. But, unlike most of these sad-sack local history stories about old bowling alleys closing or derelict theatres being demolished, this one has a happy ending.

The news was first reported by the Federal Way Mirror, but before the good news, first a little history…

Incidentally, the name “Federal Way” for an area of South King County between Tukwila and Fife dates to about 1930. In those pre-Interstate 5 years, US Highway 99 was being improved between Seattle and Tacoma with federal dollars – so 99 was known as the “federal highway” or, shortened a bit, “federal way.”

When a new school district was created, they called their first building – built alongside the highway – “Federal Way School,” and the name ultimately stuck for the burgeoning community. The first Federal Way post office came in the 1950s, and Federal Way was incorporated as a city in 1990.

Federal Way’s one and only roller-skating rink is called Pattison’s West. It was built in 1979 along old US Highway 99 – nowadays known as Pacific Highway South – and the rink has been a popular destination for recreational skaters and serious competitors for decades. A few years ago, the branch of the Pattison family which owns Pattison’s West was ready to retire, and so they put the building and business up for sale. As of Tuesday, Oct. 4, the new owner will officially take over.

Ordinarily, this would be the signal to cue the violins and the sad-sack local history radio reporter to begin a typical lament over the “loss of a community gathering place” and “closure of a treasured neighborhood institution.”

This time, the story is very different.

The new owner of Pattison’s West is not a for-profit investor looking to tear down the rink and build condos and retail. In a very unusual twist of events, the new owner is a well-known human service and community non-profit group which will mark its 50th anniversary next month: El Centro de la Raza, which translates into “the center for people of all races.”

“Over 50 years, we have developed programs in the area of children and youth, human and emergency services, education and skill-building programs,” El Centro executive director Estela Ortega told KIRO Newsradio. “We do housing and economic development and obviously do a lot of cultural work. And so in a 50-year period, we have calculated that we have helped over 500,000 households in our time.”

While thought of as an organization that serves primarily the Latino community, true to the “all races” part of its name, Ortega says El Centro serves a diverse range of people.

“And we know that the kind of programs that we run have made an impact on people’s lives in terms of getting trained [and] educated, and just having more sustainable lives and the work they’re doing,” Ortega said.

El Centro, which was founded when activists peacefully occupied an old school on Beacon Hill in 1972, opened a new facility in Federal Way two years ago and then, after a search around South King County, found this property available nearby. Ortega says El Centro has been serving South King County residents for years, many of whom had to drive to Beacon Hill – so expanding to Federal Way made sense then, and makes even more sense for the future.

Ortega says El Centro is going to create a new facility at what has been Pattison’s West, and will also keep the rink – and keep operating it, and keep employing people to work there.

“We just loved the idea of the roller rink, because a lot of young people work there, so there are jobs for young people,” Ortega said. “And, you know, when you think about activities for young people in South [King] County, there’s not a lot there, and there is that roller rink . . . that is the only one that we know of in South [King] County.”

Besides keeping the rink, Ortega and El Centro see a lot of potential at the site for other programs and services.

“We wanted to develop housing, we definitely wanted to develop a little mini market,” Ortega said. “We work with a lot of small businesses – people who are micro-businesses who are making jewelry, their artwork, they sell food, they bring products from their countries to sell here. And those people need a venue to sell their stuff, so we’re going to establish [what] in Spanish [is] called a ‘mercado.’”

“When we found out that we could have those pieces together, we were immediately interested in purchasing the property,” Ortega said.

And since the sale has come together, Ortega told KIRO Newsradio that when she mentions to people that her group is buying the old Pattison’s West, she usually gets a very positive response.

“’Pattison’s? Oh my God! I love that place,’ you hear that constantly,” Ortega said. “And Pattison’s – they are supposed to be the greatest in terms of what they do, and by all the comments that we get and the support of the community, you know it is beloved.”

“And the other thing is that they are supposed to have the best roller-skating floor in the nation,” Ortega continued. “And that’s why we’ve had Olympic stars come out of Pattison’s.”

To cite a high-profile, soul-patched example: gold medal speed-skater Apolo Ohno is just one of five Olympians who started out roller-skating at Pattison’s before switching to ice on the way to finding fame and fortune.

Darin Pattison is the manager of Pattison’s West and it’s his parents who are retiring and selling the building and business. Darin’s great-grandfather was the first member of the family to open a roller rink – way back in the 1940s in nearby Redondo Beach.

The winning combination of a big hardwood floor, hundreds of pairs of rental skates, a snack bar, walls lockers, and an arcade replete with coin-operated video games, pinball, and air hockey – and the big chunk of real estate to house it all – is still a family business. Other family members continue to operate rinks in Spokane, Puyallup (though the rink there was damaged by fire in 2020 and remains closed), and in the Skagit County community of Burlington.

How does Darin Pattison feel, knowing that come next Tuesday after 43 years of operation, the Federal Way rink won’t be in Pattison family’s hands anymore?

“Oh, it’s definitely tough, yeah,” Pattison told KIRO Newsradio on Thursday. “It won’t sink in until I’m away from it, I’m sure. So I’ve got about six days to go. And I’ll miss it, but it’ll still be here, so I can come back and enjoy it.”

Is Darin Pattison a good skater?

“I was. I was, yes,” he said, chuckling. “We were forced to skate, so it’s not a bad gig to grow up into.”

Darin Pattison also explained why the rink in Federal Way is called Pattison’s West: the family’s rink in North Spokane is called Pattison’s North, and they used to own a rink in Tacoma called Pattison’s South. There never was a Pattison’s East, Pattison says, though he thought about doing that one day, perhaps in Issaquah, if real estate wasn’t so darned expensive.

Estela Ortega says El Centro de La Raza will be renaming the rink, but she doesn’t yet know what the new name will be. Once it has been chosen, there will be an event sometime in the near future to officially mark the new non-profit era for the old roller-skating rink and the other improvements to come at the site.

With Tech City Bowl in Kirkland – aka Totem Bowl – closing this weekend, KIRO Newsradio asked Estela Ortega if El Centro perhaps wanted to buy an endangered – or make that “nearly extinct” – bowling alley.

Ortega, who already has her hands full getting ready to take over what might be the only non-profit roller-skating rink in the free world, pretty much just chuckled at the thought.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or questions, please email Feliks here.

Feliks Banel

medal burien buttok...

Feliks Banel

Medal for bravery in Burien depends on finding ‘burned buttock guy’

In November 1955, a young soldier named Gene Casey survived a fiery airliner crash in Burien and rescued another soldier from the burning wreckage.

3 days ago

ryan house demolish rush...

Feliks Banel

Frustration in Sumner over city’s rush to demolish historic Ryan House

The City of Sumner held a public open house Tuesday night, one of the hottest topics was the Ryan House which the City Council last week voted to demolish.

5 days ago

sumner ryan house save...

Feliks Banel

Is tonight the last chance to save Sumner’s historic Ryan House?

The City of Sumner has been working for the past few years to renovate the historic Ryan House. Last week, those restoration plans abruptly changed.

6 days ago

Image: The Jantzen Beach carousel was installed in June 1928 at the amusement park that once stood ...

Feliks Banel

Beloved, and huge, Jantzen Beach Carousel gets a new home

A beloved Portland area landmark – a vintage carousel from the 1920s – is hitting the trail for points east.

8 days ago

Seattle Seahawks run onto the field during team introductions before an NFL football game against t...

Feliks Banel

Memories of the magical 2013 Seahawks season refuse to fade

Sometimes, we can't help but look back at Seahawks history. It was a decade ago when the magical 2013 season unfolded and culminated in a Super Bowl title.

11 days ago

ship canal bridge parking...

Feliks Banel

When the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge almost became a “$13 million parking lot”

Commuters know it, they love it, they can’t live without it. Yes, it’s the Interstate 5 Ship Canal Bridge in Seattle

17 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

All Over The Map: Beloved Federal Way roller-skating rink saved by local non-profit