Since the age of 7, Skip Clinton has been hypnotized by the whirl of roller skates; among his fondest memories are those of boogying on wheels among hundreds of fellow skaters packed into one rink. Translating his love of the sport into a competitive drive, Skip won the 1986 Roller Figure Skating World Championship in Bogotà, Colombia, cementing his spot in the Roller Skating Hall of Fame. Still, none of that success could fully satisfy his dream of polishing skates in his very own rink.
In 1996, Skip connected with the new owners of River Roll Skate Center and helped restore the long-neglected rink to its modern glory, installing new floors, a jamming sound system, and computer-controlled lights. Three years later, decades of hard work paid off as he and his wife—also a competitive skater—took over River Roll Skate Center's operations full-time.
"There's never a day I don't want to go to work," says Skip with a glee normally reserved for children who get to eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dessert. He relishes duties such as keeping the floor immaculate—indeed, the polished arena reflects the ceiling's colored lights like a kaleidoscope—which, in his experience, is crucial to the success of any skate center. While Skip acknowledges that roller skating hasn't changed much over the years, skaters' expectations have. To that end, 35,000 songs populate the rink's computer, from '70s and '80s pop music to family-friendly hip-hop, rock, and country-western hits. Throughout the facility, video screens flash names of birthday celebrants, popular music videos such as Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and classic movies such as Footloose.
Elsewhere, the scent of fresh-baked pizza wafts from the concession stand, where rollers refuel with traditional snacks such as hot dogs or nachos, and an arcade dispenses entertainment and prizes with a variety of video games. Once a month, the Dead Girl Derby takes over River Roll Skate Center, captivating audiences with breakneck speed and no-holds-barred competition akin to the days when the ancient Romans strapped chariots to the Titans' ankles.
At Title Boxing Club, professional boxers, kickboxers, and mixed martial artists may lead the classes, but their goal is fitness, not fighting. They push patrons to strengthen their bodies from head to toe during one-hour sessions, instructing them to pummel 100-pound bags with jabs, hooks, and roundhouse kicks. They encourage members to hit the bags as hard or soft as they like and to move at their own pace, so the classes accessible to all fitness levels. During one-on-one training sessions, trainers use custom routines of weightlifting, cardio, and sparring to show students how to float like a butterfly and sting like a venomous butterfly. They also develop custom diet plans and exercise routines to help clients meet their fitness goals.
A community presence in Kansas City since 1860, the Greater Kansas City YMCA forwards its mission of physical and social enrichment for men, women, and kids of all ages and backgrounds at its 18 locations. Each bustling outpost proffers members an embarrassment of fitness and entertainment riches, with everything from youth camps and after-school programs to group exercise classes, such as cycling, core training, and Pilates. Clubs and social organizations help members meet like-minded friends, and family activities strengthen bonds critically weakened by overzealous games of Monopoly.
Martial-arts classes at Pride Martial Arts / Karate For Kids boost confidence and physical fitness in both adults and children. Classes for kids as young as 4 years old focus on building gross motor skills and self-discipline. Adult-geared classes teach tae kwon do techniques, advanced self-defense moves, and weapons training. Instructors also open their doors for birthday parties, where the birthday kid dons a black belt and cuts the cake with a special samurai sword.