“We’re creating the world we want to live in, and we’re starting with our neighborhood.” That’s the mission statement expressed by Stephen Apkon and Marcina Hale, the new owners of Skate Time 209 in Accord – soon to be renamed Neighborhood 209. A Grand Reopening will take place sometime later this year, but the facility remains open for business, with a variety of new offerings being introduced and considerable upgrades to the building already completed or in progress. “It’s going to continue being a skating rink, but there are also going to be lots of other programs that we’re excited about,” says Apkon. “We really think of it as a community center.”
Apkon and Hale, who purchased the 2005-vintage building last June, are not exactly the sort of people one imagines becoming roller-rink entrepreneurs. Hale is a licensed marriage and family therapist and TED talk presenter who wants to introduce “meditative skate” events and revamp the venue’s snack bar to offer more nutritious, locally sourced food, beginning with organic popcorn. Apkon was the founder and longtime director of the not-for-profit Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. In recent years they have been making movies together, including the surprise hit documentary about mushrooms that has taken local cinemas by storm of late, Fantastic Fungi. Their media productions form one arm of Reconsider.org, a not-for-profit they co-direct that also conducts personal growth workshops and “experiences.”
Having officially moved to Accord full-time in 2017, after years of coming up from Westchester on weekends, Apkon and Hale have been busy since then traveling around the world to screen Disturbing the Peace, their 2016 documentary about former fighters on both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict who are working together to find peaceful solutions. Now they’re finally settling into their upstate home, and turning their attention to maximizing the potential of this 30,000-square-foot building on Route 209 that they’ve acquired. “We’re in the exploration and discovery stage,” says Apkon. “We’ve got 10,000 square feet of empty space.”
The couple envision many possible uses for the vacant part of the building, including a full kitchen and farm-to-table café, if they can find the right partner. They have already reached out to the Culinary Institute of America and the Rondout Valley Growers’ Association. But while these grand notions percolate, amazing things are happening with the already-developed side of the building, starting with the 14,000-square foot rink itself. An all-new LED dance lighting array, including starships and stingers, has already been installed. So has a modern heating system and, for the first time ever, air conditioning.
The upgrades to the rink mean that Skate Time 209 is well on its way to becoming a dance club, as well as a venue for what marketing manager Ida Pearce calls “truly exhibition-level skating.” “People love this floor,” Apkon says. “It’s a beautiful floor for skating, and probably dancing as well. It’s very well-constructed.” Deejays with considerable cachet have been retained to present the music. “Last night we had one of the top deejays in the tri-state area, DJ Arson. He has a huge following, and he wants to do four weekends a year. A lot of people came who weren’t even skaters.”
While the building’s rural location, with no residences close by, suggests that noisy activities might be tolerated by the community, Pearce says, “We don’t do a lot of high-volume events.” In fact, she has been meeting with representatives of the Center for Spectrum Services to organize a special program for Autism Awareness Month in April that will minimize potentially overstimulating sound and light effects for kids who are sensitive to such things. Other programming targeted to children includes “character skates,” such as one coming up in February when kids can share the rink with an actor portraying Elsa from Frozen. Skate Time is reaching out to local schools as well, touting an educational field trip program that uses the physics of roller skating to teach STEM concepts while giving middle schoolers a healthy workout. It’s hard to imagine a more fun way of learning Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.
There are times when the rink is set aside for parents and playgroups; for adults aged 18 and up only; for the Mid-Hudson Misfits roller derby team to have their twice-weekly practices. If Hale gets her wish, there will soon be yoga sessions on wheels as well. Apkon is looking forward to instituting film nights and community conversations. “I really believe that people want to be connected,” he says. And of course, the venue is still available to book for birthday parties, fundraising events and other celebrations, with a private party room and an arcade filled with vintage games like air hockey and Pac-Man sharing the main space with the rink.
Hours of operation at Skate Time 209 are expected to expand, now that most of the initial renovation work is complete, so check out https://skatetime209.com for the current schedule, including upcoming special events. Admission costs $9.75 for roller skating, $4 for skate or helmet rental and $20 for a group lesson. A two-and-a-half-hour birthday party for ten kids costs $275.
Skate Time/Neighborhood 209 is located at 5164 Route 209, at the intersection of Mettacahonts Road in Accord. For more information, call (845) 626-7971 or visit https://skatetime209.com or https://bit.ly/2O61ngu.