‘A safe and fun place where all ages can make great memories, meet new people and enjoy skating!’ At Auburn Skate Connection the owner never lost sight of this guiding vision in his decades as an integral part of the Greater Auburn Community.
“I’ve always had a burning desire to skate,” shared former Skate Connection owner and manager John Gustafson in a previous interview. He began skating at age five and became a professional skater, winning national championships in both speed skating and figure skating.
Purchasing the Auburn Skate Connection in 1973 was a great fit, given his lifelong passion. Gustafson managed the facility, offering a variety of open skate times and classes for all levels, as well as hosting parties and other types of events.
Providing a family-friendly environment was always Gustafson’s top priority. “We cater to families,” he said in a 2013 interview. “We try and make sure everything is clean and neat, and that everybody who comes in can have a good time. I’ve got grandkids of the original skaters who used to come in coming in now. It’s just wonderful to see them coming in.”
Adapting to the cyclical popularity of skating over several decades, Gustafson made adjustments accordingly. “There is always a seven-year cycle. During the disco-era, in the 1980s, we just had to open the doors and we were packed. It was really the ‘in’ thing to do then.”
Design improvements in the 1990s led to renewed interest as roller skaters discovered the increased speed and other competitive advantages of inline skates.
Future Olympic speed skating gold medalist Apolo Ohno got his start on the maple wood floor of the Skate Connection, under the tutelage of John Gustafson. Coaching the young skater for three years, he reported, “he’s just a wonderful guy, a real nice guy.”
The recent sale of the storied local attraction following Gustafson’s retirement marks the end of an era. Hopefully, supporters will be encouraged in knowing the memories and legacy of ‘A Fun, Community-Involved, Family-Owned Business’ remain as part of the Auburn Experience.
Last updated 01/28/2021: 3:09PM – the original publication of this article implied Gustafson was the original owner of the Auburn Skate Connection. Gustafson purchased the skating rink in 1973 from Jack Watkins.