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Getting things rolling again
Times photo: Tere Dunlap Tim Buehler finds being the new manager of Monroe Den fun and exciting even when its work. The roller skating rink on 31st Avenue, which was purchased by Jim Becker, Monroe, Dec. 2, is getting updated technology to provide entertainment.
MONROE - The city's roller skating rink has been a fun destination for area children and adults for 48 years.

Now under new ownership, and renamed Monroe Den, it's being updated and retro-fitted to become more than a place to skate.

Jim Becker, Monroe, bought the property Dec. 2 and is installing new entertainment technology as well as working to restore of some of its 1970s-era music-sync lighting systems.

By New Year's eve, kids will get a chance to sample a lot of the new activities.

Newer game technology at the Den includes, two projection televisions, Nintendo Wii systems and laser tag, according to Tim Buehler, Monroe Den manager.

"Jim thought of the laser tag. He bought the game system about a year ago, and it has been sitting, waiting, for a place," Buehler said.

"It's not like welt-inflicting paint ball," he said, with a laugh. "It's safer than paint ball."

Buehler said two flat-screen, Blu-ray-capable projection televisions will eventually be installed.

But adults who have frequented the rink since their grade-school days will see the pool table and older floor model video games still around.

Colored "UFO" lamps that flash in sync with the beat of the music were installed in about 1978, but haven't worked for several years.

"There's only one guy in the country - and he's in Kansas - that works on them," said Barry Heiser, a contractor in Monroe, hired to get the lights repaired.

Buehler, who works as a flooring installer, was laying the new carpet - which is black, and streaked with bright neon colors that glow in the dark - when Becker offered him the manager position.

He took the job because the place is "fun and exciting," he said, with a smile.

Buehler, who has coached youth gymnastics at the YMCA since 1991, said Monroe Den offers kids a safe and fun environment.

The Roller Den was built in 1961 by Stacy Williams. Heiser said the skate counter and the wooden floor was all that existed under the arching roof.

"He had a turn-bale and a stack of 45 rpm records," he said. "Today we have MP3 files, about 10,000 of them."

Dennis and Linda Esslinger bought the business in 1977. They added the dropped ceiling and many of the lights.

This New Year's eve, Monroe Den is offering parents 11 hours of supervised activities for their children for about $2 an hour.

Kids, from ages 10 years and up, will get locked-in for a full night of entertainment with movies, pizza, a sock hop, and games starting at 7 p.m. Dec. 31, for $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. The kids even get breakfast in the morning.

"Sleep? ... not going to happen," Buehler said.

For hours of operation and reservations for private events at Monroe Den, call 325-2534, or visit