Skaters young and old get in one of their last skates at the Happy Wheels in Portland in December. A former manager plans to open a new Happy Wheels in Westbrook. File photo

WESTBROOK — A former manager of the now-closed Happy Wheels wants to open a new roller skating rink this fall in Westbrook.

Derek Fitzgerald brought his proposal to build a 23,100 square foot Happy Wheels at 84 Warren Ave. to an enthusiastic Planning Board Tuesday.

“I am extremely happy you’ve chosen Westbrook. I go way back and I remember a time where the only exercise we got in school was a trip to Happy Wheels. Westbrook needs more family activities,” said Planning Board Chairman Rene Daniels.

The popular roller skating rink at 331 Warren Ave. in Portland closed Dec. 15 after the building, owned by Warren Ave LLC, was sold to developers who had “no interest in keeping the rink.

The old Happy Wheels on Warren Avenue in Portland. File photo

The rink to be built is relatively the same size as the old one, which had been open for more than 40 years.

The proposal for the undeveloped lot includes 94 parking spaces with room for overflow parking.

“The design looks to maintain the best aspects of the rink while improving where possible,” said Patrick Coughlin of the engineering firm St. Germain.

Coughlin hopes to have final plans to the Planning Board in May so construction could begin by summer.

“If all things go well, we are hoping to open our doors just in time for the busy season in the fall,” Fitzgerald said.

“This project has generated a ton of interest since the building in Portland sold,” Coughlin said.

The December closing was a blow for roller skating enthusiasts, who flocked to the rink to get in a final skate while bemoaning its loss.

Director of Planning Jennie Franscheschi recalled skating at Happy Wheels in her youth.

“The staff is excited about this proposal. Their closing in Portland left a hole. This makes me nostalgic about rollerskating with my pom-poms,” Franscheschi said.

“I shared the plans with my daughter, and she is super excited about this,” said Jason Frazier, Ward 2 Planning Board member.

Fitzgerald, an avid roller skater, said he’s excited about the new rink as well.

“We no longer will have to travel nearly an hour to the nearest rink (Rollodrome) in Auburn,” he said.

At one time there were seven Happy Wheels rinks skating centers in Maine and New Hampshire. Happy Wheels sites in South Portland and Scarborough closed in the 1980s and 2000s, respectively.

Patrick Coughlin presents the blueprint for a Westbrook Happy Wheels. Final exterior and interior designs are still being worked on and will likely be presented to the Planning Board in May. Chance Viles / American Journal

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