Owner Derek Fitzgerald at his new Happy Wheels Skate Center in Westbrook. The rink is painted blue just like the former Happy Wheels in Portland. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

When the Happy Wheels roller rink in Portland closed nearly three years ago, manager Derek Fitzgerald was determined to bring it back – and back it is, in Westbrook and set for a grand opening Saturday.

Customers of the original Happy Wheels will see some familiar sights when they roll into the new location at 3 Chabot St. in Westbrook.

The new Happy Wheels has some relics from the past, such as the original Happy Wheels sign and color scheme. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

“The front sign is the original front sign. We brought back the original logo from way back when. We brought the color scheme back from when I was a kid,” Fitzgerald said.

Happy Wheels closed its Portland doors in December 2019 after more than 40 years of business, much to the dismay of local skaters. It was the last roller rink in southern Maine.

“We basically announced that we were closing and we had six weeks that was just straight crazy,” Fitzgerald said. “Then it came to a grinding halt.”

Getting a roller rink up and running is no easy task, and it has been a long road from the closing of the Portland facility to the opening this weekend.


“I grew up in that building; to have it close … that was a hard blow,” Fitzgerald said. “It took a long time for my stomach to recover from that one, but moving forward, going through a pandemic and finally breaking ground was amazing. Just, ‘Oh my God, we’re actually doing this, this is actually happening.'”

Fortunately, Fitzgerald has more than two decades worth of experience to tap into.

“I started as a regular employee, just working on the floor and playing music, doing birthday parties, concessions, the whole deal,” Fitzgerald said. “That became very handy: knowing what I needed ahead of time before the building was even built. It also gave me an idea of what to scavenge from the old building.”

Happy Wheels had plenty of helping hands and community support along the way. Two sets of those helping hands came from Arthur Girard and his daughter, Andrea, from Delta Realty.

“(Fitzgerald) had approached us about the possibility of building a building but didn’t have the funding for it,” Andrea Girard said. “In order to make it affordable, we discounted our rates … it has just all come together as a major community-type of project, everybody participating, including contractors.”

Fitzgerald agreed.


“The vendors and the contractors that I have worked with, the supply companies, have been very, very helpful,” he said.

As Happy Wheels approaches its opening, Fitzgerald has seen more and more support from families and mounting inquiries from parent-teacher organizations and schools.

“Not that we weren’t before,” he said. “But we want to be more community-active going forward because they have been so helpful to us.”

Derek Fitzgerald with dozens of new skates ready for renting. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Happy Wheels is enrolled in a nationwide Kids Skate Free program. By signing up at kidsskatefree.com, children can get up to two free admissions to participating local rolling rinks, like Happy Wheels, every week.

“All they have to do is pay for their rental skates if they need them,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a good opportunity for less-fortunate families who may not have a lot of expendable money. It’s a good place for kids to come, it gives them something to do that’s physical fitness, so to speak. It’s a little fun and there’s a social aspect.”

For Fitzgerald and his “skate family,” Happy Wheels is more than just the name of the rink, and he wants to make sure it feels that way.

“We didn’t want it to be just another rink with a name,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that it’s home. It’s Happy Wheels  –  just like it was when we were younger.”

Saturday’s opening event begins with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. followed by two skating sessions, from noon to 4 p.m. and from 8-10:30 p.m.

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