Thunderbird Roller Rink

Do you smell that? It’s the smell of your childhood calling. You can take a trip back in time the second you open the doors to Thunderbird Roller Rink. The scent of polished hardwood, leather and popcorn in the air, combined with the lights, disco ball and songs like Thriller, takes you right back to the way it felt to be a kid in 1985. Trust me, it’s a good smell.

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Thunderbird employee Brandon Osborn / Photography by Jennifer Shertzer

There are days where I look at my kids and feel like Ducky from the movie Pretty in Pink. You know the scene in the girls’ bathroom where he takes a look around and exclaims, “What is this?! We don’t have any of this!” I see their Xboxes, their Kindles, their iPads, and I wonder if they realize what it’s like to have fun without an electronic device attached to their every move.

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Thunderbird Roller Rink, located at 3200 Thunderbird Lane, is one of those places where you can disconnect from the technology of today and show your kids what real fun is. Walking in, it’s like you’ve jumped into the DeLorean and stepped 30 years into the past. Time may have passed, fashion and music may have changed, but kids and families have pretty much stayed the same.

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Thunderbird has been invested in good old-fashioned family fun since 1962 when Nell Sims and her husband Wayne opened the first Thunderbird Roller Rink in Richardson. The couple opened it because their daughter Patti was a competitive skater and she needed a place to practice. It stayed open until 1979.

Nell was actually approached by the Mayor of Plano and convinced to open a second Thunderbird Roller Rink in Plano in 1972. At that time, there was nothing in Plano for entertainment. Neighborhoods were just starting to be built this far north of Dallas and streets like Spring Creek were still being planned. Nell was swayed to open another rink and Thunderbird II has been in that same spot ever since, on the street they named Thunderbird Lane. She also opened a seasonal miniature golf park next door that lasted a few years in the 1970s.

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Photo from the July 23, 1972 Plano Star-Courier

These days, Nell still owns Thunderbird, but she has handed over management to Terry Monjure, a transplant from New Orleans. Terry has been managing since December 2013 and he definitely takes his job seriously. He’s started to revamp the look and feel of Thunderbird, and people are noticing. In addition to new lighting, lasers, paint, skates, a new kitchen and menu at the snack bar and a brand new black light party room, Thunderbird has also become the new home for Dallas’ Assassination City Roller Derby League. The league actually contacted Terry first, hearing that he was giving Thunderbird a facelift yet maintaining its nostalgic feel. Starting on February 21st, you can catch roller derby bouts every 3rd Saturday of the month from 6pm-12am.

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Assassination City skaters / photo by Peter Elliott

The roller derby action isn’t the only excitement to be had at Thunderbird. They do birthdays, large group events and even fundraising. They participate in Social Skate Competitions between DFW area rinks. One of Thunderbird’s employees won the last Social, taking home a nice trophy.

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Kiddos celebrating a birthday get a quick turn in the money blowing machine

Thunderbird employs a wide variety of staff members. Ava Casas, who has only worked for the rink for a few years, actually goes way back with the Sims family and has seen it all over the years at Thunderbird. There’ve been 2 proposals (most recently one of Thunderbird’s DJs on New Year’s Eve), lots of fun events for kids through schools or clubs, and even a country music video shot at Thunderbird.

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Thunderbird employee Brandon Osborn jumps over co-worker Dakota Carino

A majority of employees are high school students like Dakota Carino, a 10th grader at Clark High School and Erin Hegg, an 11th grader at Plano Senior High School. Speaking to both, they love their jobs, not just because they get to skate, but because they enjoy helping the customers that frequent Thunderbird. From regulars to families and parties, and the excitement over the start of the upcoming derby action, they love working at Thunderbird.

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Employees K.C. Kleckner and Dakota Carino teach skating lessons every Saturday morning at 10 am for $10. Regular skating hours are Tuesday “Cheap Skate” from 6-8pm at $4; Fridays from 6-10pm at $6; Saturdays from 11am-10pm at $6; and Sundays from 1-5pm at $6. Skate rentals are $2 for quads and $3 for inline.

So what are you waiting for? “Make like a tree and get outta here” and over to Thunderbird Roller Rink.

Thunderbird Rink Website >
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2 Comments

  • I used to be a roller disco king at the old Richardson Thunderbird roller rink. Can I get any pictures of the old Richardson Thunderbird roller rink? My name is Rick Taylor and I would go every week and wear my Green Polyester Leisure Suit and have my own black skates with Polyurathane wheels. I could skate backwards and my favorite event was couples skate.

    • Hi Rick, I believe the Thunderbird Rink in Plano is still owned by the same family who owned the Richardson Rink. You can try calling the manager to find out how to get old photos. We couldn’t find any from Richardson when we originally published this story.

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