Motown Roller Club is ready to roll again with monthly skate nights

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit is famous for putting the world on wheels, and wheels of a different sort will be taking center stage Tuesday at the Detroit Riverfront with the return of the Motown Roller Club’s monthly skating nights. The free skating parties will take place the first Tuesday of every month from May to August, offering participants the opportunity to enjoy the Detroit Riverwalk – recently named the most beautiful riverwalk in the country by USA Today – on roller skates or blades.

“It’s a really unique gathering,” said Addison Mauck, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s public spaces manager. “You’re going to make some new friends, you’re going to see faces of the Riverfront you might not have seen before or in a way you might haven’t seen before if you’re new to skating.”

The Motown Roller Club’s monthly skating nights returns on Tuesday, May 3.

The Motown Roller Club started the rides in 2019, and this will be the first year the Riverfront Conservancy has joined them as an official partner. Motown Roller Club owner Nolan Edwards said the partnership allows them to reach a larger audience and expand their community, which has already grown tremendously thanks to social media and the pandemic. 

“We always see new people joining in, which is why we like doing these programs,” he said. “We get to see new people enjoying this sport while also enjoying the city.”

The approximately 5-mile route takes skaters along the Detroit Riverfront and through the Dequindre Cut before returning to the start. While previous years began at Cullen Plaza, this year’s route begins further east at the Robert C. Valade Park, one of the Riverfront’s newer additions. 

“It’s a really unique space,” Mauck said. “It combines all kinds of different elements, a play structure, a beach with sand, all sorts of spaces where you can move around and you can skate and explore.”

Also new this year is the addition of a free skating class for beginners that will take place an hour before the ride at 6 p.m. Edwards said it's helpful to both beginners and those who have primarily skated in roller rinks and might not be used to skating outdoors or on concrete. 

While the event attracts a crowd of advanced skaters, Edwards said the ride is open to everyone and an opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds who share a passion for skating. He said the route is flat and mostly smooth but those not comfortable with a distance ride are welcome to enjoy skating around Valade Park, which is beginner-friendly.

“We really just encourage anybody from any skill level to come on out,” he said. 

Participants are responsible for bringing their own skates or blades, though Edwards said he’s had bike riders take part in the past and welcomes everyone to join them in however they are comfortable. 

“The whole program is a free to come and free to be program,” he said.

Walled Lake resident Rachel Norie has been joining the Riverfront skates since 2020 and loves them.

“It's a great opportunity to meet new people, because everybody comes from totally different walks of life,” she said. “We all have one thing in common, which is that we love to skate and rollerblade.”

She said the event is also an opportunity to see all different kinds of skating, like break dancing or Jersey style, as well as Detroit-style skating, which Edwards characterized as rhythmic and flowing. 

Norie said, while the rides attract a lot of serious skaters, it’s very inclusive, and those who may feel a bit rusty might be surprised by how easily their skills come back. And if not, that’s OK, too.

“It’s a very welcoming and open atmosphere with pretty smooth pavement and a very forgiving audience,” she said. “We all fall, it’s fine.”

The Motown Roller Club’s River Walk Skate Meetups will take place from 7-9 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month from May until August at Robert C. Valade Park at 2670 Atwater St. on the Detroit Riverfront. Beginner classes will be available before the route at 6 p.m.; the event is free. For more information visit here.