With a skating rink, vibrant murals, and courts for everything from tennis to handball, Monroe Street Midway is the newest local destination for family fun
By Gabriella Burman
Featured photo courtesy of Bedrock
On any given day, people at Rollout Detroit, a new roller rink at the Monroe Street Midway, are spinning in synchronicity with their friends, skating backwards, holding hands, and generally looking like they’re floating on air as they glide along to R&B, rap, and hip-hop tunes. Even visitors without skates can’t help but groove along — the energy is that infectious (in a good way).
Located next to Campus Martius Park, Rollout Detroit is operated by Bedrock in partnership with Southwest Detroit’s RollerCade — the country’s oldest Black-owned rink — and marks a career highlight for RollerCade owner Kyle Black, whose grandparents opened the business in 1955. “It’s amazing to see all kinds of people having so much fun,” he says. “My grandparents would be proud.”
Rollout Detroit, which debuted over Memorial Day Weekend, is the city’s only outdoor rolling rink and just one of several attractions open to the public this summer on the site of the Monroe Blocks, a future mixed-use development under construction by Bedrock, which has invested more than $5 billion in Detroit and around the country. The Monroe Street Midway is part of the real estate company’s Decked Out Detroit initiative, which launched in December to support downtown businesses during the pandemic.
Construction paused on the Monroe Blocks project in 2019; when the pandemic hit, Bed-rock executives saw a creative opportunity for the square footage, turning the Midway into a drive-in theater this past winter while also envisioning a summer outdoor recreation area. The demand for a neighborhood recreation complex was there: On opening weekend alone, 1,700 skaters showed up to eat, play, mingle, and, of course, christen the rink. “The Monroe Street Midway has already exceeded our expectations,” says Bedrock COO Ivy Greaner. “With sold out roller-rink sessions, full sports courts and daily lines at the food truck and concessions, we know the City is loving it just as much as we are. We’re proud to play our part in offering local families a safe and memorable place to enjoy the summer.”
In addition to the roller rink, the Midway includes four basketball courts, spaces for lacrosse, tennis and handball, concession stands and a rotating roster of food trucks. The entire area is awash in bold colors with murals painted by Detroit artists including Phillip Simp-son, whose signature smiley faces cover the four half-court basketball courts, and Sheefy McFly, who painted a mural on the roller rink. “Seeing families play on the courts is awesome,” says Simp-son, a father of two who painted the courts in about 10 days, and only took breaks “for naps or rain.”
Known for his energetic use of color, Simpson was one of four Black artists commissioned by Bedrock for the Mid-way project. He says that the project as a whole makes a powerful statement, showing young people of color that “following your dreams is possible, that art will find its audience, and your day will come.”
The Midway offers a bevy of spirit-boosting activities, including Rollout Detroit theme nights featuring local DJs: there’s Movement Mondays, R&B Tuesdays (with Kyle Black on the decks), and Throwback Thursdays. Lessons are offered on the rink every Friday and fitness classes are planned on Sunday mornings starting on July 11, according to Bedrock. Youth art programming will also take place on the last Saturday of every month until the Midway closes after Labor Day.
Until then, Black is reveling in the “therapeutic” energy that roller skating creates. “My fingers are crossed that seeds are starting to sprout, that we can open even more locations, and hopefully this leads to more people enjoying skating,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, or what you look like; it makes everybody happy. Once you have the music going, and the wheels under you, it’s hypnotizing.”