Citizens reminisce about Babb's as renovations progress

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Suffield - posted Fri., Jul. 26, 2013
The next step in the process of the restoration at Babb's is to get water and a septic system, as well as to install bathrooms and sprinklers inside. Photos by Calla Vassilopoulos.
The next step in the process of the restoration at Babb's is to get water and a septic system, as well as to install bathrooms and sprinklers inside. Photos by Calla Vassilopoulos.

Whether it was for dancing or roller skating, Babb's Skating Rink was the place to be for teenagers and young adults. For decades, the facility located in West Suffield was filled on Friday and Saturday evenings, according to members of Citizens Restoring Congamond.

“For me personally, it has a lot of memories because it was the first job I had,” said CRC member Scott Graves, who worked first cleaning sundae glasses and later sweeping the rink after skate nights. Not only was this a place of employment for Graves, but he also frequented Babb's as a child. He grew up on the lake, so he and his friends would come to swim at Babb's Beach and have hot dogs and hamburgers, milkshakes and soft serve ice cream at the snack stand next to the facility.

All of the CRC members described memories they had as children, from using the diving board and big slide at the beach to using the skating rink's arcade. There was one common thread – it was much more than a place to socialize with friends. It was a place where the young men would meet their first girlfriends, and young women would come to see their crush. Some relationships formed at Babb's developed into marriage, including members of the CRC.

“Mr. Babb would not close until the last kid got picked up by the parents,” said CRC member Jerry Crane. “He had a little guard shack out here. He would stay there until the end, and if the parents were late he would say, 'Well, who's your parents? What's your name?' Then he would call them up and find out what's going on.”

The Babb family owned the 7 acres of land from 1890 through 1977, when Nelson Babb donated the land and facility to the town. He continued to operate the roller rink until it closed in 1996. In the years following, the building began to fall apart. The CRC decided to step in, and in October 2003 they finalized a 20-year lease with the town for $1 a year, agreeing to use their non-profit status to fundraise and restore the building, according to Crane.

In the last decade, members worked to get the property listed as a historical landmark and also organized numerous fundraisers, from car shows to summer concert series. They have also collected donations and applied for grants to collect the funds for restoration. With the money they have gotten so far, they have been able to replace the roof on the 11,000-square-foot building and install new windows. Crane said that since the economy crashed, funds have slowed, but the group is now working to finish siding the building with the help of volunteers. The next step is getting water and installing bathrooms, a septic system and sprinklers. Once the building is functioning, the CRC plans to use it as a multipurpose facility for concerts, skating, movie nights, weddings and more.

For information about renovations or events, visit www.babbsrink.org.


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