Galaxy Roller Rink closes

Matt Longino, owner of Galaxy Roller Rink, looks out over the fallen ceiling tiles and buckets to catch dripping water that litter the rink area in Groton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Longino, who has owned Galaxy for the last 13 years, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Matt Longino, owner of Galaxy Roller Rink, looks out over the fallen ceiling tiles and buckets to catch dripping water that litter the rink area in Groton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Longino, who has owned Galaxy for the last 13 years, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Groton — A continuous drip-drip-drip could be heard on one of the many ceiling tiles that fell following recent rain. More than a dozen buckets and trash cans were scattered across the Galaxy Roller Rink. A ruined projector lay on the floor.

Rink owner Matt Longino had taken down the TVs and sold items from the skate shop on eBay. He intermittently fielded phone calls from upset parents looking for a refund on their scheduled birthday parties. His next step would be selling the larger items: the roller-skating pinball machine, the air hockey table, the Hoop Fever game.

Longino closed Galaxy Roller Rink at 210 Bridge St. for good on Wednesday, as worsening leaks from the roof posed a safety hazard to skaters.

But building owner Lou Trefes said there's a "good chance it will be reopened again," albeit under new management.

"I'll get somebody else in there to run the skating rink," Trefes said on Thursday. "In fact, I've had some inquiries already."

Longino has owned the business for 13 years, and he said he spent 12.5 of them "begging" Trefes to replace the roof. He also tried unsuccessfully to buy the building.

Trefes said every time Longino called him about leaking, he sent roofers over; Longino said Trefes stopped sending people years ago.

Trefes said on Thursday, "We can put a roof on; it's no biggie."

He declined to comment further, referring questions to his attorney, Yona Gregory. She did not respond to calls on Thursday or Friday.

Attorneys came into play when Trefes sued Longino late last year, in an eviction action. The complaint stated that Longino "failed to pay the rent due under the lease" for each month from Dec. 1, 2016, to Oct. 1, 2017.

Longino disputes the complaint's assertion that the lease expired on Nov. 4, 2017, saying it ended in 2015. He said he wasn't paying rent because Trefes "wouldn't repair anything," and so Longino was using the money to do things like patch the roof and buy ceiling tiles.

A spot for competition and childhood fun

Lou Trefes built the rink in 1955, and it was named Melody Skating Rink at the time. His wife was a competitive skater and a coach.

It has held several names since, such as Roll On America and Skatetown USA. Longino said it has been Galaxy Roller Rink for the past 23 years.

Ken Perkins ran the rink from about 1978 to 1988, and now he and some family members are skating instructors. He said a lot of parents and grandparents thanked him, saying a doctor told them to have their child take up roller skating for motor skills.

The advanced skaters at Galaxy Skating Club have moved to the Skate-Inn in Plainfield to practice, but Perkins doesn't know what the future holds.

"Nationals is in July," he noted. "The year has to continue, so we have club members, who no matter what, have to move to other rinks to continue this year, and we'll see what happens next year."

Shoreline Roller Derby, meanwhile, is "desperately" looking for practice space and locations to hold three home games this year, according to a news release from board Vice President Shannon Lewis (known in the derby world as Dirty Olive).

The derby players also have been going to Skate-Inn, she said, but it's not big enough for a track.

"We're not going to let this hold us back," Lewis said. "We're certainly going to find something, whether or not we start shelling out more of our own personal money."

While Lewis has only been playing roller derby for four years, she grew up down the street from the rink and would skate most weekends as a kid. Certain songs from the '80s still bring back memories of skating.

Over the years, the team has partnered with United Way and Shoreline Soup Kitchens for fundraising. It had a scrimmage benefiting the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. It entered people donating blood into a drawing for two tickets to a doubleheader.

Dozens have taken to Facebook to express sadness at the closure of the rink, share memories and praise Longino's management.

Problems escalate

In November, Trefes & Trefes General Partnership sued Longino for possession of the premises, setting in motion an eviction action.

Judge Francis Foley III in December approved a stipulated agreement that was signed by Trefes & Trefes attorney Gregory and Peter Hoops, attorney for Longino. Neither attorney responded to requests for comment on Thursday or Friday.

The agreement stipulated that for each month from December 2017 through May 2018, Longino would make a use and occupancy payment of $6,000, according to court records. The complaint had stated that the rent was $7,000.

The judgment in favor of Trefes & Trefes gave a final stay of execution through May 31.

The agreement stated, "Upon vacating, defendant(s) shall remove all possessions, leave the premises broom clean and return all keys to the Plaintiff."

Longino said he and Trefes haven't spoken about extending the agreement but claims it was already his intention not to operate beyond May.

"I had already started to wind the business down and not book anything behind that anyway," he said, "because without a roof, you can't operate."

On Feb. 12, the City of Groton Building and Zoning Department "received a telephone complaint with regard to water and a ceiling tile on the skating floor," building official Carlton Smith wrote in a Feb. 12 letter to Trefes & Trefes General Partnership.

Upon his inspection, Smith found that water has continuously leaked through the roof exterior, and he noticed at least 12 penetrations through the drop ceiling.

"Be advised any accumulation of water on the floor will be cause for the temporary removal of the public for safety reasons," Smith wrote. He stated the office was expecting a report from a professional roofing contractor by Feb. 28.

On Feb. 12, but prior to Smith's writing of the letter, Longino applied for a building permit for "roof patching & evaluation of roof replacement," at an estimated cost of $1,000.

Longino told The Day estimates for roof replacement are $250,000 to $500,000.

Longino sought professional opinions from roofing contractors Advanced Group and Silktown Roofing; both gave their assessments to Longino in writing this week.

"In all honesty, it is incredibly surprising that the roof has lasted as long as it has after enduring all of the wear and tear brought forth by mother nature," wrote David Preka, president of Advanced Group, after noting that the roof in its current condition is beyond repair.

Jim Barba of Silktown Roofing said recommended repairs cannot be warranted due to the condition of the roof.

On Thursday, Longino wrote to Smith informing him he would like to rescind his building permit application because he is unable to make repairs.

"We have had to close or close early the majority of our normally scheduled business operations during this month and many previous," he wrote. "In the interests of safety, Galaxy Roller Rink is closing effective immediately."

e.moser@theday.com

Matt Longino, who for the last 13 years has owned the Galaxy Roller Rink in Groton, seen Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Matt Longino, who for the last 13 years has owned the Galaxy Roller Rink in Groton, seen Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Fallen ceiling tiles and buckets to catch dripping water litter the rink area at Galaxy Roller Rink in Groton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Matt Longino, who has owned Galaxy for the last 13 years, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Fallen ceiling tiles and buckets to catch dripping water litter the rink area at Galaxy Roller Rink in Groton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Matt Longino, who has owned Galaxy for the last 13 years, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Fallen ceiling tiles and buckets to catch dripping water litter the rink area at Galaxy Roller Rink in Groton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Matt Longino, who has owned Galaxy for the last 13 years, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Fallen ceiling tiles and buckets to catch dripping water litter the rink area at Galaxy Roller Rink in Groton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Matt Longino, who has owned Galaxy for the last 13 years, has closed up his business in the face of the continued damage from a leaky roof that he says the building owner refused to repair. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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