For most African Americans living in St. Louis and East St. Louis when it comes to roller skating, the first roller rink to pop-up in people minds is the infamous Skate King. Skate King is the iconic roller rink located in Pine Lawn, Missouri and was founded by a man named Mathew Foggy Jr. A God-fearing man and East St. Louis native, Mathew Foggy Jr. is the owner and founder of the legendary and nationally acclaimed Skate King Roller Rink. During his adolescence growing up Mr. Foggy was very fixated in his mother and father’s involvement with the social justice movement. That reason being as a young man, Mr. Foggy was involved with his community, promoting social justice and advocacy. An extremely special moment in his life was when his mother took him on a trip to Washington D.C. This special trip was to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give one of the most renowned speeches in American history, the “I Have a Dream” speech at Lincoln Memorial. Hearing such an impactful and monumental speech is what captured and motivated Mr. Foggy to provide something for his community, creating a space of belonging.
This roller rink was established in 1970 in East St. Louis and soon brought their business across the river to Pine Lawn two years later. Located at 2700 Kienlen Ave., Skate King was originally named the Martin Luther King Memorial Roller Rink. “But in order not to commercialize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name my father decided to call the roller rink Skate King. Because WE are The King of Skate!” Says Niah Foggy. Niah is the daughter of Mr. Foggy and is the current Manager of the skating rink.
We asked Niah, how it feels knowing that Skate King is a pillar to the African American community “It’s a great feeling,” says Niah. “When I travel outside of St. Louis, and I say I’m affiliated with Skate King, people’s reactions are highly impressed and surprised! Skate King has had such a huge impact on five family generations and counting, it is astonishing to believe. Many people wouldn’t be here, myself included if it wasn’t of Skate King.” Niah states. Skate King continues to provide the Bi-State region a way to engage and fellowship with skating on four wheels.
Each skating session has a different vibe for each night. Friday night is College Skate and Sunday night is Adult Skate night. “Fridays are jam packed with college aged adults and the presence of Divine Nine Greek organizations all skating on the wooden floor, showcasing their skills on wheels” says Niah. The atmosphere inside the rink is very lively and attracts an energetic crowd. College Skate is 18+ older, doors open at 11:00pm and class at 2:00am. Fees are, $8 with skates & $10 without skates.
“Sunday nights will still be lit, but a tad bit more mellow” says Niah. Skaters will roll around the rink, glide under the dimly lit lights, while listening to the hottest jams being played by the best DJs in town. Adult Skate night is 21+ older, doors open at 9:00pm and close at 12:00am. Fees are $8.
Every city has their own skating style. “East. Louis and St. Louis have one of the smoothest, if not THEE smoothest style of skating. If we’re breaking a sweat, you won’t be able to tell. We have a real cool, real laid- back, chill type of vibe when we skate.” Niah states.
Like many businesses Covid-19 affected Skate King’s during the global pandemic. “Sadly, we closed our business for two years. That decision was decided by our upper management team, and it was a difficult decision that was made. Bills still had to be paid and our community wanted to SKATE. We knew that opening doors too soon would not have been the responsible thing, especially because Covid-19 was negatively impacting African Americans at higher rates than other races. One customer did approach me during the lock down, saying how thankful they were of Skate King staying closed for those two years,” says Niah. “At least somebody had some sense,” said loyal customer.
Now that the doors are back open, Skate King has some big plans on the horizon. “We will be celebrating 55 years in the community in year 2025! That’s two years away, so please stay on the lookout about upcoming events will have now and, in the years, to come. I can’t give out too many spoilers, just know that it will be a HUGE CELEBRATION!” Niah states.
Niah explains that in addition to providing a great skating experience, Skate King also love to give back to the community. “We love helping our community. We understand that there is strength in numbers and staying united as a community is needed. We know that if we don’t do the work, who will? Here at Skate King our golden rule is, “always ask, never tell or demand.” We look at that as a respect factor towards the customer. We train our employees to give the upmost respect to our customers. We believe truly believe in Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and it works!”
Roller skating is more than a hobby here at Skate King, it’s a culture that has been around for generations. Skaters will glide across the smooth floor, dancing rhythmically with friends and family to the music of the times. There is no doubt there is a deep-rooted connection between the community and roller skating. As Skate King continues to promote and encourage black excellence, let’s celebrate 53 years with them.