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Demolition at fire-destroyed roller rink to begin this week after city of McHenry gains ownership

Once the site is cleared, the city wants to ‘flip it right away,’ the McHenry mayor says

The remains of the former Just For Fun Roller Rink in McHenry, which burned down just under a year ago, were approved for demolition on Monday, May 16, 2022, by the McHenry City Council. The Mayor is hoping the city can fast-track plans for a commercial development once the property is cleared.

About a year after the former Just for Fun Roller Rink was destroyed in what authorities say was arson, its remains are set to be demolished and cleared for future development.

The McHenry City Council approved the demolition at its meeting on Monday with the goal of having the site cleared within three weeks, city officials said.

Once the site is cleared, the city wants to “flip it right away,” Mayor Wayne Jett said Tuesday.

“It was definitely an eyesore,” he said.

The city had sought in November to have the property deemed abandoned, which a McHenry County judge did in January, according to court records.

The city was then able to successfully acquire the property’s deed earlier this month at no cost beyond attorney fees, according to Community Development Director Ross Polerecky and court records.

The remains of the former Just For Fun Roller Rink in McHenry, which burned down just under a year ago, were approved for demolition on Monday, May 16, 2022, by the McHenry City Council. The Mayor is hoping the city can fast-track plans for a commercial development once the property is cleared.

Originally, the city had planned to give the owners a chance to sell the property, but because of outstanding insurance issues, unpaid water bills and delinquent real estate taxes going back several years, the city instead worked out a deal to take over the property and clean up the site, Jett said.

The city is not responsible for the previous owners’ outstanding bills, Jett said

“We are just as excited as residents of the community,” Polerecky said of the acquisition. “We want to see this property get cleaned up. Unfortunately, it took some time, as things do, going through court systems.”

When Jett took to social media Tuesday morning to share the news, McHenry residents offered a range of comments, many positive and expressing hope that the site could become a new restaurant, entertainment complex or even another roller rink.

The roller rink, located at 914 N. Front St., began as a dance hall in the 1920s before being converted to a roller rink. It closed its doors in September 2020 and burned down in late May 2021.

Two teenagers were subsequently arrested, one charged with arson, burglar and criminal damage to property and the other with criminal trespass to property. McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally has declined to comment on the status of those cases.

Late last year, the McHenry City Council nixed plans for an apartment complex, and the mayor expressed a preference for a commercial project to take advantage of the traffic along Route 31.

“It’s a prime piece of real estate,” Jett said. “Route 31 is the main corridor going through our city, and we want to make sure we get the right development and have control of that.”

At Monday’s meeting, the council approved a contract with Crystal-Lake based real estate agent Jack Minero to list the site and awarded a contract to demolition company Eagle Biomass, which will cost the city $92,800, according to the agenda.

The remains of the former Just For Fun Roller Rink in McHenry, which burned down just under a year ago, were approved for demolition on Monday, May 16, 2022, by the McHenry City Council. The Mayor is hoping the city can fast-track plans for a commercial development once the property is cleared.

The demolition crew hopes to start work on Wednesday, bringing equipment to the property and clearing out the most dangerous materials, which includes asbestos, Eagle Biomass co-owner Richard Clements said.

Since most of the building was already destroyed, much of the work will involve clearing out the rubble, which the company will begin on Thursday, Clements said.

One neighboring business owner said he was very curious to see what eventually replaces the site.

“I’m used the sight by now,” said Doug Hein, who owns Big Kids Powersports on the other side of Route 31. “It’s been a year already. It will be weird when it becomes an empty lot, but exciting to see something new pop up in there. We’ll see what gets added to McHenry.”