Thunder to roll in February at new Tiffin family fun center

Rolling Thunder Skating & Family Fun Center is scheduled to open in February in Tiffin Mall.

Tim Thwaits, who owns the center with his wife, Lori, said preparation work has been going on for about two years and construction is beginning in a 21,000-square- foot-space previously occupied by the former Heilig-Meyers furniture store.

“To be completely honest, I am the reason the project went slower than anticipated,” Thwaits said. “We needed to get to a place where we were at peace with what we were trying to accomplish. So many good folks worked on this and for so long. The mall ownership has gone out of their way to accommodate our business. The city of Tiffin has also worked long and hard to get this done.”

The idea of moving to Tiffin started while Rolling Thunder was open in Findlay, he said.

And before that, the Thwaits had their first roller rink at Grand Lake St. Marys in 2004. Because they live in Carey, he said they moved to Findlay in late 2010.

The business remained in Findlay for eight years until it closed Jan. 1.

During those years, Thwaits said many Tiffin people visited Rolling Thunder and asked him to open another center in Tiffin.

“The first 10 dozen times I heard that, it didn’t hit me,” he said.

But one day, he said a lady visited the rink and talked about Tiffin, saying he should call the mayor. She said if he didn’t call, she would.

“I got a call from the mayor,” he said.

After that, Thwaits said Mayor Aaron Montz and Bryce Riggs, who was with Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership at the time, began to have conversations.

Thwaits said they hired a company to do a feasibility study, and discovered 57% of Rolling Thunder’s business was from outside of Findlay.

“Not all from Tiffin,” he said. “But if I had I not met with the mayor, there was no reason to run those numbers.”

So he said he started thinking.

“People from Tiffin and Seneca County had been asking about this and it was very well known that they wanted something here,” he said from the new mall location. “So we started looking.”

Thwaits said they considered many locations, and in the end chose the mall.

“We had to be comfortable with what we were doing,” he said. “Time changes everything. Over time, we were able to develop a relationship we feel will be good for everybody.”

Thwaits said the mall owners have agreed to pay for the wooden floor and renovations to the space.

“That is virtually of unheard of,” he said.

He declined to state the cost of the renovation. But in the end, the mall will have a renovated space and Rolling Thunder will be populate it with the equipment needed for operation.

Rolling Thunder is not only a roller-skating rink but a family fun center, he said.

“There will be two mini-bowling lanes and ‘Laser Frenzy,'” he said. There also will be a café, a soft play area and a large game arcade.

The skating area will have a wooden floor made of maple, and a separate area for beginning skaters as well as a skate sales area.

“There are just going to be all kinds of activities to do,” he said. “This is a place where you can check your troubles at the door and just have some fun.

“It’s very important to Lori and I that parents feel like their kids are safe here,” he said. If parents want to drop off the kids and go out to dinner, they can do so. He said there always is plenty of adult supervision.

He said he plans to make arrangements for security, and he stresses the center is not a place for “troublemakers.”

In addition to regular hours, Thwaits said the center will be open for special events.

He said the business plans to work with schools to develop STEM-based field trips where children can learn the science involved in roller skating.

Another program is the Roller Thunder Kids of Character program where kids get a card. After they do five “good deeds,” they get free admission.

And the Read and Roll program is to work with the library to provide free admission every time a child reads five books.

He said they are willing to partner with other organizations for similar programs.

“We’re a good neighbor,” he said. “Anything to do with kids we’re interested in.”

More details about operating hours are to be available later, but he said the center will be open seven days a week, mainly in evenings and for sure on Friday and Saturday evenings.

He said admission fees will be kept to a minimum.

“We want everybody to be able to afford this,” he said. “And there will be not one penny charged for skate rental.”

Thwaits said the center will depend on longterm community support.

He said birthday parties have been popular.

“At the Findlay building, we could do five at a time,” he said. “Here we can do 15 at a time.”

Other sorts of parties that can be booked include church get-togethers, youth organization parties, or even adult parties such as showers and even wedding receptions.

He said they’ll miss this year, but future plans call for the their traditional New Year’s Eve party.

For the next few months, Thwaits said construction will be happening.

After the agreement was complete, he said he looked for a contractor to make the renovations who understood what they were looking for. As soon as they met with Nick Salyers of R.D.S Contractors LLC, Bluffton, he said he had found the right person to put in the wooden skating floor and make renovations.

“Owner Nick Salyers is a skater,” he said. “When we first talked, within 10 minutes we knew he was the one guy that could give us exactly what we need.

“I was able to tell him what we needed and he understood,” he said. “He gets it.”

Thwaits said Rolling Thunder will be a family fun center unique to Tiffin, and it will be unlike any other.

He said he has a few surprises in store.

“You’re going to have to wait and see,” he said.