Local school eyes purchase of Skate Country facility in Asbury

ASBURY, Iowa — The potential sale of Skate Country in Asbury could mark the end for a beloved business and support the growth of a local school.

On June 8, Asbury Zoning Board of Adjustment members will consider a special permit application for the property at 5630 Saratoga Road, as well as an adjoining piece of vacant land. If approved, the special permit would allow a school to operate on these parcels.

Amy Rush, the principal at Tri-State Christian School, confirmed Tuesday that the school wants to use the two parcels for a second campus in Asbury. She said the new location would be used as an elementary campus, while the school’s existing building at 5025 Saratoga Road would be used as a secondary school.

“We have grown considerably since we came to town (in 2018), and we knew that a second campus was what we needed (to accomplish this growth),” she said. “This building had the square footage we needed, and the location, just down the road from our current campus, is ideal.”

Rush said Tri-State Christian School intends to close on the purchase of the two necessary parcels next month but said the deal could not be completed prior to the approval of the special permit request.

A sale of the building would result in the closure of a business that has operated in the area since 1972.

Skate Country owner Steve Koopmann confirmed the possible sale of his building. He said Sunday, May 30, would mark the final day of open skating. The business will remain open in June for occasional private events and cease operations completely when the building purchase is finalized.

Koopmann and his wife, Kerry, began working at Skate Country in the mid-1970s and took over as the owners the following decade. Steve said the business remains viable to this day, but it was time for him and his wife to transition into a new chapter in life.

“We are about 70 years old, and we’ve let it be known that we would like to retire,” he said. “We have been involved with this business for almost 47 years.”

Koopmann said he was hoping to find a buyer who wanted to continue operating the skating rink, but no such offers materialized. The closure would be bittersweet.

“My daughter would always say it seems like I know every person in town,” he said. “It often seemed that way. We met so many people and made so many friends.”

Steve said Skate Country employs 12 workers.

He said a silver lining of the sale would be that it opens the door for the growth of a local school.

Tri-State Christian School relocated from Galena, Ill., to Asbury in 2018. It had 89 students when it arrived in town and already has seen enrollment balloon to 143.

In addition to serving as an elementary school, the new campus would allow Tri-State Christian to add a preschool class to its offerings, Rush said.

“We frequently get calls from people about preschool and wanting to enroll their kids at Tri-State Christian,” Rush said. “I think the preschool services will be well received. There is a great need for preschools and child care in the community.”

Fundraising efforts are underway to support the new campus, and the success of that campaign will dictate when renovations on the facility begin. Rush said Tri-State Christian hopes to begin using the new campus at the start of the 2023-2024 school year, if not sooner.

She said Tri-State Christian School plans to build out classrooms and create an open gym space within the Skate Country facility. The school does not currently plan to build on the adjoining, vacant piece of land, which Rush said will provide “green space” for the school.

Koopmann said if the transaction falls through, Skate Country would be back open in July.

The Koopmanns relocated Skate Country to 5630 Saratoga Road in 1996, and the business has remained there since, becoming a staple in the community.

Asbury City Administrator Beth Bonz said Skate Country’s owners have “a love of skating” that shined through, noting this passion is likely a big reason the business survived while others in the industry shuttered.

“It’s a great family entertainment amenity that contributes to the quality of life in our community,” she said.