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The Building and Pre-history
A single-deck structure with "a floor of 31,000 square feet capable of accommodating 2,000 persons without appreciably obstructing their movements". The floor was of American maple wood and the blocks were octagonal in shape. It opened as a skating rink on Friday 20th November 1908 as the American Roller Rink and was an instant success.
By 1909 is was advertising . . .
Whilst the local press reported . . .
The demand was such that three more roller rinks were built around the city in 1909. These were the Coliseum in Toller Lane, Hippodrome in Barkerend Road and Towers Hall in Manchester Road - all of which became cinemas soon afterwards and for the major part of their lives.
Conversion to Cinema
It opened as the Electric Palace on Saturday 17th July 1909 and advertised . . .
Pianist - Mr Beage.
Admission 3d and 6d.
It was said to be very hot and stuffy inside the wooden building during the summer.
The cinema did not last many weeks and was closed after a small fire.
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Attempts for more Films
After another short closure it re-opened as Manningham Roller Rink on Saturday 3rd September 1910 at 10.30am.
Again in 1912 following a major refurbishment the Manningham Roller Rink reopened with an advertising splash . . .
In 1914 permission to convert the rink into the Alhambra Picture Palace was refused - not surprising as the new Alhambra Theatre was due to open in the same year.
After the war in 1919 a request to convert the rink to 'The Concert Party Theatre' was also refused.
In 1921 the name was changed to 'The Rolarena' to become a skating and exhibition centre.
Its size and position with good bus services passing the door all made it ideal for huge flower shows, budgie shows and local Ideal Home exhibitions. It was also used for boxing and Freddie Mills, world light heavyweight champion, once fought there.
The rink which took six weeks to build ended in a pile of black ash in only 40 minutes and a spectacle that brought crowds out to watch. Fortunately there were no casualties and damage was estimated at over £30,000.
Later the Telegraph & Argus (30 July 1955) reported that W. Lloyd-Worth, general manager of the Rolarena Sports Stadium, was negotiating for a very large hall in the city - but, it seems, nothing further developed.
In 1960 the Mecca Locarno Ballroom was erected on the site. Later it became Caesar's then Pennington's night club.
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