BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A staple for ice skaters in Baton Rouge is officially no more. After 71 years of business, Leo's Iceland and Rollerland off Airline Highway officially closed its doors on March 26.
"It's all been good," said an exhausted owner and operator, Perry Seaman.
Seaman took over the skating business his father started after arriving in Baton Rouge in 1946. In 1977, Leo's ice rink opened for the first time, eventually closing in 1983. But in the late 90's, Seaman was able to re-open his family's jewel and has been serving skaters here through good times and bad ever since.
Seaman credits the arrival of the ECHL's Baton Rouge Kingfish in 1996 to the explosion of popularity and interest in hockey in Louisiana. The team only lasted three seasons, but the effects of its time here are still felt through adult hockey leagues like the Baton Rouge United Hockey Association, which has been playing its games at Leo's since their inception in 1999.
"A lot of the kids that played hockey here, with the Kingfish when they came to town around '96, they loved the sport and maybe they got away from it for a while, but when they finished college and got jobs, they ended up coming back and playing hockey. Many of those skaters have been here since the 90s," Seaman added.
The BRUHA league operates with more than 100 players on eight teams playing roughly 40 games from October through April. On Monday night, a 40-and-over league played its last game at Leo's. For the time being, the league is having to figure out what its future holds now that it no longer has a home rink. The next closest permanent rink resides in Lafayette, the only one remaining in the state.
A spokesman for the league says officials are working to facilitate acquiring a new rink in Baton Rouge. While that will be a huge investment of time and money, they're hopeful their dream can stay alive.
"Hopefully, someone will step up to the plate now that I'm not in business. Competition is not a good thing, so now that I'm not in business, hopefully, someone will step up to the plate and build one of these things," Seaman explained.