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Nostalgia anew: 'The Rink' opens

Jan. 13—Former Clinton High graduate and Miami Dolphins running back Jerris McPhail has revived a piece of county history. The local hero, continuing his love for giving back, has reopened what was once Seven Gables Skating Rink.

On Thursday morning, people of all ages poured into the long vacant parking lot on 840 Overland Road in Clinton for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Once there, a completely revamped building with a colorfully decorated sign post could be seen and on it read "The Rink."

That is what McPhail renamed the once popular skating hot spot that opened up in Clinton back in 1973. For any that know McPhail, providing for the community is at the core of his being as he's opened many businesses throughout Sampson for that very purpose.

That has included barber shops, clothing stores, restaurants, sports bars, Gridiron Gym and what he called his bread and butter — Little Dolphins Daycare. He has opened all of these with the goal of giving back to the community, the place he loves dearly and is glad to call home.

Those ventures now include The Rink.

"I could do business anywhere, but God always leads me back to my roots," McPhail said. "I feel like if you can't do anything in your hometown, it's gonna be hard to do anything anywhere. It's just the love and the support we would always get. Whenever we were playing, you'd see thousands of people in the stadium cheering you on. So for me, it was too easy a choice to say, 'look, I want to put my roots here, do business here and give back to the community.'"

On the inside was a glossy rink, bumping music and disco lights shining throughout the building. There were classic arcade games, and enough seating for the entire family. At the counter were prizes and snacks and behind it were racks of skates ready for use.

While all that is true, even more noticeable was the endless amount of smiling faces, each happy about the return of The Rink.

Now that word is spreading about the reopening, how much does it cost to skate, how long does the price cover and when are they open? Questions like these may come to mind and McPhail shared the answers to all such potential inquires.

"Right now, our hours are normally going to be as such," he said. "On Monday we'll be closed, on Tuesday we'll have some late hours, maybe 4 to 8 p.m. and Wednesday maybe the same."

While these were some of the hours given McPhail said he's aiming to have The Rink operate much like Gridiron which runs on a "come whenever you want" basis. As for cost, he said in February they'll be introducing their membership program, which will be similar to that at the gym.

"In February — and it's right around the corner — we're going to do a membership," he said. "It's pretty much like the gym concept where you pay a certain amount per month and you'll be able to come whenever you want. We're gonna definitely work it out to be like that. I think it's going to benefit everybody because, at the end of the day, you can come in, pay $15 and you're thinking one thing. But then, if you pay $35 a month and you can come when you want to, that's a whole other monster."

Since McPhail brought the rink, he mentioned that it took roughly eight months to finish the remodeling.

"We probably could have done it a little bit sooner, but the thing is, I just sort of took my time with it."

With all the ventures he has across the county, what brought McPhail to the rink and made him want to reopen it? To no surprise, giving back to the people a beloved place that was once lost was at the center.

"I'll tell you one thing, my whole deal was, I lived in Dogwood Circle and that's a local project here," he said. "Me and my guys would always walk here and try to actually bum money to get in. Whenever I was approached with this deal, my brother told me I had to jump on it. I wasn't thinking about it from a business standpoint, I was thinking about for the nostalgia. The whole concept of coming from Dogwood Circle to owning this place and now being able to give it back to the people I love — that's what it's all about."

McPhail gave thanks to God.

"Well people actually ask me 'man, how do you come up with these ideas?" he said. "I just try my best to live right and then I let God control everything else. It was a process, I didn't do that before, but now I'm actually doing that. Then man, there's nothing like seeing your peers and your community come out to support you."

"There's nothing like that and I get so excited with the process — the process of seeing something come from nothing and building it back up," he added. "When we remodeled this place and then people come in and get excited, that's the excitement for me."

His final remarks were a message to the community, asking for their continued support as they look to the future of The Rink.

"We need the community; we need them to come out and support," he said. "It's gonna be a safe environment; we're going to make sure we keep it a family, wholesome atmosphere and we are looking forward to making things happen."

Reach Michael B. Hardison at 910-249-4231. Follow us on Twitter at @SamsponInd, like us on Facebook, and check out our Instagram at @thesampsonindependent.