JT's Fun Zone

JT's Skate Zone

Though we now stand in a snow-covered field, looking up the long driveway to the dilapidated remains of many childhood memories, we also stand at the end of a story. And as it is with most abandoned places we are faced with a singular question - What chain of events brought us to the sight laid before us?

From the outside this unsuspecting looking warehouse of a building may seem like the type of place that holds little to see, and less to care about. A characterless form shelled in corrugated metal siding, standing alone in an otherwise empty plot of wood-lined grass – The drab and abandoned remains of what was at one time 'JT's Skate Zone'.

Despite what first impressions may lead you to believe, this was actually a pretty happening spot during its prime. JT's was a popular and quite sizable recreational complex that featured a roller derby rink, swimming pool, gym, racquetball courts, rock climb, a bar, arcade, and even an indoor merry-go-round. However, by far the most popular attraction at JT's was the indoor skate park dubbed 'JT's Skate Zone'. Children and their parents poured through here, and one can only image the sights and sounds of it all during its better years. That was long ago though. In less than ten years this thriving business came to ruin, and shortly thereafter the collection of rotten wood, rusting metal, and filthy plastic that remained gave way to a collection of burned wood, blackened metal, and melted plastic.

Throughout the 1990's JT's proved to be a popular venue, especially considering the inline skate and roller-rink trend of the era. Though successful, the history of the facility was more-or-less unremarkable until the early 2000's, the point at which the business began to rapidly implode.

One of the more popular evening hangouts at JT's was the club, and though alcohol was available elsewhere at the facility, considering that many of JT's patrons were minors, alcohol was not permitted in the club proper. That didn't seem to stop JT's from receiving numerous violations for minors in possession of alcohol. In little time the business began to take on a seedy reputation, and local parents no longer felt safe with their children at the establishment after dark. Not long after, the final nail was struck.

In 2003 an underage girl was sexually assaulted by staff members, and deservedly the repercussions of which were far reaching. Though the business tried to continue on for several years after those events, JT's was never able to shake the shadow it cast over itself. By 2006 the entire complex was shuttered, and it sat for years thereafter, moldering away beyond a security fence and slowly overgrowing driveway. In the spring of 2011 arsonists had their way with the old place, and though much of the building survived the flames, it spelled the end of JT's and all was razed the following year.

We paid visit to JT's on two occasions, and they could not have been more different. The first was in the dead of winter, before the fire, the return trip was shortly after the flames. Though the fire had been extinguished days before we made our return, the inside of the building was still thick with the fetor of burned plastic. A toxic air, one that sticks to the back of your throat as you breath, slightly burning with a toxic flavor. On both our visits the place looked ragged, much the way you would expect a constantly damp building full of wood and sheet-rock to be. Among that decay though, there were strewn relics of all kinds. Skates, sporting equipment, posters, even an indoor jungle gym complete with tube slide. They were all drab in color from age and grime. Playthings reduced to grim reminders.

After the fire things were pretty much the same as our first visit, aforementioned aroma of burned plastic notwithstanding. Many of the items we saw and filmed were still here, but blackened with soot and heat. Some things fared better than others, wood in many areas had been decimated, and the plastic tube slide had become a deformed mess. The skylights of the building were destroyed as well, letting in far more daylight than the fogged over plastic provided with upon our winter visit. Though the sun poured in now, it illuminated far darker scenery than what once was. All the colorful flooring and rainbow walls had been reduced to shades of black and grey from the smoke. Like a shadow permanently affixed to the vista around us.

A technicolor playground...

...consumed by flames.

The indoor pool wasn't exactly pristine before the fire.

However, after the fire it looked considerably worse.

The floor was covered in countless fine hair-like fibers. 
It took us a while to realize they were coming from the burned fiberglass roofing material.

Click here to read more about the sordid tale of JT's in Weird NJ issue #36