With the winter months creeping up on us, Lawton Park sits quietly as there is less opportunity for BMXers or skaters to practice the sport they love. With The New Republic just recently closing it’s doors this summer, The Fort Wayne Indoor has come to the rescue offering a winter venue for BMXers and skaters to enjoy their sport. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Rich Hoppe about his new venture, The Fort Wayne Indoor, which is a 503(c) not-for-profit organization focused on giving a winter venue to BMXers and skaters in our local community. Read on for our Q&A.
How did The Fort Wayne Indoor get started?
Three years ago, with the help of a local not-for-profit organization called “The Framework”, this vision became reality. An indoor facility known as ‘The New Republic Skatepark’ opened its doors to the public in the fall of 2012.
As of July 1, 2014 the not-for-profit lost its lease and simply could not keep up with the constant search for people, organizations, or companies who were willing to donate money to help keep the place alive. The park had tried to incorporate a music venue, a community center, Skate the Cross (a type of Sunday school), and even a church for misfits that had service every single Sunday.
In July of 2013 Dan Butler, a life-long, local skateboarder, who, at age 40 was responsible for building most of the park as we know it today. Dan volunteered to take over and lead the day-to-day operations. Dan called upon his BMX friend, Rich Hoppe, who has organized fundraisers in the name of the sport and is also a life long BMXer at the ripe age of 40 as well. Dan and Rich have been riding & skating (BMX & SKATE) together since their early teens, 25+ years.
In July of 2014 Dan Butler and myself started a GoFundMe page, built a website, and started a social media blitz that raised $10,417 in just 22 Days. This allowed us to ‘buy time’ as we focused on rebuilding the lobby and adding some new obstacles to the park. Our Open House was this past weekend and we saw over 80 kids come through the door and we fed all of them for free!
What was your biggest challenge in opening the park?
Our biggest challenge opening the park is money. We plan to keep our admission prices low in order to keep it affordable for the youth of our area. Fundraising is key to the success of our indoor venture.
If you had a vision for the park in the next five years, what would it be?
Our vision is straightforward and clear. We plan to grow with the community, we would like the E. State Facility to remain in place and become skateboard only. Our vision over the next five years is to have a separate facility that would accommodate bikes of all kinds: mountain bikes, BMX bikes, & race bikes. We would like to find a big old warehouse and arrange a bike park that would allow people from leisure riders to competitive riders to ride indoors during the long winter months. Also, we would like to have an outdoor facility that would accomodate BMX freestyle, BMX dirt, & mountain bike type trails that would make the sports more accessible all year long.
The Fort Wayne Indoor is the only indoor facility of its kind for nearly a 70 mile radius. The only other parks of this kind are in South Bend and Muncie, Indiana. We are unique due to the size of the place and the fact that we have been able to reclaim most of the ramps and obstacles that you will find in the park from other failed projects or backyard ramps. Another thing that makes us unique is the fact that we have been able to design and build the space for both BMX and skateboards.
Skating is often seen as counterculture, what would you want Fort Wayne to know about you and this park?
BMX and skateboarding are Individual sports, developing your very own style is what makes one stand out and get recognition. Team sports are geared to make everyone act as one, BMX and skateboarding is fueled by your peers, we teach each other new things on a daily basis. The ones who stand out for their riding style are typically the ones to watch. Stereotypes are common in any counter culture, these kids work as hard as anyone trying to perfect their moves and sharpen their skills. We embrace the counterculture knowing that these kids are just as special as anyone who wants to be good and recognized at something they love.
The Fort Wayne skate scene is thriving, now more than it has ever in the past. Ever since they built the Lawton Skatepark downtown, the sport has never looked back. With support from the elders and a core skate shop, Rise (right down the street from the park) has allowed kids who may have not ever looked at skateboarding to have a chance to shine. I am here to ensure that the BMX kids also have a safe place to grow and thrive. BMX Freestyle is very strong in the city, even without any support from our local parks dept. or city government. We would like to see a place that allows BMXers a safe place to practice in a public environment here in town. The issues are deep, as the city has been arresting kids for criminal trespassing and also impounding kids bikes. The way I see it, the downtown park should be open for both BMX and skate. The park is public and there really is no reason to arrest a 14 year old kid for riding his bike in a skatepark. At least give them a chance before you put him through the system for riding his bike. But that is a whole seperate story for a different time…
We plan to make Fort Wayne a better place for Action Sports in general. BMX and skate work well together and the demographics allow for kids to meet new friends with similar interests. We plan to hold contests and other communities involving events all year long. The indoor facility is great for winter time. We envision an Action Sports & Music Festival as our summer fundraiser and we would love to do something downtown. Both sports are positive and the people involved are genuine. If Fort Wayne as a city could embrace both sports equally that would be a great starting point for growth in the future, for now we will continue to push our ideas in hopes of a better tomorrow.
The Fort Wayne indoor is located at 3052 E. State Blvd, near the intersection of E. State and Hobson. Seasonal memberships are available for $250, which is good for the entire winter session. Individual session prices vary.
Photos courtesy of Mike Kanning.
Tuesday 6-9pm $5
Wednesday 3:30-6pm; 6-9pm $5/session
Thursday 3:30-6pm; 6-9pm $5/session
Friday 6-10pm $8
Saturday 1-5pm; 6-10pm $8/session
Phone: (260) 238-0398