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Indoor park has deep roots

Published: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 12:04 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Max Gersh – Rockford Register Star)
Max Barker, 11, reaches for his board as he goes off a ramp Dec. 31 at the Treehouse Skatepark in Rockford. The new indoor terrain was built with pieces of Rockford's skating history.

ROCKFORD – Treehouse Skatepark knows its roots.

The new indoor terrain inside Fight College Inc., 1311 N. Main St., was built with pieces of Rockford’s skating history. Original coping from Rotation Station, a local skating hub during the late ’80s and early ’90s, lines two wooden quarter pipes. A ramp was donated by Mike Kaiser, who ran the PIT, Rockford’s skating, blading and BMX Mecca from 1993 to 2004.

“The history of skate parks in Rockford, I think people forget about,” said Tracy White, a former in-line skating pro who collaborated with Fight College owner Tony Bandy to open the city’s only indoor terrain for skateboarders, bladers and bikers.

“I remember seeing all kinds of California professionals come out to Rotation Station. It was one of the first indoor parks in the country,” White said. “The PIT was the same thing. It was renowned by bikers, roller bladers and skateboarders. People would always make the journey to Rockford.”

White hopes Treehouse Skatepark at Fight College will again give action sport athletes a reason to visit Rockford, especially during the harsh Midwest winters when there’s no chance to ride outdoors. The setup is small with just about 2,400 square feet of space and 13-foot-high ceilings, but White hopes to make up for that with creativity and unique features.

Today the park has a pair of nearly four-foot quarter pipes, a sub box, and several other rails and ramps, but the setup will change regularly, White said. It also features a rarely seen arch rail and a backyard-style improvised ramp that has a tree branch in place of coping. That’s all part of the “tree house” feel of the park, White said.

“You use any materials you have and you put your own touch on it,” he said. “That’s basically what we want to do here. We want to have our own touch on custom wood ramps.”

White, a maintenance specialist for the Rockford Park District, said he looked for indoor park sites after he learned a skate park was dropped from plans for the downtown Ingersoll building’s renovation into a sports complex.

“The vibe and the energy you get from an indoor skate park can never be matched at an outdoor park,” White said. “People have to introduce themselves, they work together, they’re all part of one community.”

Skaters develop a greater sense of camaraderie at indoor parks and tend to emerge as better riders, said Zack Mulligan, 23, a carpenter by trade who helped build some of the parks ramps.

“It has more to do with the community aspect. It’s like a clubhouse. People grow up at the indoor park,” Mulligan said.

Mulligan comes from a bit of a skating family. His grandmother and father ran the Rotation Station and his aunt operated The Station skate shop on Charles Street.

Fight College, the building’s main use, offers training for professional and amateur boxers as well as a variety of self-defense classes. Mulligan said it’s a fitting partner with a skate park.

“The two sports are really similar. It’s all about self determination, self growth and really wanting to get more out of you,” Mulligan said. “It’s really about personal drive

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Source: Rockford Register Star, http://bit.ly/1lFWzGS

This is an Illinois Exchange offering from the Rockford Register Star.

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