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Facility Profile - March 2003

The Tricks of a Successful Skate Park

Wheels Family Fun Park
Durham, N.C.

By Lynn Pinoniem


PHOTO COURTESY OF SKATEWAVE MODULAR SKATEPARK SYSTEMS

"It was my husband's idea to look into skate parks, which is unusual because he is the cautious one," says Becky Sercy, co-owner of Wheels Family Fun Park in Durham, N.C. "He said, 'Look at the popularity of what they call extreme sports. That's what kids are into nowadays. Should we be involved in that?'"

Sure enough, Wheels Family Fun Park decided to get involved with skate parks.

"Well, my philosophy has always been to go to the edge of the cliff and jump, and then ask myself 'where am I going?'" she says. "And that's the way it was with this skate park. We just jumped right in and did it, and the added dimension it has brought to our fun park is incredible."

That is not to say that Sercy didn't do her homework. She has been running fun parks for more than 25 years and has owned and successfully managed the current Wheels location since 1990. Once the idea of a skate park arose, Sercy scoured all of her trade publications for information about skate parks, then visited many Web sites to explore design and equipment options and even attended a nearby Skateparks 360 Seminar hosted by Skatewave Modular Skatepark Systems.

"We saw right away that this was something we should do, but we also wondered why more fun parks hadn't already done it," Sercy says. "Did they know something we didn't know or were we simply ahead of the crowd? A few days later I raised the idea of a skate park with some of the kids who were visiting our park, and they were very excited. It was then that we made the decision to move ahead."

She choose to move forward by partnering with Skatewave.

"We liked the durability and modular aspect of their equipment," she says. "We saw a huge benefit in having the ability to change the layout of our skate park every few months to give our skaters a fresh experience."

Becky and her daughter, Jodie Coates, who helps manage the park, quickly spread the word about the skate park to the kids and families who were regulars at Wheels. They hosted a Skatepark Planning Party complete with free pizza and pop and divided all the kids into three groups asking each team to design the skate park of their dreams.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SKATEWAVE MODULAR SKATEPARK SYSTEMS

"We sent the three designs overnight to Jaime Kastner, our Skatewave representative, and asked him to use the best ideas from all three and come up with a design and cost estimate for our skate park," Sercy says. "After several rounds of fine tuning the design and 'flow' of the obstacles, we had a layout for a great 100-foot by 120-foot skate park."

Even without a skate park, Wheels Family Fun Park already had a lot going for it. Visitors could choose from miniature golf, roller skating, batting cages, go-karts, a video arcade and an indoor play structure. The facility's proximity to the many colleges and universities in the Raleigh-Durham area made Wheels a destination for sorority and fraternity outings, and its diverse recreation offerings were a big hit for birthday parties for kids ages 4 to 16. It also had recently upgraded its snack bar from traditional hot dogs and pizza to salads and made-to-order sandwiches. Wheels is also the official site of the RC Speedway, a group of 300 remote-control car racing enthusiasts who hold their weekend races at its new asphalt race track. Wheels installed bleachers around the track, and on Sundays the facility looks like a combination of pit row and a mammoth barbecue. Wheels even installed a shop where racers could work on their cars between races.

Still, there was something unique about the skate park crowd that Sercy thought would bring in a new group of visitors. And she was right.

"What we noticed right away is that skateboarders were coming in groups," she says. "It wasn't just a Mom or Dad and their 12-year-old son; it was a parent and three to five kids. And those kids were both boys and girls, and their ages ranged from 6 to 16. We also noticed that they stayed longer at our park and were big users of our dining facilities."

Once Wheels attracted skateboarders they also had a plan to keep them there.

"From day one we created a Sk8 The Wave skateboard club," she says. "We charge kids $45 for a one-year membership and give them a card with their picture on it that they can use to get in for $9 instead of the usual rate of $15. For that $9 they can skate all day. We also make it fun to be in the club. Each month we feature one skateboarder as our Member of the Month. We post their picture and a profile at the entrance to our facility. It talks about how long they've been skating, what their favorite tricks and obstacles are, their hobbies, favorite foods, pets, everything. That member skates free all month."

Wheels also hosts Pizza Parties on the first Tuesday of every month for all members to skate and eat for free. It brings in a DJ and gives the members exclusive use of the skate park. It's an event they look forward to all month long, and best of all, they tell their friends about it, and they, too, become members.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SKATEWAVE MODULAR SKATEPARK SYSTEMS

Another key to the success of the Wheels skate park is its approach to the amenities that complement the park itself. The skate park is fenced and lighted for nighttime skating and also has numerous trash receptacles and water fountains to keep the kids hydrated.

"You'd be surprised at how much food skateboarders eat in a day," Sercy says.

For liability reasons they do not rent skateboards, but they do sell boards, trucks, wheels and bearings at their very own Skateboard Pro Shop. They even have staff on hand that can replace a damaged bearing or wheel so the kid can keep on skating all day long.

The one main rule at Wheels skate park is that all riders must wear helmets at all times.

"If a kid shows up without a helmet, we won't send him or her home," Sercy says. "We have a dozen of them in our shop, and we will loan them to the kids at no charge as long as they keep the strap buckled. We even make announcements periodically over the PA system reminding kids about the straps."

The Wheels skate park also caters to those who just want to watch. Adjacent to the skating are several tables with big, wide umbrellas to protect spectators from the sun. Mom or Dad can even sit in a big wood rocking chair inside the facility and read while looking out over the skate park.

According to Sercy, the most pleasant surprise that the skate park has brought is the quality of the customers.

"The kids who skateboard love the sport," she says. "They are driven to master new tricks, and they look out for one another. They are polite and they are social. If you give them a fun experience, they will come back with a friend, and through word of mouth alone they will build our business."

In an effort to create a great experience, Sercy even has made a point of understanding the importance of music to the skateboard crowd, learning early on that the right music was a big draw to this culture. So be sure to open your eyes and ears

For more information
Skatewave: 866-758-9283 or visit www.skatewaveramps.com

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