Feature Article - October 2004
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These days, people want more and more from their rec centers and sports clubs. But how do multipurpose facilities expand without spreading themselves too thin?

By Kyle Ryan


Rye Airfield is home to BMX bikers, mountain bikers, inline skaters and skateboarders

There are no weight machines, swimming pools, racquetball courts or cafés at Rye Airfield, a 50,000-square-foot indoor skate park in Rye, N.H. With three concrete pools, three street areas, half pipes, wooden bowls and an outdoor BMX track, Rye is a dream come true for skate park enthusiasts.

The 2-year-old facility may make skaters salivate, but General Manager Beau Lambert confesses getting people there has been challenging.

"The first two years we spent building up our customer base, and that was basically through core-sports retailers," Lambert says. "It costs a lot to get individual members in the door, so our focus right now is on taking care of the current customer base."

Lambert does that through the park's immensely popular Ramp Camp, which gives kids helmet stickers (like on Ohio State's football helmets) as they learn tricks. Rye Airfield also hosts birthday parties, group events, Venturing (a new Boy Scouts program), amateur contests, ladies' nights, clinics and concerts—sometimes all in one weekend. Lambert gets the word out through an active e-mail list.

"That's basically what it comes down to: offering unique programming," he says.

Just because it's a skate park doesn't mean the staff ignores business basics, either.

"Taking care of customers, knowing their name—the fundamentals," says Lambert of the park's operating procedures. "It's almost like an old-school general store or a bodega kind of atmosphere. Know your customer by name if you can, treat them the way they want to be treated and keep the place clean."