Skating under cover: South Tahoe getting its first indoor public skatepark
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Airick Valenzuela remembers skateboarding in South Lake Tahoe in the late 1970s – before there were any skateparks, before many of the sidewalks, before there were many skaters.
“I was bullied kind of by jocks,” Valenzuela said, as he looked down the wall of nearly finished wooden quarter-pipes at South Lake Tahoe’s new indoor skatepark. “I built a ramp in my front yard, so that’s how I met all my buddies.”
Valenzuela has been designing and building parks around the country for years. He designed Gardnerville’s flowing litter of concrete ramps. He and a crew of friends raised funds and built the original Bijou Park, and refinished it a few years later.
His 13th skate project is constructing the city’s – and the region’s – very first public indoor skate spot, along with friend and long-time skate buddy Shon Baughman.
“Me and Airick, we’ve been trying to do this for a while, even before we built the Bijou Park,” Baughman said.
But warehouse space large enough for a decent skatepark isn’t easy to come by in South Lake Tahoe, where ground coverage is monitored as closely as the weather.
When the center spot in the yellow warehouse at 7th and Eloise became open, Valenzuela and Baughman jumped on it.
“We’ve been looking for indoor space since back in the day,” Valenzuela said. “The opportunity came up, and Shon and I jumped on it.”
In a city where winter blankets the ground in snow for half the year, Valenzuela and Baughman agreed that indoor skating just makes sense.
“I was going nuts in the winter. Cabin fever,” said Baughman. “We need to have skating year-round.”
While taking a break from skating at the still partially snow-covered Bijou Park, Matt Phillips, a skateboarder in South Lake Tahoe for 10 years, said he’d definitely be using the indoor park, “especially in the winter months.”
“That’s about the only option. It’s good to hear,” he said after learning of the new drier spot.
Baughman hopes to make a business out of the new park, charging for membership and, he hopes, $5-7 per session. He even hopes to rent the park out and do special events or classes. He wants to have a skateboard shop in the front, but the start-up money for that isn’t quite there, he said. One thing is for sure: he’s not looking to get rich.
“If I make money off of this, I’m not going to buy a boat or a snowmobile,” Baughman said. “I’ll put it back into skateboarding.”
The quarterpipes, launch ramps, Euro gap jump and rails in Baughman’s park are all modular, meaning they can’t be moved around. This will give the small space a constant freshness, he said.
“In a spot like this, you could do 10 different parks,” Baughman said. “We’ll just run it like this for a while then if it gets stale, we’ll change it up.”
With insurance still in the works and few materials still on the way, Baughman hopes to open up in early to mid-May, he said. He hopes the local skate crowd will come to think of the park as the “skate headquarters” of South Lake Tahoe.
“In a town with one or two spots, hopefully this will strengthen the scene,” he said.