Text by Brandon Herbert
Boardertown Photos by Nick Gibson
As many of you know, I have been a strong advocate for the local skateboarding scene. I picked up the torch from a few brave souls who tackled the frigid Arkansas skate scene to try to bring a little bit of joy in skaters and bikers lives in the area. Being a Fayetteville resident in the late 90's/early 2000's, I was privileged enough to get in with the wonderful crew of The Skate Station. Neal Crawford was the man behind the scenes, while he entrusted many of us local skaters to manage the shop while he slaved away outside of the park to, in turn, pour more money into the business. Even though it was not the most glamorous location we all stood behind it.
Me in 2001 rocking some stylish D3's while lipsliding at the old Skate Station on Prairie Ave.
Needless to say, there were tireless years of struggle to keep the doors open. No easy task. Back then, the scene was experiencing growing pains and you sure didn't see skateboarding on national broadcast like you do today. Without seeing numbers, it was obvious that it was a struggle. Each 'day skate' purchase either went to buying wood for repairs or expansions, filling the shop with what little product could be stocked or simply keeping the lights on. NO ONE was getting rich from this. If you don't know the rest of the story, The Skate Station opened and closed numerous times through numerous struggles over many years of trying to get back a footing with no avail.
I tell that story to preface the statement I am about to make: If you do not support indoor skate parks by paying to ride, they will eventually shut doors.
The Last Skate Station remodeled bowl on South College Ave.
I have seen it time after time and do not want to dwell on the past. Its time to work on our future. SO, why do we need privately funded indoor skate parks? Well there are two major components. One is that Arkansas weather is a dice roll from day to day. Sure, it is nice to have four seasons but don't tell that to a skater who hasn't been able to skate for a week because its too cold to even push around or guys are getting heat exhaustion from skating the pubic parks. Second, is that local Arkansas city and state officials within parks & recreation departments seldom understand the need to pay for quality skate park design and construction and often go with the low bid to appease their limited budgets. So, if you want a quality built park that challenges and entertains, you have to take it upon yourself to do so. It's just how we have to do it.
Now I know other areas don't have these exact problems but this is our struggle and it's all we know. As I said, others have tried in many cities in Arkansas, but none have reached the level achieved by Boardertown Skate Shop & Skate Park in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Their push to keep doors open on a premier operation like they have is simply an act of integrity and dedication to the cause. And just as before, no one is getting rich off of it, quite possibly the opposite. I have watched, time and time again, a vast majority of local skaters walk in and almost assume that they do not have to pay to skate. Why is that? Is it because they think that the park exists for free? If that was the case, why aren't there indoor parks in every town?
Fact is: Many do not think that the paying the 'day skate' charge will effect their business. Well I am here to tell you, YOU ARE WRONG! Literally, every dollar makes a difference in a business who struggles to keep their doors open. Boardertown should be praised for creating a beautiful skate park designed by world-renowned Team Pain Skate Parks and painted by the talented artist at Higher Level Art. Think that was free? No. And you may be thinking, "I bet they make a ton off of shop sales". Wrong again. There are many indoor parks in the United States who don't even keep a fully stocked shop. But here, it takes any and every revenue stream possible to actively operate an indoor skate park in Arkansas. There is little markup opportunity in skate product compared to the average consumer product which means unless you are moving volume out of your shop, you are just pouring money into a bucket full of holes.
If you have ever wondered why more people don't open up indoor skate parks in your area, it's probably because someone who had some sense in them looked at the numbers on paper and said "There is no way this is going to work." For the people that have made that jump and put it all on the line for their local scene like Boardertown has, you should be thanking them every time you walk in the door for the courage it takes to run an indoor skate park by paying to ride.