Skaters in Apex are about to get a new place to play with the opening of Rodgers Family Skate Plaza at Trackside this weekend.
A grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, at the park at 1290 Ambergate Station in Apex.
The spot, located between two rail lines that run through downtown Apex, is a 40,000-square-foot, four-tiered skate plaza that replicates street skating conditions and offers competition skateboarding elements such as an eight-foot-deep bowl. The park includes areas for all levels of skaters - beginners, intermediate and advanced.
John Brown, the town’s parks and recreation director, tells me the project started with discussions about two years ago. The town has a large skateboarding community, along with a downtown shop, Apex Outfitter and Board Co., which caters to them.
Apex Police Captain Jacques Gilbert, tired of telling skaters to move along, had been working with local skaters and Apex Outfitter to find appropriate spots for them to go. Around the same time, Apex officials were looking at the town’s parks and recreation master plan and talking about the need for more amenities for teens.
Eventually, the groups put together a plan. Officials and skaters got together to talk about a vision for the park. The Apex Town Council approved $635,000 for the $1 million project. More money was raised through donations from individuals and local businesses. Brown tells me they are still looking for donations between $80,000 and $100,000 to build a covered pavilion.
The town brought in Florida-based Team Pain, a nationally recognized and acclaimed skate plaza builder, to design and custom build the park. Just having Team Pain involved should bring skaters from across the region to the plaza, Brown said.
“Having their name on this is huge because they don’t have any other concrete skate facilities in North Carolina,” he said.
There’s no age limit on the park, but Brown said it will especially cater to teens.
“It’s an age group that all parks and recreation departments kind of struggle with to meet,” he said. “In this day and time, there are so many other things going on for this age group and so many things happening in their lives. It’s hard to figure out.”
The process to plan the park included meetings with local teens.
“It was really refreshing to me to hear how creative they are,” he said. "They were very polite, no different than sitting down with a bunch of kids who are interested in … baseball, basketball.”
During construction, a handful of teens would stand outside the construction fence, talking to the crew from Team Pain, he said.
“The anticipation is really high,” he said. “And we’re looking forward to getting it open.”
Brown said the town is taking safety seriously. A protective helmet with a securely fastened chin strap and protective elbow and knee pads will be required. A skater could be subject to a $25 fine and even banned from the property if they fail to wear the required gear.
On Saturday during the grand opening and with help from the Apex board shop, the town will be giving away helmets and pads. The town also has partnered with WakeMed to talk about safety, concussions and related topics.
Other rules and regulations: Skaters 10 and under must be accompanied by an adult when using the facility. Only skateboards are allowed - no bikes, in-line skates and roller blades can be used. Waivers won’t be required to skate in the park. Admission will be free.
An emergency call center will be wired directly to the police department if somebody needs help. Cameras also will allow police to monitor the park at all times.
Brown said he expects that the park will be used for both daily skating and special events, possibly concerts featuring local teens’ bands and competitions.
“It will be a destination,” Brown said.
Saturday's grand opening includes a ribbon cutting and remarks at 10 a.m., along with safety demonstrations, food trucks, a DJ and, of course, skateboarding.