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Skateboarders Find Utopia In Raleigh

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RALEIGH — Raleigh holds a new distinction in the world of sports. It now boasts one of the largest indoor skateboard parks in the country.

Utopia Park has been up and running for two months.

Professional skateboarders practice there for a weekend competition with $22,000 in total prize money up for grabs. Mark Rhoades owns the place.

"Being a native of North Carolina, and I've traveled all over doing this, I decided I'd just be the one to put it on the line and do it," Rhoades says.

To make it all work, Rhoades knew he would have to attract the best skateboarders in the country for competitions.

This is no longer an obscure sport. The top guys can make close to a million dollars a year in prize money and endorsements. Winston-Salem native Neil Hendricks is one of those top earners.

"It's not really the money that brings the top guys here I mean, we'd all be here if there was five bucks on the line or whatever," Hendricks says.

The attraction is the size of this new park. First there is the sprawling Street Course. Competitors get two runs of one minute each to show their best tricks. The 12-foot high Vert Ramp is also a popular high-flying event.

and the bowl They won't be competing in here untilSunday But this is like a big swimming pool. A deep swimming pool."

"As the sport's been growing a lot of peopole have been opening up more and more of these types of places because there's a high demand for it," Rhoades says.

Rhoades expects to draw a lot of skateboard enthusiasts year round, some that may one day be able to make a living at it.

"It's places like this that breed all the good skateboarders," he says.

Utopia Park is at 2200 Atlantic Springs Road in Raleigh.

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