Bath skatepark back in business in new home

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BATH — Once faced with an uncertain future, the revamped Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark enjoyed its reopening this week at a new site, the former National Guard Armory on Old Brunswick Road.

The furnished hangout area, the cafe, and of course the skating space – where skateboarders and freestyle bicyclists alike defy gravity as they fly up and down the ramps – all have a look and feel of newness, a change of pace from the Skatepark’s former space.

The dilapidated condition of that location, the old YMCA on Summer Street, led to its demolition at the beginning of this year, after the Skatepark closed on Dec. 4, 2011.

Several City Council meetings last year were packed with community members as the fate of that building, and of the Skatepark, were discussed. Although it OK’d leveling of the Y, the council also supported the armory – which the city purchased in 2010 – as the Skatepark’s new home.

The City Council also approved borrowing $308,000 for a basic renovation of that building. With interest included over the life a 10-year loan, the estimated cost of the bond was between $35,000 and $40,000 a year.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni said the Skatepark board was willing to give up its $40,000 annual subsidy from the city so that the cost of the borrowing would not fall on taxpayers, and the city took him up on the offer.

Balboni has been confident about the Skatepark board’s ability to replace the subsidy through fundraising. He expects the skatepark’s revenue and use to increase with its move to the armory, since that building is closer to Bath Middle School, where many of the skatepark’s young patrons go to school.

On Tuesday, as people young and old stopped by on the day before the Skatepark’s reopening, Balboni was exuberant about the community’s support of that facility. All the furniture has been donated, along with a lot of the renovation work. The equipment erected by volunteers.

“It’s really unbelievable, the amount of people that have already gotten behind us,” he said.

Cassandra Brown, general director of the Skatepark, who has worked for the Recreation Department for five years, noted that “the kids are really excited, especially the kids that have been here volunteering. They’re invested in the building.”

“We want the kids to kind of put their touch on the building,” Balboni said. “Now that the construction part’s done, they can come in and help put stuff together. … The kids have been in here the last few days, helping move stuff and getting it ready. … They’re all eager to go. Not a day goes by that there are not a bunch of them stopping by to see what’s going on.”

Andre Klimov, 14, of Bath, one of the center’s patrons, said its reopening “feels good, because I have a place to hang out … a specific place where everyone can go.”

Currently the “street course” equipment is set up, but more vertical ramps are planned for a second phase of work, in the garage area of the building.

“When you look at the finished product, it’s pretty amazing … how far we’ve come,” Balboni said.

The Skatepark is open Monday through Friday, 2-9 p.m., Saturday noon-9 p.m., and Sunday noon-6 p.m. A grand opening is planned for September, after the school year starts.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements

The skating area of the newly-reopened Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark isn’t just for skaters, as 17-year-old Bath freestyle bicyclist Jordan Lister demonstrates.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.