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Martinsburg skate park likely to fill void

November 14, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- It is hoped an indoor skate park expected to open in the coming weeks near Martinsburg will be a regional attraction, said R. Stephen Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board.

Designed primarily for BMX, the 6,100-square-foot facility at 39 Kelly Island Road is in a former cold storage warehouse owned by R.M. Roach & Sons Inc. (Roach Energy) along W.Va. 9.

Roach Energy agreed to lease the space to the recreation board for $1,000 per month on a one-year trial basis, Catlett said.

Catlett estimated the facility's budget will be about $3,000 per month. He hopes the skate park, made possible by a $134,751 donation from the now defunct Beth Jacob Congregation in Martinsburg, can be self-sustaining through the collection of user fees.

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"We'll have invested about $100,000 once it's open," Catlett said. "We have needed this facility in our community for a long time."

Daily admission will be $5, and $50 monthly memberships will be sold beginning in January 2010, according to the recreation board's Web site. The skate park's hours of operation also are posted on the Web site.

Jamie Hess, who owns Groove Merchants BMX specialty shop in Martinsburg, believes use of the skate park, particularly by modified bicycle riders, will far exceed the recreation board's expectations.

"I think BMX is bigger now than it's ever been," Hess said. "It's not a fad. It's proven that."

BMX originated in California in the early 1970s, according to the American Bicycle Association (ABA), which claims to be the sport's largest national sanctioning body, with more than 60,000 members. BMX made its Olympic Games debut in 2008 in Beijing.

On any given weekend, Hess said 100 or so riders come to his North Queen Street shop, which he has operated in Martinsburg for three years. Area riders currently travel from the Tri-State area to a Baltimore-area facility now because there are few places to go, he said.

"It's going to be big," Hess said of what he described as a medium-size facility. "I'm superexcited."

Hess, who still rides at age 35, has led a group of area BMX enthusiasts who have volunteered their time to set up quarter-pipe ramps and other freestyle stunt and jump-propelling structures purchased for the new skate park. A wood-frame ramp also was donated by the Hagerstown BMX track at Fairgrounds Park, he said.

If the skate park's success matches the enthusiasm already aired for the new recreation facility, Catlett said the recreation board might be able to expand into a second cold storage unit next door.

That unit still has apples in it, and both spaces can hold about 100,000 bushels of apples, but Stanley Roach of Roach Energy said the company will not be storing fruit in it next year.

"We were at the point of upgrading the equipment and staying in the cold storage business or doing something different," Roach said. "We hope the (skate park) is successful."

Roach said his family's company had been renting the cold storage space to Knouse Foods Cooperative, which ended applesauce production in Inwood, W.Va., last year.

A Subway sandwich shop and one of Roach Energy's BP gas station/ROCS convenience stores still operate at the Kelly Island Road property, which formerly was owned by Mountaineer Orchards Inc.

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