Non-existent indoor skate parks in the Anchorage area

Taking a break from a hobby for a long period of time can leave one frustrated when trying to re-learn the same set of skills. When a hobby is no longer a hobby and becomes a part of every day life, it’s hard to let go. Through the winters, skateboarders are forced to leave their boards neglected for over six months until it is possible to skate once again. This state is known for long, cold and dark winters. It is confusing why there has not been some sort of indoor or covered skate park with a growing skateboard population. So far, Alaska has three parks that are skateable, but not convenient.

Juneau is 856 miles away from Anchorage and can only be reached by plane. This small town has a decent sized park, but most importantly it’s covered. This allows skateboarders, bikers, rollerbladers and scooters to ride at the park throughout the whole winter,

Fairbanks has a heated indoor skate park called Joel’s Place which has been open for 12 years and is a family owned business. Fairbanks is a six-hour drive from Anchorage, so one would have to be determined just to skate. Those who live in Fairbanks are able to skate through any bad weather, though with a price. It costs $5 for an hour, $10 for three hours and $15 for a full day. Any skateboarder desperate to skateboard would be more than willing to pay.

Indoor skate park at Arctic Oasis Community Center located on Elmendorf Air Force Base. Photo credit: Cjay Farve

Gary Galbreath, team rider for Blue and Gold Boardshop and Fairbanks resident benefits from being able to skate all winter.

“I get to skate Joel’s place almost every day and progress, soon I will be teaching little kids how to skateboard too,” Galbreath said.

There is one park in Anchorage that is skateable throughout the winter, but is limited to military access. Arctic Oasis Community Center is located on Elmendorf Air Force Base and is not open to the general public. Those who are able to skate at Arctic Oasis are a selected few that can skate in town through winter. Many who have been to the indoor park will notice it is quite small, but are thankful for the opportunity to skate. Shaun Dahlstrom, skateboarder, has been to Arctic Oasis, but no longer has access for this winter season.

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“I’ve been to the park on base and it’s not impressive, but it gets the job done,” Dahlstrom said. “To simply put it, it’s better than nothing.”

Over the years, people have tried to open up indoor skate parks and many have failed due to expenses to keep it open. Drake Watts’ family partnered with a previous owner of another indoor skate spark and created SK8AK in 2011 and closed in 2013. The park had a great turn out for the opening and throughout the winters but in the summer time many skaters did not want to pay to skateboard. After not making much money through the summer, partnership differences on finances began and led to the end of SK8AK.

“SK8AK closed because of a failed partnership, disagreements over putting money back into the park and summer took a toll on the park,” Watts said. “When we had to add personal income, we decided if the park couldn’t support its rent, we would have to shut its doors.”

Since there are these covered and indoor skate parks in other smaller towns that most likely have a smaller skate population, it is hard to believe Anchorage has had problems building and running a covered or indoor skate park.

“It is kind of weird that they don’t have [an indoor park], because there’s more kids and skaters in Anchorage than Fairbanks,” Galbreath said.

Anchorage is not only behind on covered areas to skate, but skate parks in general. Kelly Borgstede, owner of Blue and Gold Boardshop, has been working on getting more skate parks built in Anchorage.

“I think that Anchorage in general is underserving its skateboard population, so I think that an indoor park would be wonderful, but getting more outdoor parks is the priority, then trying to get a covered park, and then go for an indoor park,” Borgstede said. “An indoor park is a business all in its own, in order to get that running you have to have somebody who is committed to running that business and it’s a tough business to be in.”

Opening an indoor skate park and keeping it open has many difficult obstacles. Despite the problems with having an indoor park, there are many positives that a park would bring to the community.

“I think it’s important because kids need things to do in Anchorage in the winter, it keeps them busy and out of trouble,” Watts said. “It also forms a sort of community in itself that encourages a skill and new friendships.”

Through all the negatives and failed attempts. Skateboarders are still not giving up on the idea of opening up and indoor park or getting a covered skate park. What will keep an indoor park running is a large following of skateboarders to support the park by attending events and help fundraise. It has been a while since the last attempt to open a park, but like skateboarding, sometimes you have to fall a couple times and get back up before landing and reaching that goal.