Skate park to close this month

The soccer/basketball side of park will remain open
by: Carole Archer, Local professional skater, Caz Helmstetter, brought the wooden bowl to the Troutdale park last year.

TROUTDALE - It was supposed to be their salvation.

Instead, the giant wooden skateboard bowl has inadvertently brought an end to Troutdale's popular indoor skate park.

Back-to-Back indoor skate park will close by the end of this month.

It's no one's fault, really, says owner Kim Jones. The problems started when a fire marshal came to inspect the construction of the wooden bowl, a beautiful work of art that a local professional skater, Caz Helmstetter, brought to the Troutdale park last year.

Concerned that overhead sprinklers wouldn't reach a covered, open-air space created by the curvature of the bowl, fire marshals required extra fire protection.

'They wanted us to put a sprinkler system under the bowl,' Jones says. 'But it's a challenging project … we finally found a structural engineer willing to take it on, but he costs $85 an hour and we just can't afford it.'

Completed, the additional requirements would cost Jones and her sister, Kathy Clift, owners of Back-to-Back Indoor Sports, an additional $30,000.

As it was, the skate park was bleeding money even before Helmstetter offered the bowl.

'The bowl would have saved the park,' Jones said. 'We fought this for six months. We've tried to work with the city to come up with different solutions. But at this point, we've just waited too long. We can't afford it anymore.'

The other side of Jones' business, which has basketball and soccer courts, is thriving, she says, but it cannot support the skate park, which is losing thousands of dollars every month that the bowl is not open.

Would the bowl have saved the park?

Helmstetter thought so. When he had it in his Corbett barn, professional skaters from across the nation came to Oregon to skate it. Inside a skate park, the bowl probably would have drawn skaters from across the Pacific Northwest.

Jones understands the city's concerns and doesn't blame officials. She just wishes there was something she could do to save the skate park - the only place for skateboarders to legally skate in East County without having to drive to Sandy or Portland.

Troutdale Mayor Paul Thalhofer, a longtime skateboard park advocate, agrees.

'Skateboarders need a place to skate, just like basketball players need a place to play,' says Thalhofer. 'The problem is that we've tried time and time again to get an outdoor skate park in Troutdale. But every time we find a location, people from the neighborhood show up to say 'not in our backyard.' It's so frustrating because we need one.'

Thalhofer says he feels 'helpless' when it comes to helping Jones keep the skate park going.

'I wish that I could do more for Kim, but it's a fire and safety issue,' Thalhofer says. 'If they had the funds, maybe they'd be able to keep it open.'

Jones would have to get an architect to draw up plans - tricky because the bowl is already in place at the skate park - and a structural engineer to devise a sprinkler system for underneath the bowl. The costs have just kept adding up and the park owners decided they didn't want to jeopardize the rest of their business for the skate park.

'It's just important to me that the community understands why we're closing,' Jones says.

The park will close by the end of August. Jones has already started making arrangements to sell the equipment inside the park and Helmstetter is looking for a buyer for the gigantic wooden bowl.

'The other parts of the business are open and going strong,' Jones says. 'We're going to start moving things around in the skate park to use it for other functions. We're having a teen dance there on Aug. 19, and we're trying to move our employees to the other side, so they won't lose their jobs.'

Back-to-Back Indoor Sports offers basketball, soccer, volleyball and other sports. The park is located at 819 N.W. Corporate Drive in Troutdale. For more information, call 503-661-3455.