Once summer has faded away, many outdoor activities end, leaving limited options for physical exercise. This is especially true for bikers and skateboarders, as snow makes these sports almost impossible in the winter. The only one of its kind in the surrounding area, Fort Wayne's indoor BMX and skateboard park is truly a special place—a safe and warm haven for kids of all ages to wait out the cold. We caught up with The Fort Wayne Indoor's BMX director Rich Hoppe to learn a little more about this unique institution.
Our mission is to provide a safe, legal, and positive recreational opportunity for multi-aged locals to grow their BMX/Skating skills, while building self-confidence and enriching their lives by becoming a part of a unique community. — The Fort Wayne Indoor
Open seven days a week, October - April, the skatepark has been around for five years, originally as a church youth group extension known as New Republic Skate Park. Over time, all the volunteers disappeared except for Hoppe and skateboard director Dan Butler. They were able to raise $10,000 via a GoFundMe over 21 days in 2014 "to keep the spirit alive," and rebranded as a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit. After that, they ripped everything down and rebuilt, essentially creating a $200k park all with donated labor and wood.
An entirely volunteer and community based skatepark, there are events every other weekend throughout the winter. Although broken bones come with the territory, Hoppe views these setbacks as time off, and assured us that it's still "10,000 times more fun than injury." Guests are required to sign a liability waver and ride at their own risk, with available lessons for both skateboarding and BMX. There's a designated area for beginners, and the minimum age requirement is eight years old, unless accompanied by parents and depending on how busy it is. With cameras in the building, there's always a watchful eye and never any fights.
"The highlight of the park is just having it exist, it's a very difficult thing to keep open," Hoppe said. "We're a regional hub at this point, there's literally not another skatepark till Cleveland, a BMX park in South Bend and small skateboard park in Kokomo. Indianapolis and Chicago have no indoor parks." The combination of both groups at The Fort Wayne Indoor brings even more people in from the surrounding areas.
Skateboarders outnumber BMX riders almost five to one in the city, so they get a little more time at The Fort Wayne Indoor. Usually the time is split between the two groups, with a mixed session on Sundays. While skateboarders have Lawton Park, it is against the rules for bikes to be there. Franke Park has a BMX track although there is no freestyle, just racing. Still, once the weather turns, everyone heads outside.
BMX specifically has allowed Hoppe to travel around the country as a stunt rider and announcer. Growing up, he was off his bike all winter long because there was nothing around, so he would go to racetracks instead. Today kids have more options—all ages of kids. It's really a passion project for Rich, as he fell in love with BMX and can't get enough. From shows at schools (mainly Midwest), public speaking gigs, to a specialty podcast (The Bill & Rich Oddcast B.R.O.A.D.D.C.A.S.T.), Hoppe lives and breathes BMX.
On January 7th, The Battle for Midwest BMX begins with the first stop of the contest series at The Fort Wayne Indoor, then Detroit, South Bend, and Butler, Ohio. All levels are welcome, and the winner gets a free week at Ohio Dreams Action Sports Camp. This the fourth year for the contest hosted by Hoppe.
What lies ahead for The Fort Wayne Indoor? The goal is to get things going even more, gain a stronger foothold in the community, make it a training facility, and hold summer camps. This is not currently possible because of size constraints. Hoppe and Butler hope to grow, save some money, and move to a new building.
If you'd like to support the park, you can donate here, or attend the annual summer fundraiser, an action sports and music festival in downtown Fort Wayne called: "Rock The Ramp" (est. 2015).
Friday Night: BMX 6-10pm - ALL NIGHT SKATE 10pm-6am
Saturday: BMX 2-6pm - CLOSED SATURDAY NIGHT
($10 one time fee per year, $10 for each 4 hour session, 7 days a week)
Looking for something to do with a good cause on NYE? Consider a fundraiser for The Fort Wayne Indoor hosted by Skeletunes Lounge which will include live music, prize raffles, and snacks:
There's other ways to help the community as well, check out:
Photos & video by Tony Frantz