A Fayetteville institution is making a comeback.
The Skate Station, a skate park and live music venue originally opened by Fayetteville resident Neal Crawford over two decades ago, will soon reopen in a 17,000-square-foot warehouse at 2291 S. School Ave. in south Fayetteville.
Crawford was forced to close the venue a few years ago, but said a recent connection with Brandon Hebert of Gnarkansas.com, combined with some out-of-the-blue phone calls from booking agents and an influx of community support, led to the decision to revive the business.
“The whole business model for the skatepark was dead in the water before Brandon and I connected,” Crawford said. “But once we started talking about it, we got an overwhelming response from the skate community. It’s like we’re getting the family back together.
“When I started getting calls from some of my old vendors and suppliers, I started thinking, ‘Maybe this is happening for a reason. Maybe it’s time to get this thing fired back up.'”
Another contributor, Crawford said, was that his bank basically refused to foreclose on the property when the business fell on hard times. At the time, Crawford had just sold his interest in Jose’s on Dickson Street, was preparing for a career change, and said he realized he couldn’t keep the doors open on the skate park.
“I just slid the keys across the desk to them, thinking it was all over,” he said. “They basically slid them right back.”
Now, Crawford said that almost every evening, he and a handful of volunteers have been working on building ramps, renovating, and cleaning up the space to prepare for the reopening.
“Some nights there are four of us, but there have been as many as 30 of us down there working on it,” he said. “It helps we’re not having to buy wood. We’d already purchased it from the last time, and it’s already down there. We’re just putting the sweat equity into it.”
One of those consistent volunteers has been Herbert.
A former Skate Station employee who now operates a website dedicated to skateboarding culture in Arkansas, Herbert shares Crawford’s passion for helping to foster the sport of skateboarding in Fayetteville. He said creating a better skate park in town will do wonders for local skaters.
“The public skate park at Walker Park is great, but when you look at the difficulty, it doesn’t present much,” he said. “We’re going to make it a competition-grade skateboard facility, that’s a little bit higher quality, so that people can train there.”
“We want to organize a Midwest Invitational competition at the Skate Station, inviting skaters and skate shops from all over the region,” he said. “We want to get our local skateboarders trained well enough to skate in it.”
Along with the indoor skate park, the new Skate Station also includes plans for an all ages music venue, Herbert said.
“Doing live music is a no-brainer,” he said. “Since we have such a large facility, it comes with a bigger rent payment, and doing music will help us keep the doors open.
“It’s also a great way for people who might not skateboard to be involved in what we’re doing,” he said.
The shop will also offer products from several local skate shops on consignment.
A soft opening is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 20, but renovations and improvements to the space will continue into 2014, Herbert said.
“What we’re doing is difficult, so it’s going to take some time,” he said. “But we’re very excited to get it finished.”