“Homebase is Where the Heart is”, Skateplaza gains national attention through community support

“As many people as there are that just like to sit back and say how little there is to do here, there are people working ten times as hard to make things happen.” – Andy Po

Something happened in March. Everywhere I looked on the internet, little blue squares appeared asking me to cast a vote. Some days I’d see twenty, fifty, a hundred blue squares encouraging me to vote as often as possible, and to ask my friends to do the same.

This wasn’t just a silly Facebook game, this was a grassroots movement unfolding before my eyes, on my screen. Literally thousands of people took on the Bethlehem Skateplaza cause as their own. In March, the Skateplaza was in the running to win a $250,000 grant from Pepsi Co. to help with completion of phase one, and remained within the Top 10 leading winners in the country for the month.

I could think of no better way to launch this blog than to talk about the incredible efforts of the community (ok, many were country-wide and some international, which is likewise impressive) to get behind a project and push it to the forefront.

(Skateplaza bilboard on rt. 378)

While the Skateplaza didn’t win first place for the month of March, you can still vote in April – and you should. It takes a few seconds of your time and can make a hugely positive impact on the Lehigh Valley, attracting national and international skaters and supporters to our city.

GO HERE TO VOTE ONLINE, EVERY DAY: http://www.refresheverything.com/bethlehemskateplaza

(Andy Po inside his shop, Homebase Skateshop 14 West 4th Street, South Side Bethlehem)

Toward the closing of the month Andy Po, owner of Bethlehem’s Homebase Skateshop and leading man behind the Skateplaza, wrote this on his website: “Through the 8+ years developing the Bethlehem Skateplaza the most memorable moments for me were the times masses of people came together to show their support…”

Watch Andy explain the Skateplaza plan and why we need YOU to help vote:

CLICK HERE FOR AN INTERVIEW with Andy about the way this skateplaza has stirred up the community:

The Bethlehem Skate Plaza Supporters seemed to take over the Internet in March. Was a large part of that a push from you? Did you find a lot of people not directly related to the project where taking on the cause as their own?

I know right?!  I couldn’t go on Facebook without seeing the News Feed full of people pushing for us- it was pretty awesome.  Using social media has always been a big part of Homebase’s marketing strategy so it was only natural to take the same approach when we started promoting the Bethlehem Skateplaza.  I can not take all the credit for the amount of exposure and support we received but I think I sent the information to every person in my phone, every blog I go on and every skate magazine.  The Pepsi Refresh Project is a great opportunity for the skateplaza to raise a large chunk of the needed funding to help us complete this landmark project so it was inspiring to see so many other people pushing as hard as I was.

Whether it was on websites, other blogs Facebook, MySpace or Twitter we had an amazing amount of support from both the skateboarding community and the community at large.  Thank you to everyone who helped us get through the month of March and are continuing to help us with our April push.  Win or lose, the exposure and excitement we now have for the skateplaza is a blessing in itself.

What inspired the skateplaza idea? At what point did it go from “Wouldn’t that be awesome?” to “We can really make this happen!”?

I think anyone that’s ever ridden a skateboard in a town that has no where for them to go has dreamed of having a skatepark.  Getting yelled at, chased by security and fined by Police for doing something we love is always motivation to start “fighting” the powers that be.  I’m not much of a rebel so I fought the best way I knew how- by talking people’s ears off.  It took about 8+ years of talking and having the “Wouldn’t it be nice. . .” conversation but now that the cement is being poured on the skateplaza site it’s beginning to feel like “We can really make this happen.”

Some people may not feel a need to get behind an idea for a skatepark, as they can’t find any way it can benefit them. How will this project inspire and support the entire community?

The direct benefit of the skateplaza will be for those of us who ride skateboarders but there are residual benefits that will help uplift the rest of the community if we use the skateplaza to its full potential.  We are creating an open space that encourages youth activities- one of the biggest concerns in the community.  The scale of our skateplaza will make it a destination nomad skaters will travel from around the country to skate.  I have personally traveled to Ohio, California and Canada to skate new parks I’ve seen in magazines.

If you look at the comments in our Pepsi Refresh page, there are skaters from all over the world excited to get the chance to travel to Bethlehem just for this skatepark.  Not every many attractions in the City can currently boast that.  We will have the ability to hold major skateboard competitions in the skateplaza once all three phases are completed.  All this translates into in an influx of people coming to our town who will undoubtedly need places to sleep and eat.  So we’re providing people who participate in a creative sport with a legal place to be active that will also encourage tourism to help better the rest of the community.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Is Homebase the number one supporter of this project? Are there any people or companies that have been more instrumental in their support? Anybody unlikely?

Out of all the other retailors that are invested into the skateboarding culture, Hombease is the only shop that is pro-actively supporting the skateplaza.  Our skaters and supporters petitioned the City, designed the layout, fought Councilman Leason’s attempt to divert our funding and have led the charge to raise funds for the skateplaza.

The City of Bethlehem has been very supportive- from the Mayor, the majority of City Council members, the Economic Development Center and of course, The Parks and Rec Department have all been fighting to ensure this skateplaza comes to fruition.  Many of the local businesses and community leaders have shown their support in one way or another.

A member of the Clergy in the Southside made a documentary that spoke about the benefits of the skateplaza.  We had Police Commisioner Bedics speak on behalf of the Police Department at the groundbreaking in favor of.  Laini Abraham’s Pocket Guide to Bethlehem featured an article on the skateplaza which goes to show that there is no lack of support from our community- skateboarder or not.

We have had a lot of pro skaters supporting us as well- Kerry Getz, Eric Koston and Dan Pensyl.

The biggest piece of support in my opinion has come from a skateboarding website called TheBerrics.com.  Their site revolves around a private skatepark owned by two professional skaters and it receives about 100,000 unique visitors a day and it has an incredible amount of influence when they are trying to support a cause.  They flew a filmer out from LA to Bethlehem to capture our story and when the videos launched we jumped up 2 places in our Pepsi Refresh ranking and saw we were getting international support for our skateplaza all thanks to The Berrics.

If we can get sappy for a moment, what do you think are the greater outcomes of support for this project? As in, what message does this send about the Lehigh Valley area and it’s residents? Did you ever expect such an outpouring of support?

I would have to say the City Council meeting we fought for our funding was one of the more emotional moments for me.  I’m so used to speaking out on behalf of skateboarding but that night other skaters, members of the community, the Police Commisioner and other City Council members did the fighting for the skateplaza.

I just felt an over-powering sense of solidarity that night.  I think the situation we have here is one that many other skateboarders trying to lobby their local government for a skatepark wish that had.  I hope in the end, our experience and the skateplaza will help other communities make the choice to build their own skateparks and skateplazas.

Why the Lehigh Valley? Some people would say it’s easier to put efforts in a larger city. Why stay here? Why fight for this town?

I came from a larger city- I grew up in San Diego.  Out there and in some many other cities across the country skateboarding and skateparks are almost cliche.  Building skateparks is a no-brainer.  Its already understood it’s a legitimate need in the community.

I love the Lehigh Valley.  I love the spirit of people in this community.  As many people as there are that just like to sit back and say how little there is to do here there are people working 10x as hard to make things happen here.  I like being able to be a part of that.

(Andy at the Skatepark groundbreaking with Valley politicians and council members)

The Bethlehem Skateplaza, Phase 1 is set to open in July, 2010. For more information about Homebase and the Skataplaza project, please visit: www.homebase610.com

PLEASE VOTE: http://www.refresheverything.com/bethlehemskateplaza


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5 Comments

Filed under Bethlehem Skateplaza, South Side Bethlehem

5 responses to ““Homebase is Where the Heart is”, Skateplaza gains national attention through community support

  1. awesome job jaime! the site looks rad. i’m stoked that there are other people that love the valley as much as i do, and i’m extra excited that you’re taking the time to write about it!!! keep up the good work!

    <3,
    tom p.

  2. Pingback: WE BUILT THIS CITY (And The New Nationally Recognized Skateplaza!) « HEART OF STEELcity

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