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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Business Journal
Date: July 21, 2003
Byline: Peter Van Allen


For the love of skateboarding

The Brody clan goes from bowling to 'the bowl'

Is skateboarding the new bowling?

A family operator of bowling alleys is investing big money to find out.

The Brody family, which owns the Playdrome in Cherry Hill and Voorhees, N.J., is investing $1.1 million to open Title 10 Skatepark on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia. It hopes to attract the very skateboarders the city outlawed from Love Park under a law commonly known as "Title 10," which saw greater enforcement last year.

"People will drive up to an hour and a half to skateboard, so we think there's a draw here," said Jeff Brody, the 24-year-old who is leading the effort. Of Love Park's former denizens, Brody said: "They're welcome here."

The indoor, 25,000-square-foot center, which will open in time for Labor Day, is being outfitted with a series of skateboarding ramps and "bowls" — enough lumber to build three 2,500-square-foot houses, said the project's general contractor, Jim Curry of Old City-based Curry Construction Co.

The deal got a big boost from the city in the form of low-interest loans totaling $300,000, said Jim Cuorato, Philadelphia's commerce director. City officials also guided the Brodys through the city licensing process.

Cuorato and Mayor John F. Street, who met with the Brodys, liked the idea of an alternative to Love Park, but, at first, were skeptical about the need for such a venue.

"The mayor was very enthusiastic about having an alternative to replace skateboarding on JFK Plaza (Love Park)," Cuorato said. "I spent quite a while questioning them about the feasibility of this; if they built something and the skateboarding community didn't embrace it. ..."

But the Brodys background in entertainment centers convinced him this would be "a first-class operation."

"It fits well into the plan to have entertainment and recreation along the waterfront," Cuorato said. "They took an abandoned warehouse, promised [to create] 50 to 70 jobs and they will cater to teens and children under 17. There's no alcohol, so it's a family operation. For parents, they even have a drop-off program and a waiting area."

Skateboarding is a $3 billion-a-year industry, according to the Skate Park Association of the United States of America, an organization founded in 1996 in Santa Monica, Calif.

The recent skatepark trend is not new, but it has found new life.

Skateboard parks emerged out of the skateboarding scene in Southern California in the 1970s, when skateparks popped up around the country and Skateboarder magazine chronicled the activity. A documentary, "Dogtown and the Z-Boys," which was in theaters last summer, was a history of this period.

In this area, Vineland, N.J., had one of the first skateboard parks, which opened in 1977. It resembled a concrete moonscape, with giant, swimming pool-like "bowls" and ramps. But most of that era's freewheeling skateboarding enterprises, including Vineland's, faced walloping liability insurance costs and closed.

Gradually, though, the skateparks have regained popularity, as cities look for a way to keep skateboarders off the streets.

In this area, Vans, a California-based sneaker company that caters to skateboarders, has a skatepark in the Moorestown Mall in Burlington County. Connecticut-based ESPN, which holds broadcasting rights to twice-yearly X Games, operates X-Games Skatepark in the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

Independent skateparks have cropped up as well. Boomers Family Entertainment in Avondale, Chester County, combines a skatepark, driving range, miniature golf and pizza parlor. Other skateparks include Wooden Waves in Reading, 360 SkateSpot in Willow Grove and Boarderline in West Chester.

Design of Title 10, Boomers, Wooden Waves and 360 SkateSpot was handled by Tim Glomb, who owns Kennett Square-based Sk8Ramp.com, which specializes in skatepark design.

For the Brodys, construction of new bowling alleys is getting costly, Jeff Brody said, and he and dad Steve wanted to find something to attract younger patrons.

The cost of fitting out the former Acorn Iron Supply Co. included adding HVAC, lighting, sprinkler and sound systems and other modifications to meet building codes. The building retains its industrial feel, with 40-foot ceilings, steel girders and a rough, corrugated roof.

It's the first skatepark for contractor Curry Construction, which has handled projects like restaurants Trust, Rococo, Capitol Grille, Buddakan and, now, Stephen Starr's remake of the former Trust, at 13th and Sansom streets in Philadelphia.

Ramps and a giant bowl are being built out of framing lumber, plywood and a specially manufactured, smooth surface called "Skate Lite."

Top skate jock Tony Hawk gave the park's plans his blessing, but offered a few tips on making it more challenging.

Sessions will range from $8 to $13, depending on time of day and whether a skateboarder is a member. Each session is typically two hours.

The park is designed to accommodate up to 200 skateboarders and in-line skaters at a time, though Brody said he will limit it to 100, for safety reasons.

Of his competition, Brody claims Title 10 will have the East Coast's largest bowl.

"I guess the comparison with an ESPN or Vans [skateparks] would be that I think of those as 'mallparks.' You go through retail and the park is in the background," Brody said. "To me, you walk in here and you're bombarded with the skatepark. ... This is a skatepark, not a mallpark."

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