Skaters flock to recently reopened Encounter
The sound of loud rock music mingles with the hiss of tiny wheels on a hardwood floor. Dozens of skateboarders zip around a warehouse full of jumps, ramps and railings. One boarder jumps into the air and comes tumbling down to the ground. Slowly ...
The sound of loud rock music mingles with the hiss of tiny wheels on a hardwood floor. Dozens of skateboarders zip around a warehouse full of jumps, ramps and railings. One boarder jumps into the air and comes tumbling down to the ground. Slowly he stands and signals a thumbs-up.
The Encounter may seem chaotic to some, but its skate park is a new home away from home for many young skateboarders in Duluth.
The Encounter recently held its grand reopening. After completely remodeling over the summer, the Encounter celebrated the new look with skate contests and other activities.
"We have live local bands playing, dodgeball and three-on-three basketball tournaments," said Peter Cpin, administrative operations director at the Encounter. "It's totally about hanging out and having fun."
The Encounter is the only indoor skate park north of the Twin Cities, and gives skaters a care-free environment to enjoy their hobby. Not only does it give people the opportunity to skate in the winter, it also gives skaters a place to call their own. The remodeling over the summer was done by local skaters.
"The park is all built by skaters and volunteers," Cpin said. "Our whole center is based around kids. It's something they did so it's cool."
Ray Jackson, 16, is happy to have a place to skateboard without getting into trouble with those who don't want skaters around.
"We can't skateboard anywhere downtown," he said. "I almost got a ticket for skateboarding on the sidewalk."
That isn't the only problem that Jackson has had with skateboarding downtown. He recalled a time when he ran into some kids who wanted to fight him. Jackson feels safer at the Encounter knowing that there are people around to watch over the kids.
"You stay away from bad people here," he said. "No one can come and punch you because there are supervisors."
Fourteen-year-old Jack Litmin has also had a hard time finding a good place to skate.
"I go to Canal Park and skateboard on stuff there," he said. "They just tell us to get out of there."
Duluth Pack is a business in Canal Park that has had trouble with skaters in the past. The large wooden deck in front of the store has been a hot spot for skateboarders.
"We've had kids tell people that they can't use the sidewalk because they are jumping the deck," said Katie Houman, an employee at Duluth Pack. "We've called the police numerous times."
Houman thinks the Encounter might have something to do with the shrinking number of incidents with skateboarders at the store.
"Nobody has been out here for three or four weeks," she said, "so maybe (the skateboarders) are going there.
"They used to be here every night."
The directors at the Encounter hope it will be a place for teens to skateboard without getting into trouble.
"We just want to be a place to hang," Cpin said, "and for kids to come to and feel safe."
The Encounter is open on the weekends for now, but will open five days a week starting in November. Cpin predicts that the park will see roughly 3,000 people per week when the hours move to full time.
Litmin and his buddies plan on being regulars at the Encounter.
Along with the jumps and rails, Litmin pointed out another benefit of the new park: "It's a good place to meet new friends."
For more information on the Encounter, call 722-9820 or visit www.encounteryfc.com .