If you ask the average skateboarder what Burroughs & Chapin Company, Inc. is, you’ll most likely get a shrug of the shoulders and a tilt of the head. But this 100-year-old Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-based entertainment and land-development company is pushing skateboarding in a new direction.
They’ve teamed up with ESPN and the Mills Corporation to construct parks in and around the U.S. Each of the four existing parks-in Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, and Philly-are all equipped with a multitude of riding terrain and offer summer programs for the beginners as well as courses for the more experienced riders. The massive 40,000-square-foot parks (the majority of that space being the obstacle portion) are made for all of the action sports-BMX, in-line skating, and skateboarding.
The motivation behind the parks is to “advance the sport with demos, tours, and lessons, and to get a newer crowd into the loop,” says Nicole Aiello, a spokeswomen for Burroughs & Chapin. In addition to getting people to take a hard look at skateboarding as a viable sport, says Aiello, 25 to 50 job opportunities are provided at each park. The company not only sees the parks as employment opportunities, they also allow Burroughs & Chapin to grow outside of the Myrtle Beach area.
But whether these parks can survive the ebb and flow of skateboarding has yet to be seen. Throughout the years, parks have opened and closed, come and gone, but in the last few years, parks have been springing up across the nation more than ever before. Companies that would have otherwise shown no lasting interest in skateboarding, except for trying to find ways to ban it, are suddenly drawn to the sport. Is it for revenue’s sake, or is it for skateboarding’s sake? You could argue that the lines are blurring every day. And perhaps that’s why it’s important to know that these companies, with their new interests in skateboarding, are doing things for the right reasons-the benefit of skateboarding. Aiello admits, “Skateboarding is so hot right now.” But do these companies have the long-term in mind?
“Through ESPN we hope to one day have our own teams, videos, and competitions,” explains Aiello. “We also have every intention of expanding around the nation, and we’re not counting out other parts of the world, either.” While Aiello couldn’t say when and where the parks are expected to be next, she did say they have more developments on the table.
“The key here is customer service,” she says. “That’s what will keep the customers.” Between rentals, retail shops, and concession stands, there is plenty of opportunity for customer service.
“We try to provide our customers with what they need in a friendly, productive manner, whether it’s customer service or first aid,” says Mason Harper, the director of operations at the ESPN park in Dallas, Texas. “Parents know they can drop their kids off, go shopping, or run errands, and know their children are safe,” adds Harper. Which may be one bonus of having bigger companies step in-they can afford the high costs of insurance and be well prepared in any unfortunate event.
“The revenues from the shops’ sales help also to maintain the ramps and the other areas of the park,” says Harper. Other smaller parks might not produce the amount of profits and run the risk of not being able to afford proper upkeep. “We stress the importance of feedback from our patrons,” Harper offers. “It’s imperative we know how the ramps and rails are, and how the setup can be better, and what products we should carry in the shop and the concessions stands. We want to provide what the people out on the floor need. We also have programs set up where anyone can get one-on-one lessons-something that isn’t being offered by everyone-to help the kids learn and advance. We want to try and set up pro clinics where kids can learn not only the basics but the more advanced tricks as well.”
“Burroughs & Chapin, along with ESPN,” says Aiello, “is dedicated to giving baack to the community and really pushing the sport in a positive direction.” The evidence of this can be seen in any of the ESPN’s year-round competitions.
Whether ESPN skateparks will be the future for skateboarding is something most skateboarders may be hesitant to think about, but based on the history of skateboarding’s cycles in popularity, it’s unlikely. Only time will tell, but companies like ESPN and Burroughs & Chapin seem well-prepared to build parks all over the country.