A Near-Perfect World

Company ramps keep employees happy and teamriders on top of their game.

You might think having a skate facility at the workplace would create problems with employees who prefer to shred than work. But if it’s managed properly, there’s no conflict.

“When you’re young, you dream of having your own ramp. We never looked at it as a business decision¿we just wanted our own ramp.” ¿Birdo, Consolidated

Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if, on your lunch break, you could walk out the back of the store or warehouse and skate a perfect ramp? This scenario is a reality for many skateboard-industry workers whose employers have built private “training facilities” for their teams, employees, and “affiliated personnel” (i.e., friends).

The reasons for building private facilities are many. “We thought it would be a great place for our teamriders, friends, and employees to skate,” says Redsand Clothing’s Lucas Gallagher. “It would also give people a chance to check out what Redsand is all about.”

Simply having your own place to ride and getting to design it rank the highest on the list. Other reasons include tax deductions, always having a place to shoot photos, being able to put up banners when magazine photos are shot there, avoiding crowds, and as an incentive when hiring. Duffs’ Dave Andrecht explains: “We use it as a motivational tool. It relieves a lot stress at the workplace.”

It’s often more practical to maintain a ramp or street course for the team rather than make a deal at a local skatepark. The benefits include setting your own hours, drinking what you please, not having to deal with inliners or bikers, mellow crowds, and not having to wear pads. Most facilities consist of a mini ramp, primarily because a ramp occupies a relatively compact and fixed area as compared to a street course. A company’s skate facility is usually built in or adjacent to its own warehouse, where cost per square-foot can be prohibitive. And if the man power or expertise isn’t available among the staff, professional ramp builders must be hired to produce a top-quality facility. It wouldn’t make much sense to pay rent for something no one wants to ride.

You might think having a skate facility at the workplace would create problems with employees who prefer to shred than work. But if it’s managed properly, there’s no conflict. “For the first couple months we had some issues, but since the ramp is so close to my office, I can keep a lid on it,” says Alias Distribution’s Doug Johnson. “Now no one skates except at lunch and after 4:00 p.m.”

With clear and enforceable rules, company managers can provide this perk without it becoming a liability. The point, after all, is to build morale. NHS’ Jeff Kendall recalls employees coming from their lunchtime skate session more energized and productive.

Companies with skate facilities manage them in a variety of ways. Some companies have everyone who rides sign a liability waiver. Most set certain hours when skating is permitted¿usually during lunch breaks and after-hours. And most facilities are indoors or locked and chained to prevent unauthorized use. In most cases, only a few people have keys or access to the facility. If you know the key holder, you’re good to go.

The life spans of company skate facilities vary greatly. Companies like Duffs have had a place to skate for over five years. The outdoor Redsand bowl has clocked over two years and is going strong. And Climax has had a mini ramp and street course at its headquarters for over nine years. Unfortunately, several really fun ramps came down almost as quickly as they went up. Innes had to dismantle its tight sixteen-foot-wide mini ramp when the space was needed for expanding inventory. The infamous NHS Cannery skatepark met its maker when the space was needed for other projects. “Now we have a basketball goal that doesn’t get nearly as mucch coverage or use,” says Kendall.

Most companies don’t change or modify their skate facilities very often, although they usually keep them in pretty good shape. Every month Gallagher puts new stickers on the Redsand ramp, adjusts the coping, and checks screws in the riding surface. But Jim Thiebaud’s maintenance regimen is probably more common: “We sweep the ramp every few months, and I always talk about making the low side higher. But I just can’t find the time. We nail shit onto it just to mix it up.”

Volcom, Atlas, Duffs, Overboard, Alias, Redsand, Girl, Consolidated, Climax, and DNA Distribution all have current facilities that range from the full-blown skatepark-style street set up at Girl to a micro-mini ramp at the Alien Workshop headquarters. Some of the more famous but defunct facilities include the NHS Cannery, the World Industries skatepark, and the many mini ramps¿Innes, Elwood, and Tum Yeto, to name just a few.

As companies continue to grow and value their employees more, plans are always being laid for the next super park. Imperial Distribution just moved into a much larger warehouse and has big plans for a skatepark later this year. Tum Yeto is considering a new ramp. About 15,000 square feet of Savier’s new 18,000-square-foot Portland, Oregon warehouse is a team-training facility. And Sole Technology took a new approach when Etnies donated 100,000 dollars as the primary sponsor of the nearby Lake Forest, California public skatepark. The company hopes to assist in fast tracking the project so its employees can be skating by the end of the year.

The list of pros who have their own ramp or warehouse is continually expanding. But while Steve Berra, Chad Muska, Max Schaaf, Jim Thiebaud, Bob Burnquist, Pat Channita, Dan Drehobl, Mathias Ringstrom, and Rob Dyrdek are all enjoying their private facilities, few others are allowed.

Oftentimes getting a place going can be a quick and fluid process. “We just realized we could build something,” explains Consolidated’s Birdo. “The warehouse next to us became open, Alan Petersen bought the wood, and Todd Nelson built it. When you’re young, you dream of having your own ramp. We never looked at it as a business decision¿we just wanted our own ramp.”

When trying to convince your boss that your company needs a ramp, persistence pays off. Outline the benefits, and do the legwork. The fruits of your labors will be long-lasting.