Source Park: worth the risk
Hastings entrepreneurs Rich and Marc Moore are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the beachside skatepark complex, known as Source Park, is open for a spectacle this Saturday 13 February 2016, writes Chris Cormack. All this for a few thrills and spills you may say, but no, this is the training base for the new 21st century heroes. Yes, there will be bumps and scrapes, a ‘health and safety nightmare’, but well done Hastings Borough Council for identifying that this is what is needed nevertheless as an outlet for adventure.
I am literally in awe of the ‘awesome’ BMX and skateboard pros who turned out for the press demonstration of the new facilities this week. See the type of people I mean in last year’s Boyley Park 2015 ‘Battle of Hastings’. All seemingly early twenties or younger, they are the flower of our youth; in other generations they would be the dare-devils that kept us feeling safe in our beds over the skies of the Battle of Britain or the very ‘gentle knights’ of the middle ages. They are quietly confident of their talent and not afraid to take a fall in order to hone their skills.
They treat each other with courtesy and respect, and despite the element of competition, applaud sincerely each other’s achievements and empathise with the ‘fails’, even if there may be laughter. These are the right kind of role models for our youth: they are ‘cool’, they are the spirit of enterprise!
I can’t wait to see Hastings blossom as a European hotspot for BMX and eventually skateboarding; the complex will host the next ‘Battle of Hastings’ competition in September, attracting professionals and punters from all over the world, and I am sure it will be a huge success. The Moore brothers reportedly have raised £100,000 in sponsorship for the ‘Battle of Hastings’ and 66 of the best riders in the world should be coming here.
The Source Park is a huge underground all- weather skatepark facility situated under the seafront in the heart of Hastings and open to all ages and disciplines. There are specific sessions for BMX and skateboards with mixed sessions open to all BMX, skateboards, scooters, inline and MTB, but entry is not permitted to folding scooters or mini BMX bikes/rocker bikes. On Sunday the Fox team will be riding and signing/giveaway opportunities. Some of the riders come from as far afield as South Africa and Latvia – keep an eye out on the Source’s social media pages for more information on the list of riders coming.
“Everyone is welcome at the opening whether they are riding, skating, visiting the shop, drinking coffee in the cafe or just hanging out to watch,” says Source boss Richard Moore. “We can’t wait to show you what we have made!” There is a large spectator area in the main park and a cafe with seating; altogether up to 600 spectators can be accommodated across two balconies.
It might be better to think of coming as a spectator (free) this weekend, as spaces for the opening two hour weekend sessions (bookable online at £6) will be limited; at the time of writing, Saturday was already fully booked and there was limited availability on Sunday. The opening weekend sessions will be for BMX and skateboards only. From Monday 15 February a regular schedule will be in place. Each session is specific to each park and not for both at the same time. Booking in advance is not compulsory but it will guarantee you a spot in one of the parks. You can just turn up on the day, but this is not advisable during the initial rush!
The building itself is certainly a unique one. First opened way back in 1876, the building was originally built as a Turkish bath, where people would go to have hot sea water baths washed down with a cigarette or two in the smoking room (now the new Source shop). Since then it has been a cinema, swimming pool and an ice rink (now the Main Park). The ice rink closed in the early 90’s and since then, this underground wonder has lain derelict.
It was no simple matter restoring the dank underground area. The ramps could not simply be dropped in. The whole building needed a full renovation; there was no power, no plumbing and a tunnel had to be bored under the main road to supply the complex with broadband. The whole place leaked like a sieve. In fact a stream runs by design through the basement from the cliff and once it gets to a certain level, it is pumped out to the sea.
The main park is set inside the old swimming pool. Its old floor was extensively excavated in order to drop the ramps into the pool area for more height and deck space. This area is a ‘perfect mix of transition’, one big bowl and a half bowl at one end and some street/plaza furniture at the other, all linking together so you can progress from one end to the other. The 360 degree balcony will provide an amazing vantage point for the spectators at the numerous international competitions that are planned. If you fancy a bit of downtime, the balcony café is perfect, complete with a BMX grab machine – you know the grab machines you have at the seaside where you win teddy bears – only this one is full of BMX parts!
At the other end of the building is the plaza. This is what you can expect from a ‘plaza’, loads of ledges, rails, flat banks etc with a little transition to link the whole thing up and flow. Interesting extras to be seen in the plaza include a flat bank with a race gate on it and a speedo at the bottom to get those competitive juices flowing, should you forget that its all just for fun! There is also a foam pit tucked away down the side – ideal for starter lessons – maybe even from some old Hastings pros. This area is available for private use, birthday parties, etc.
Called the Garden II, there will also be an outdoor space set down in an inner courtyard, right on the seafront but protected from the wind. If you remember the original Source Garden – basically a ‘wooden park set up so that you can trick yourself into thinking you are at the trails’, the Garden II will be equally as weird and wonderful as the first one. By the looks of things, work has yet to start on this but, weather permitting, it should open in the spring/summer of 2016.
The Source Park is mainly for BMXers and skateboarders with dedicated sessions for both of these disciplines. However some open sessions can allow ‘anything and everything’; others can be under 12s or female only sessions. Coaching sessions, riding or skating, for beginners and developers will be on offer.
Hastings Borough Council is the trustee for the Hastings and St Leonards Foreshore Charitable Trust which owns the building; as such they had a duty to protect the assets of the trust for the benefit of us all. It has been widely spoken of that the council had to consider the option of concreting in the whole space to prevent it from becoming an ongoing liability to the trust and the town.
It was reported that the Moore brothers invested £250,000 of their own money in this venture that saved the historic site from the ignominious concrete. Hastings Borough Council, East Sussex County Council and the Foreshore Trust laudably put together a £1.17 million grants and support package to get the project off the ground and Saville Jones, a Worthing-based practice, was commissioned to design and manage the construction work. The local firm Colours have carried out all major repairs.
Cllr Dawn Poole, the council’s lead member for regeneration, explained: “We’re delighted that after months of refurbishment we are now able to join Rich and Marc Moore to show off this fantastic facility on our seafront and open it to the public… The building will be let on a 10-year lease to the Source who aim to establish a world class indoor BMX and skateboard facility here in Hastings, creating 30 jobs and which will undoubtedly greatly improve this area of our seafront and attract visitors to the town.”
It may be that 10 years is all that can be guaranteed with regard to the future structural integrity of the site, but there can be no doubt that this is a valiant attempt to rescue an historic facility and establish Hastings as a world centre for a growing sport at the same time. BMX was included in the 2008 Olympic Games, and skateboarding has been recommended for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. All the while the Source is adding to Hastings’ commercial rates income from its own facility and from the other local traders that will benefit greatly from the influx of visitors.
The Source will be open from 12 noon to 10pm, seven days a week, and possibly earlier at weekends and in school holidays. Everything is indoors, so there is no weather or poor lighting to worry about. Source Park and Shop, White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JL. For directions to the Source Park and a map, please visit the location page.
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