Chris Cormier is an Architect, photographer and aspirational skateboarder. Upon reflection, he realizes that it was through skateboarding that he first became interested in both architecture and photography. You can follow him on Instagram @archoftheenemy.
On April 5 a unique new Kickstarter campaign launched for the Ottawa area: The Yard’s goal is to open Ottawa’s only indoor, year-round bike and skateboard park. Within the first week the project had already raised almost half of their $100,000 goal. After reviewing the campaign for myself, I immediately signed up as a backer and contacted Anthony Bereznai to set up an interview to get the word out to our Apt613 readers. Anthony was kind enough to invite me into his home one chilly Saturday afternoon and we had a wonderful conversation about this very exciting project.
A key component of The Yard’s mission statement is to enhance and foster the action sports community here in Ottawa.
At this point some of you may be asking “Wait, why should this be covered in Apt613?” and the reality is that both Apt613 and The Yard have community at their core. A key component of The Yard’s mission statement is to enhance and foster the action sports community here in Ottawa and in much the same way, the founders of Apt613 saw this blog as a platform for building community in its own way. For another example of how people involved in action sports are working to enhance Ottawa overall, take a look at Jen Bernard’s article on Aaron Cayer, community builder and co-owner of Birling Skateboard Shop on Somerset.
As mentioned previously, Anthony and I met in his home to discuss The Yard and upon turning onto his street I could pick out his house almost immediately—it was clearly the one with all of the jump-ramps and obstacles on the front lawn. A family man, Anthony and his wife have 4 children between the ages of 6 to 14 and they are clearly a large part of the motivation behind this project. During our conversation and in the promotional material found on the Kickstarter page, there is clearly a strong desire to create a family-friendly environment that supports physical health and fosters personal growth.
With the well documented correlation between screen time and childhood obesity Anthony sees The Yard as a fun and exciting way to help kids become more active: “…this is one of those things where, without nagging them, you are taking care of a lot of those problems.” An indoor park provides novice riders, young and old, with a place to practice and perfect their technique on obstacles that are well built, and skill level appropriate. This can allow for a quicker progression than through riding outdoors where the effects of changing weather conditions, traffic, and other environmental factors play a much more significant role that may slow learning.
Anthony hopes it will become like a “clubhouse.” The goal is to have a place that users really understand “…is something special, is something they helped build, they helped open, and they helped evolve.”
The park is also a great place to provide positive role models for kids with more advanced riders demonstrating proper technique, but also in how to be engaged members of the community, how to care for the space and how to function in a group. “It is a social interaction. You have to figure out how to share, you have to figure out how to talk to people, you have to work together to deal with that one problem person- all real life experiences.” Unlike other pay-to-play facilities in the region, The Yard will offer a daily or sessional rate encouraging people to treat it differently. Anthony hopes it will become like a “clubhouse.” The goal is to have a place that users really understand “…is something special, is something they helped build, they helped open, and they helped evolve.”
Apt613 readers may be aware that is not the first time someone has attempted to open an indoor action sports park in the National Capital Region. In fact, according to my sources there have been 3 failed attempts in the past, but The Yard has set itself apart in two key aspects. The first being the Kickstarter campaign which has set a seemingly lofty goal of $100,000 in crowd-funding. Backers of the project are able to choose from a variety of funding tiers and provided with a number of discounted park passes in return. At the time of writing more than 300 people have pledged a total of $67,000 and there is still plenty of time before the May 19 closing date. That means the average backer is putting more than $200 towards the project (though there are numerous donation levels) and because of Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing formatting, the risk for backers is quite low should the project not reach its target.
The second key aspect that separates The Yard from the previous attempts is Anthony and the team he has assembled. With both an engineering degree and an MBA, Anthony works as a management consultant and clearly brings his business skills to this endeavor. It was his idea to go beyond the tribalism that still runs rampant in the action sports community, and attract buy-in from bikers, skateboarders, and scooter riders which is something that has not been achieved previously. No matter the community’s desire, he realizes that The Yard needs to be commercially viable in order to be sustainable. The seriousness with which he approaches this project has clearly piqued the interest of the action sports community in Ottawa with endorsements from Birling Skateboard Shop, Airborne Action Sports, and many others.
The Yard Kickstarter campaign is running now until Saturday May 19. To find out more information about what is going to be included in the park you and how you can contribute head over to their Kickstarter, Facebook, or Instagram pages.