Bridge opens part of 64-acre skatepark

Pro and amateur skaters and bikers broke in the X-Games caliber ramps and rails of newly furnished Autumn Skate Park April 7-9.

Scott Hasty

Pro and amateur skaters and bikers broke in the ‘X-Games caliber’ ramps and rails of newly furnished Autumn Skate Park April 7-9.

“Oooh and Aaah”these were the words to describe the newest hang out venue in Joplin.

The new John Q. Hammons Sports Park, or the new Bridge Complex as it is known, had its grand opening April 7- 9. The weekend was marked with music, fun and big air.

The first JoMoPro was held over the entire course of the weekend. The competition gave individuals of all ages the chance to see amateurs from around the region and pros from around the world break in the new skate park. Skaters and bikers participating in the competition owned the ramps April 7 when they practiced for the competitions held April 8 and 9.

“Over the entire course of the competition, our best guess is that it attracted 5,000 to 7,000 people,” said Lindsay Matush, marketing director of the Bridge.

The newly constructed Autumn Skate Park has more than 20,000 square feet of unique skate park. Ramps and bowls range in sizes from four to 11 feet deep. Also featured is an elevated street section designed for all sorts of freestyle tricks. The street section contains features including stairs, grind rails, bowl corners, hips, ledges, wedges, many gaps and transfers.

“It was designed and built by Nate Wessel, who is a pro BMX rider and he is one of the most sought after ramp builders in the world,” Matush said. “Ride BMX Magazine wrote that Autumn Ramp Park appears to be one of the most progressive skate parks in America today. The skate park is truly X-Games caliber.”

JoMoPro competition standings were as follows: first place , skateboard amateur class, Alex Owens, Kansas City; first place, skateboard pro class, Jud Heald, Joplin; first place, skateboard best trick, Jeremy Sizemore, Kirksville; first place, skateboard highest ollie, Austin James Hatley, Miami, OK; 1st place BMX amateur class, Andre Postell, Springfield, MA; first place BMX pro class, Andy Chapman, St. Louis; BMX best trick, Andrew Durigon, Kesswick, Ontario Canada; BMX highest bunny hop; Andrew Durigon, Kesswick, Ontario Canada.

The new Bridge is much more than just a skate park. Along with the skate park, plans included construction of an arcade, wiFi-Internet-capable computer ports, an alcohol-free bar and an amphitheater with state-of-the-art lighting and electronic equipment that will be able to “compete with venues in St. Louis and Kansas City.”

“The Bridge is kind of what you make of it,” Matush said. “If you are interested in nothing that any staff member has to say, that’s okay. We’re here being who we want to be [dash] sharing our lives, sharing truth, sharing love and if you want a part of that, awesome. But, if what you want is access to a 40-foot climbing gym, a café or free wireless Internet, that’s your prerogative.”

Other soon-to-be additions to the include an outdoor café seating; an outdoor hard court designed for volleyball, street hockey and basketball and a BMX dirt race course.

“The current facility is 64,000 feet and sits on 64 acres,” Matush said. “The Bridge is a $5.1 million facility. What we’re trying to do is give area residents a chance to do something not many people get to do. We have a mind for expansion. After all is said done, we’ve only touched 26 acres of the 64 acres donated by John Q. Hammons. Really, the sky is the limit to what we do next.”

Since the Bridge started in 1999, its grown tremendously, and the old “rented, warehouse” facility just didn’t support the needs of what a program such as the Bridge needed. The new complex has all that and more.

“One of our goals is to bring things to Joplin that maybe don’t exist anywhere else in the country,” Matush said. “We want to be progressive. We don’t want to just ride trends, we want to set them so maybe the trendsetters of the East and West will follow the Midwest’s example.”