From the Archives: Impact Skatepark 1998-99
In 1997 Kevin Robinson and a few partners opened up a skatepark in East Providence, RI called Impact Stunt Park. At the time, there were very few skateparks in the area (ZT Maximus and Skater Island were about it) and the ones that existed only allowed bikes one night a week at best. The Northeast winters are harsh, and the only option, if we wanted to ride, was riding indoors. For many of us, this meant spending a lot of time riding flatland in parking garages, and waiting for the only bike night at the other parks. Thanks to Kevin and crew, the Northeast was saved, at least for a few years. Impact was one of the few skateparks in the country (at the time) that was designed with bikes in mind. As a result, the clientele was nearly all bike riders and inline skaters. The vast array of transitions didn’t really appeal to skateboarders, which, from a business standpoint, didn’t really cut it after a while. But from a bike riders perspective it was great: there was a mini ramp with a spine, big quarterpipes, a box jump, street spine, sub boxes, grind ledges, wallrides…. Impact had had everything… for bikes at least.
Impact held contests every few months, drawing riders from all over the east coast. Props’ Road Fools came through the park in its infancy. Impact was featured in the major BMX magazines of the time, and I shot the first BMX ad photo I ever sold there, fittingly a photo of Kevin for a Hoffman Bikes ad (you can see the shot after the jump). Impact’s large parking lot often saw gatherings of some of the best flatland riders in the Northeast.
Every good skatepark needs a shop, and Impact brought in one of the best BMX shops in the country at the time, Dick Maul’s Bike Shop. Dick Maul’s only other location was run out of a garage in Halifax, Massachusetts, and to this day I’ve seen very few shops that rival the selection Maul’s had (and I assume still has). A second location opened up inside Impact for the first year the park was open, but sadly, it just wasn’t doing enough business to stay open. John Maul and Rich Daguirda, who ran the shop did get to spend a lot of time riding the park, though.
During the late ’90s Impact was like a second home to me. I was living in Boston and working at a magazine while going to school, yet somehow, I found time to help Kevin out running the place a few days a week. I’d go down early, ride flatland indoors before the park opened, and then help run the park for a few hours, all while either riding or shooting photos. Like many east coast indoor spots, Impact was so dark it made photography difficult, but that actually helped me to figure out how to use a camera and shoot action. A lot of screwing up and “wasting film” was one of the best learning tools, and the constant flow of great east coast riders ultimately led me to shooting BMX for a living.
I moved to California in 1999, and not too long thereafter Impact saw its demise. Kevin had moved away to Woodward, PA to focus on vert riding, and in his absence a lot of things were falling apart. Indoor skateparks are an incredibly tough business, and Impact fell victim to that. Economics just aren’t in favor of indoor skateparks. But while it lasted, Impact supported the Northeast BMX scene and gave us a place to ride. Many of the riders who regularly shredded Impact still ride today, and have had success in BMX, including Ryan “Biz” Jordan (pictured above, click to go bigger), Jerry Bagley, Keith McElhinney, Derrick “The Maine-iac” Girard, and of course, Kevin himself. Check out more including a photo gallery after the jump.Below is the first “real” BMX ad photo I ever shot. Looking back it’s a bit silly. Boks, a division of Reebok that was making shoes for the BMX market had just folded, and since Kevin’s feet were kicking giant “Boks” logos at me, he put Hoffman Bikes stickers on the bottoms of his shoes. This ended up getting used as a Hoffman Bikes ad in Ride BMX, and perhaps elsewhere.
The photo of Brian Tunney below is from one of the Impact contests, during a time when I was experimenting with some different techniques. I was washing film in the washing machine, processing film in a mixture of folgers coffee and washing soda (seriously), and trying whatever I thought would yeild weird results. I don’t even recall what the combination of madness was used on this roll. There is a similar scratched photo of Marcel Tremblay in the gallery below.
Below is current Staff BMX Mailorder owner Bob Pratt, riding a Basic Bikes frame, and nosepicking the giant sub box toward the back of the park. At the time, this thing seemed massive.
Note: if you’d like to view a larger version of the images below than what the gallery shows, you can right-click, and select view image. You know, when you guys grab these for your facebook and such. Might as well get ‘em big.