When Stephen Shoge tried out his new indoor skatepark at 70 James Street in Worcester, he said it was a lot of fun.
“It’s a good flow, it has pretty much every kind of obstacle you want,” Shoge said.
Shoge is the executive director of Vessel Skate Park, which he hopes will open in the city very soon.
The skatepark itself is complete, there are only a few city permits left before it can be opened to the public, Shoge said.
Once the skate park is open, it will be free for anyone to come and skate.
“We’ll charge you for things like summer camps or… if you sign up to be a member, it obviously costs something, but yes, it’s free for anyone who wants to skate,” Shoge said.
The skatepark may offer free admission because of its relationship with City Light Church and other churches, friends and family that are offering their support, Shoge said.
“Many of these individuals and churches are providing money monthly to the skatepark because they know it will benefit the community and it will be an amazing opportunity,” he said.
The skatepark also received a grant from Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.
“We are proud to support Vessel Skatepark!” Early’s office posted on Facebook: “They bring all walks of life and skill levels together to have fun, provide structure and offer positive role model guidance at their free indoor skatepark in Worcester ”.
The opening of the skatepark was a team effort, with several church volunteers, and Shoge said director of operations Jonathan Yeo played an important role in the skatepark.
When Shoge, 33, moved to Worcester four years ago, he realized there was a huge need for an indoor skatepark. The nearest indoor skatepark is an hour and 15 minutes away.
“The cold here lasts a long time, so it’s hard to skate,” Shoge said, “and it’s hard to connect… with other skaters when you have to stop for half the year.”
By opening the skatepark, Shoge will also be tying up his ten years of experience with the skateboarding ministry.
Shoge is a Christian and he sees skateboarding ministry as connecting with people through skateboarding and sharing with them that he has found “peace and hope and joy and a fulfilling life because of my relationship with Jesus”.
There will be regularly scheduled sessions at the skatepark a few times a week that will include 10 to 15 minutes where the group will stop skating and “share how God has changed our lives,” Shoge said.
People will know in advance when these sessions will take place, so if they don’t want to attend, they don’t have to, according to Shoge.
“I don’t think religion should be forced on anyone,” Shoge said, “I don’t think anyone should be demoted or judged or anything like that.”
When Shoge grew up, he was in a single parent’s home and didn’t have many positive role models in the skateboarding community.
“So being able to provide that, I think anyone would agree that this is a good thing,” Shoge said.
The skatepark will also have rookie nights that are geared towards younger and less experienced skaters, so “they feel more comfortable, they won’t get in anyone’s way, they won’t worry about someone running over them or anything like that,” he said.
There will also be periodic contests where skaters can share their skills and win prizes.
They will also have different events like concerts and art shows, Shoge said.
Shoge has been skating for about 23 years and designed the park to maximize the amount of skating that could be done in a small space. The space is about 6,600 square feet.
“I tried to put together some elements that I know cater to many different types of skaters,” Shoge said, “whether they like transitions or street obstacles, trying to have a good mix in a tight space where you can also flow. the park.”
The park will also feature a side room where skaters can hang out, which will have a ping pong table and some couches and will likely have some arcade games and board games, Shoge said.
Everyone is welcome at the skatepark, but Shoge said most people who come are likely to be between 12 and 24 years old.
“We hope that skaters, people who ride scooters and rollerblades and everything else, we hope that all young people feel free to come and want to come here,” he said.