Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Skateboard fan's dream: Indoor park

Owner, 25, designed course

By Anna Guido
Enquirer Contributor

        SPRINGDALE — Matt Cones can tell you everything there is to know about grinds, slides and airs, and can easily do a burley without getting loopy.

(Cathy A. Lyons photo)
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        This is skateboard talk, a language Mr. Cones has known since adolescence.

        The 25-year-old Fairfield resident and Miami University senior is an expert skate-boarder, and last year turned his 15-year hobby into a business that's already seen a profit.

        “It's something I've always dreamed about, and it just kind of took off,” Mr. Cones said of his indoor skate-boarding and in-line skating facility.

        Sessions Skatepark at 32 West Crescentville Road is one of just a few skate parks in the Tristate, but among a growing number of indoor and outdoor skate parks in the United States and abroad.

        Others in the Tristate are in Blue Ash, Middletown, Lexington and near Indianapolis.

        Skate-boarding has a rich history of innovation and dates to the early 1900s, according to The Concrete Wave, published by Warwick Books. The sport's popularity has roller-coastered over the years and is on the rise again, due in part to its exposure beginning in 1995 on ESPN2's Extreme Games.

        Mr. Cones, a St. Xavier High School graduate, started skateboarding when he was 10. His interest in the sport was sparked by an older neighbor boy who became a role model for Matt after his father's death. At the time, skateboarding didn't have a good image, according to Matt's mother, Marilyn Cones.

• Hours: Sessions Skatepark is open 4-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 4-9 p.m. and 9-11 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-noon (beginner session), 12:30-5:30 p.m. and 6-11 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m.-noon (beginner session) and 12:30-6 p.m. Sundays.
• Price: Full session: $6 for members, $9 for nonmembers; beginner session: $2 for members, $4 for nonmembers.
• Membership fees: $30 annually.
• Helmet rental: $2 per session. All persons under 18 are required to wear helmets.
• Telephone: (513) 671-7433 (RIDE). Fax: (513) 671-2258.
        “The boys dressed strange — they all wore baggy pants and looked like one of the Seven Dwarfs,” Mrs. Cones said. “They were chased off the streets. They were chased off the sidewalks. They couldn't skateboard anywhere. The sport was not looked upon favorably.”

        Mrs. Cones said she tried to get her son interested in a sport that was more socially acceptable.

        “I bought him golf clubs, signed him up for lessons and even went golfing with him,” she said. “We'd do two holes and he'd say, "Mom, I have to go skateboard.'”

        “I would have been much happier if Matt had a golf club or tennis racket in his hand. But skateboarding is what he liked and he's doing something that his father wanted to do.”

        Mr. Cones' late father, Thomas, was a partner in what is now the Performance Automotive Network in Cincinnati. Before he died, the senior Mr. Cones was looking into opening a skate park in Forest Park.

        Matt was halfway through his business administration studies at Miami University when he decided to take a little time off and pursue the dream he and his father shared. Matt was confident the business would do well.

        “I've been skateboarding in Cincinnati my whole life, so I had a good feel for it,” he said.

        Everything that went into the skate park's development — the design, rules and regulations, hours of operation — were based on Mr. Cones' own experience.

        “Winter is the busiest time, and night,” he said. “And we're not air conditioned — most skate parks aren't — which kind of dictates the business hours.”

        The warehouse-like building has 7,000 feet of ramps. Mr. Cones and skateboarder friend Ryan Fitzer designed the street-style course that simulates the city streets where they learned to skateboard.

        Sessions also features ramps like the ones used in amateur competitions Mr. Cones performed in over the years.

        Skate-boarding and in-line skating at Sessions are available for children and adults of all skill levels and are closely monitored for safety. Mr. Cones can view the floor from his office window and often goes out and skateboards with customers.

        “It's hard work,” he said. “I have to work most of the hours during nonpeak season because I can't afford to pay employees. But the first year we made a profit, which is good and rare in the business world.”

        Plans at Sessions include building an outdoor facility (known as a concrete bowl) to draw summer clientele. Beyond that, Mr. Cones said he's not sure what he wants to do. “Maybe open more skate parks. Or maybe help design and consult (for) others who want to build skate parks.”


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