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Ben Jones and East Shore Skatepark

Ben Jones (second from left) and the East Shore locals. Steve Crandall

Ithaca, NY has spawned some interesting people and happenings over the years. Not limited to but included are the ever famous "Ithaca Is Gorges" T-shirts, ice cream sundaes, Ithaca Gun Company, the birthplace of FBM Bikes, as well as home to the ever elusive Mike 'Tag' Tagliavento. In 2008, Ithaca also became home to its first indoor skatepark, known as East Shore, run by Ben Jones. Here is a little bit about Ben, the local scene, and his house of ramps.

Let's start with the basics. Name, age, location.
Ben Jones, age 33, Ithaca, NY.

When Was East Shore established?
In November 2008.

Why did you decide to open a park in the middle of upstate NY?
The weather is sketchy most of the year in Upstate. There is cold and snow from October to April and a lot of rain the rest of the year. In addition, I got sick of working for other people. I had several jobs after college that were super demanding, but not rewarding to myself. I have a master's degree in Recreation Management, so it just kind of fell into place.

What kind of obstacles did you overcome to get the doors open?
Funding was a major obstacle. I got a few loans and maxed out a bunch of credit cards. At this point, I have not made any money from the park; I'm just paying back banks. Hopefully, in the next year a lot of the payments will begin to disappear. Building the park itself was also difficult. We had to bring a building that was built in the '70's as a grocery store and then abandoned for 12 years up to today's building code standards, including the addition of handicap bathrooms, handicap ramps and fire alarm systems. Another big obstacle was the ceiling height of the building. The existing height was 15 feet. We knew that was too low for bikes. We had to put in new trusses that raised the ceiling to 20 feet. The trusses were definitely one of the hardest parts of the project and I cannot believe that no one died while we were doing that.

What else does East Shore offer besides ramps to shred?
A small but growing pro-shop. We try to sell local or regional products as much as possible, including FBM, Animal, Comet Skateboards and Kink. In addition to the retail area, we try to offer a lot of programming such as learn to skate/ride camps. In the summer, we do six weeks of day camp from 9 to 4 everyday.

What's the Ithaca/Central NY scene like?

I think that it is a growing scene. It went away for a little while when ECT closed, but I think that it is definitely on the rebound. There is a new indoor park opening up in Rochester (RASP) and another little outdoor park up north (Freedom), in addition to all the other municipal parks. We are all working together to grow the scene and make it better.

Any locals that get you stoked?
So many. First and foremost, Alex and Spencer, the local up and coming shredders. They help out a lot at East Shore. There are definitely a bunch of others though. Joel Barnett, Mario, Will, John Corts, Opie, Muggio, Souva, Coty Brown, Akin, Tommy B, Jammer, Jose, Josh, Kory Kryder, Kelly, Clint and Benny Baker, Jake Hamlin, Lil Dan, Red Beard and more.

What's your favorite part of running a skatepark?
A flexible schedule, being my own boss and riding my bike everyday!

Any shout outs? What's the haps this weekend?
Naea (my daughter), Nathalie (my girl), my mother and father, FBM and Crandall, big Roz, James, Breaker, and all the people who come to ride or skate the park! This weekend should be super fun! We have the FBM Comp/Swap on Saturday. This will be a unique event where we are having a BMX swap meet in the parking lot the first half of the day, followed by a jam and best trick contest later in the day. Really it is an awesome event to get everyone together to ride bikes and get stoked!

FBM's comp/jam comes to East Shore Skatepark on Saturday, May 1. It's $15 to ride and $3 to spectate. Festivities get underway at noon and will run all day long. For additional info on East Shore, check the East Shore site.