UK Indoor Skatepark Spot Check 4: Campus, Bristol
Andre Seidel and Tim Nokes have been providing shelter to the skateboarders of Bristol for upwards of six years, and with their third venture – the appropriately titled Campus Pool - the duo took over a previously abandoned swimming baths and installed a unique concrete park which has proven massively popular with locals and visiting teams alike.
For the fourth of our ‘Terrain Spotting’ spot checks, we decided to head to the West Country and pay The Pool a visit, meeting up with a gaggle of local types for an evening sesh, the fruits of which can be seen below.
You’ll find all the info you need below, as well as an interview with Andre Seidel about the parks history, their current state of play and plans for the future.
The Pool is open 7 days from 10am, though they host a variety of sessions including Toddler Takeovers, Girl Only sessions and Veteran Nights for the over 30s. Be sure to consult the Campus website for the full timetable.
The Pool is situated just outside of Bristol city centre, though if traffic is clear you should be able to drive there in a little over 15 minutes.
Making use of the shape of the original pool and the room in which it sat, the park is a quite tight affair, but aside from the one 8-foot corner (which you’ll see Ryan Price and Pete Carron attacking shortly) everything in there is at a good enough height for you to either learn on if you’re just starting out on your skateboarding journey, or have a laugh on should you be already comfortable on your plank. Basically, you don’t need to be Grant Taylor to enjoy a session at The Pool. But if you do happen to be GT then it’s not going to hurt…
In terms of what the park has to offer, you’ll be pleased to learn that the layout is varied and includes quarters and banks of differing sizes, a steady hip, some legit curbs which are always a pleasure to session, a road gap, a rail and a hubba, neither of which you could class as ‘massive’. If you like to think outside of the box then there is plenty of opportunities to head off-piste here too, just keep your eager eyes open.
Photography by CJ – edit by Mike ‘Tidy Mike’ Pearson.
Andre Seidel interview.
For those who haven’t been to the park yet, this is an ex-council swimming baths that you guys re-appropriated as a skatepark. How did that even begin as an idea and how much red tape did you encounter in the early stages?
The Pool is actually the third indoor skatepark that we have built. Our first one was in Bedminster, not far from where The Pool is now. The lease on our first park was coming to an end and we were looking for a new home when we found an article in the local paper asking interested parties to contact the council. From that moment it actually took us three years before we got the keys to the building and during that time we built our second indoor skatepark in an old youth centre in Winterbourne, Bristol.
The process required a lot of community consultation and a ton of paperwork, but it was all worth it in the end as we now have a twenty-five year lease on the property under the Community Asset transfer scheme.
Did you have any help from the council or grants from something like the National Lottery Fund?
Initially we did not get any help from the council, we had some savings and ran a crowdfunding campaign that generated some capital for the build. The bulk of our funds came from a business loan that we are currently paying off. Since we opened we have got some funding from Sport England to build our café that is attached to the skatepark.
The reality of an indoor concrete skatepark seems like a tall order in the UK. What were some of your concerns as far as the build, costs and the more permanent nature of poured concrete rather than wood?
We always wanted an indoor concrete park, even when we were building our wooden park we were dreaming about concrete. It is just so much more fun to ride, which makes the cost and the permanence worth it. When we built The Pool there was only one other indoor concrete park in the UK and they had just been built. Secretly we were hoping to be the first but due to the lengthy process to acquire the building we came in second.
I guess having a wooden skatepark and a concrete one we are pretty well placed to give insight into the pros and cons of both. Wood is easier to change but it also weathers quicker and needs more upkeep. Concrete is way more expensive, but it makes for a much better ride and also requires less TLC once it is built. I think the next step for us will be adding a few wooden obstacles to the concrete park.
Indoor skateparks in the UK have been known to suffer a little during the summer months, often sub-letting some of the space for other activities such as climbing and go-karting. You guys have an excellent café and an on-site skate shop. How important is providing a full and comfortable experience for the whole family as far as offering a welcome environment as a move away from the ‘Mum waits in the car’ days? The extra revenue stream of the café and skateshop must help keep everything ticking over, right?
Skateparks are definitely seasonal and so are skateshops. The great thing about combining the two is that you get a pretty steady income stream, skateshops being busier in the summer and indoor skateparks being busier in the winter.
But by far one of the best things that we have done is add a comfortable coffee shop to the site. This has changed the dynamic of the park completely. Often we will have periods where we only have customers coming in for a coffee or something to eat. And yes, as you stated earlier parents are way happier to sit in the coffee shop and wait for their kids.
A great feature in the coffee shop is our massive wood burner, which makes the whole space extremely cosy in the winter.
I think any business today that isn’t diversifying with different revenue streams has its days numbered, the secondary spend of parents and people using the skatepark is often more than the cost of the session.
You guys offer specific sessions for toddlers, female skaters and over 30’s amongst other things. How important do you think it is to provide the different sessions? I guess there’s space for confidence building and time to nurture younger skaters during the one-to-one tuition you offer, right?
Both Tim and I have kids aged between one and six years old which is what started our ‘toddler takeover’ sessions; we both wanted a safe space where we could introduce our kids to skateboarding. We started having play days with our kids’ friends and they went down so well that we decided to open it up to other parents. The toddler takeover sessions are the fastest growing group that we offer. It is just awesome to see toddlers figuring out how to use a skatepark properly; hopefully this will mean fewer accidents when they get older.
Girls and over 30’s groups are also incredibly important; Bristol has such a strong skate scene that some sessions it can be intimidating if you have only just starting skating. So these sessions offer a time and space where people can feel comfortable skating and learning.
It seems like you guys have really created a community with the park, have you seen kids go from capable park locals to full on bosses over the past few years?
We are coming up to our sixth birthday but we have actually been a part of the scene for more like eight years, and during that time we have definitely seen some kids go from not being able to stand on a skateboard to being full-blown rippers. Kids like Edwin, Ben, Sol, Louis and Rafferty. Edwin was actually a scooter kid when we first met him and now kills it on a skateboard. Maybe the most well know guy is Francis Peters, who we sponsored way back when and now he is all over Sidewalk.
You guys have attracted some of the biggest names out there with demos and tour appearances over the past few years. What are some of the highlights for you?
It is always amazing when you get to meet big names in skateboarding, especially when you watch them skate a skatepark that you have built and they really enjoy it. One of the most memorable for me was meeting and getting tattooed by Eric Dressen in 2013. Since then Wes Kremer was awesome to watch, and then just a few months ago having the Volcom team do a lock in - they definitely set the bar high for what can be done in the park.
Do you guys have any events lined up for the rest of the year or 2018 that we should know about?
We have our annual FTW (Forget The Weather) jam happening on the 16th December. This one will be our biggest and best yet, and not one to be missed. We will be trying out a new format that will include ‘Biggest, Fastest and Longest’. As usual, Mr Joe Habgood will be on the megaphone getting everyone amped.
What are the longer-term plans for The Pool?
Over the last six months we have been working with Shiner Distribution to get the old boiler room ready to house a new wooden mini ramp. The room will have a clubhouse feel to it with some sofas and a pool table. Let’s just say that 2018 is going to be a great year with a few new things coming to Bristol.
UK Indoor Skatepark Spot Check 4: Campus, Bristol