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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Indoor skatepark teaches skill and spirit of skating

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Max Messex, a frequent visitor of the park, rollerblading in Skate the Foundry. PHOTO: MAX KELLY ’24/THE HAWK

From the outside, there’s nothing special about the reddish-brown brick warehouse building in the Belmont neighborhood of Philadelphia. But inside Skate the Foundry West Philly is a paradise for skateboarders and roller skaters. 

In addition to a skate shop that is just inside the front door, there are three rooms filled with tan plywood ramps and ledges. These rooms are equipped with quarter pipe walls, ledges and mini ramps. One has a concrete pool complete with coping for loud, satisfying grinds.

Skate the Foundry West Philly is not owner Brett Williams’ first indoor skatepark. He opened Skate the Cellar in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia in 2012 so that he and his friends could skate without having to worry about the weather.

Skate the Foundry was built in the summer of 2017, mostly by Williams and 5th Pocket Skateparks owner, Jesse Clayton, and opened in September of that year. Williams said it took him and Clayton months of long, humid nights full of hard work to construct the park.

“We started out with just the street course,” Williams said. “We added the mini ramp  six months after we signed our lease here. And then about three or four years later, that’s when we opened up the mini ramp room.”

Williams grew up in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, about 12 miles northeast of Center City, Philadelphia, next to Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. He became interested in skateboarding when he saw a few college students attempting to ollie down a set of stairs from his window one day and was immediately intrigued. He bought his first skateboard and hasn’t stopped since.

“At that time, I referred to it as ‘jumping down the stairs,’” Williams said. “And I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I wanted to give it a try.”

In 2021, Williams opened his second location for Skate the Foundry in Elkins Park with the goal of teaching people how to skateboard in the very spot that he learned.

“I chose Elkins Park because I was very familiar with the neighborhood, the community, the people who lived there, the demographics, and I felt pretty confident and comfortable going into it, bringing it back to my hometown,” Williams said. “It was something really special.”

Just a 10-minute drive from Hawk Hill and a seven-minute drive from University City, Skate the Foundry West Philly offers open skate sessions, private lessons, after-school clubs, events and more. 

Williams said he started teaching lessons totally organically. Over time, membership of Skate the Cellar grew, and the original members started to bring in their children. These became Williams’ first students and ignited a new passion in his life for teaching and sharing his love for skateboarding.

“I said, ‘Whoa, having this indoor skate park for my friends and I, there’s so much more to offer the community and the world by including so many other people,’” Williams said.  “It changed the whole dynamic of the skate park, and I fell in love with that.”

In their after-school skate club, students learn about skate culture, history and terminology as well as basic tricks like dropping in. One afternoon in early December 2022, instructor Possum Talarico helped the dozen or so kids in the class who were still learning how to drop in. Kids who could consistently drop in on the mid-sized quarterpipe were allowed to free skate during this time. 

Ten-year-old Kai Berkey-Gerard has taken private lessons at Skate the Foundry and said the instructors are kind and helpful. Berkey-Gerard was given free skate access and went straight to the mini ramp room, which he said is his favorite part about the space.

“I was skating the street, and I was having a lot of trouble,” Berkey-Gerard said “Then, I got used to this [mini ramp room], and I’ve been skating it for a long time. It’s really fun.”

Kevin Crowley, manager and instructor at Skate the Foundry West Philly, said he has seen how Williams has affected other people’s lives firsthand. 

“He’s built this amazing place and provided programs not only for adults, but for kids to be able to work through things,” Crowley said. “He shows them how skateboarding can be used as an outlet and then he takes it to the next level by helping out local kids in the community by hooking them up with boards, safety gear and time to come in and skate, because he never had a place to come in and skate when he was a kid.”

Max Messex, a rollerblader who lives in Philadelphia, regularly attends open skate sessions, and said the environment at Skate the Foundry West Philly is laid back, positive and encouraging. 

“I’ve been rollerblading since I was a kid and it’s cool to see how much the scene has changed around rollerblades,” Messex said. “When I was a kid, there was so much flack for being on rollerblades, but here there is nothing but love.”

Williams said that for kids, skateboarding can offer lots of benefits both physically and mentally. While the activity is good for being active and developing balance, Williams said it also teaches people not to give up on achieving their goals. 

“People fail every single day when they’re participating in these sports,” Williams said. “Falling just becomes so normal and then having people cheer for you after you fall becomes normal too. You get to celebrate your failures because you know that you’re going to achieve it eventually.”

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Max Kelly
Max Kelly, Website Manager/Multimedia Editor
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