Skate Space: Inner Space skate park opens in Fremont

It can't just be in some dump or out in the middle of nowhere," Mike Martinez told me about the choice of a location for his indoor skate park.

When he opened the only private park currently operating in Seattle - perhaps in King County or an even larger area - Mike "wanted to have it up here" in Fremont. He knew he wanted it in a nice neighborhood.

After a year of searching, he found the right space, near the corner of Stone Way and 35th Street, and the right landlord willing to take a chance on an unfamiliar idea.

Mike admits some locals heard his plan and immediately grew suspicious. One neighbor expected the worst and vowed skateboarders (or "skaters") spelled doom when Mike opened Inner Space last November.

Now, he's won them over. His customers shop neighboring businesses, but otherwise you might not be aware of their presence.

Until you step inside.

"More people skateboard now than play baseball," Mike announced when I met him recently.

It's possible. Skateboarding is "more socially acceptable" than ever.

"You get bad people anywhere," Mike admitted, "but this is all about having fun. It's a great outlet for kids. This is not a team sport; it promotes individuality."

When I first entered, I saw an 8-year-old ride his skateboard off a bench and on to the floor 2 feet below without an incident or visible stumble.

Early in the day, the large warehouse fills with kids practicing moves learned at the day camps conducted on-site. Mike admits that adults, with skateboards or in-line skates, show up more during bad weather and in winter.

However, this venue won't appeal to everyone.

"'Hoods' are never going to come here. They aren't going to pay," he said.

Plus, "they get kicked right out," Mike insisted. "Everybody that's here knows they're here to skate."

Private indoor skate parks have been around a long time - kind of a community service. "It gives kids a safe, supervised place to go," Mike said.

Public parks have no supervision, and parents feel more secure leaving their kids at a for-pay park where kids always wear helmets and play safe.

"In bad weather, it gives kids a place to go," he said.

For the kids, Mike sees this "mostly about having fun. If they keep skating, maybe...." They might compete someday in the X-Games but the potential for going pro doesn't really enter into it. They practice their sport and burn off energy - what we adults call 'getting exercise.'

The kids practice "Vert" skating - using the mini-half pipe with a spine ramp constructed in the cavernous depths of Inner Space - although this facility doesn't have the height for true Vert skating. For "getting vertical," you need bowls or pools. Inner Space "caters more to 'street' skating," Mike explained.

Using stairs or curbs, these urbanites can practice anywhere, especially the "flat-ground flip tricks."

The advantage of street skating, according to Mike, lies in its democracy: Anyone can do it with a board and a space - including the fairer sex. Girls attend the skate camps, and Mike suspects that women currently make up about 15 percent of his customer base.

For Mike, Inner Space is a "dream come true."

He's been skateboarding for 15 years - half his life - and now he can immerse himself in his favorite pastime.

As for exposure and growing his business, Mike doesn't worry too much about it.

"Word spreads," he told me.

As skaters know he's open, word-of-mouth will bring them here - to the Inner Space at the Center of the Universe.

Kirby Lindsay may be spotted attempting to balance herself on a bicycle - although she more often wanders Fremont with feet firmly padding pavement. She welcomes your comments at fremont

[[In-content Ad]]