Crowds gathered, speeches were given and ribbons were cut at the opening of the fourth annual Hay River X-Games last Saturday, but the action really got started when participants took to the course.
“I love it,” said Jacob Harder, a competitor in both the scooter and bike events. “There are way more ramps and better jumps… it’s just way better.”
The brand new skatepark — in the works for years and backed by both its own non-profit committee and the municipality — hosted its first big event Sept. 13, with riders and skateboarders invited from all over the South Slave to participate. Although the park has seen frequent use since it opened last month, Saturday also marked the official grand opening, complete with ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Like a lot of our signage says, it’s a dream come true,” said one of the park’s founders, Louise Schumann. “We’ve been working at it a long time and seeing it finally up and running is just great.”
Schumann was part of the Hay River BMX/Skatepark Committee that made the idea of a new park to replace the one at Kiwanis Park a reality. In the interim, some of the modular equipment had been placed on the same lot as the former Hay River Community Youth Centre, belonging to the town. With help from the municipality, local businesses and Diavik, which donated thousands of dollars worth of copper to be stripped and re-sold, the committee had the new facility built this summer.
“It’s starting to get a bit colder now, there are still kids out there all the time,” said Schumann, noting that the addition of floodlights added hours of riding time to the shortening fall days.
Sierra Balsillie agreed with fellow-competitor Harder about the quality of the new park.
“It’s really good,” she said. “I like the ramps better and there’s a half-pipe too. And none of the ramps have holes in them, like the other park.”
Since its inception, Schumann has said one of her motivating principles has been creating a space for youth without a lot of adult interference. She said since the park opened she has been out a few times to see how things are going, and while she said she doesn’t expect youth to always be perfect, so far what she has seen has been positive.
“It’s great to see how the kids are getting along,” she said. “They take turns, they watch out for each other. It’s been amazing… and there hasn’t been an adult there constantly telling them what to do and when to do it.”
This year’s X-Games were the biggest and best yet, according to Schumann.
“This is a great facility and we hope to make the event even better next year.”