Lumberyard — It’s Time to Play Inside
By Samantha Shimogawa
For years now, the Pacific Northwest has had a lack of adequate indoor bike parks, although a few can be found in run-down warehouses or old stores, but the closest legitimate parks are located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Canada, and Cleveland — but no longer. The Lumberyard officially opened in the Northeast part of Portland, Ore., this past Mother’s Day, and it already has been a huge hit among the locals.
The name of the park is a throwback to Portland’s history with forestry and the fact that the Lumberyard consists of a lot of wood. Whether it’s because of the interesting name, the location, the plethora of ramps, or maybe all three, the park has already gathered a significant amount of praise and publicity, even at this early stage. Since April of 2011, well before the grand opening, the facility has been showered with coverage by various media companies.
According to Will Heiberg, co-founder of the Lumberyard, the idea of creating the park was inspired by another man, Ray Petro, the owner of Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park. After flying to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit Petro’s facility, he was completely blown away.
“I knew on the plane ride back that it was something I had to do,” Heiberg comments. However, even with his passion and determination, the journey to the Lumberyard’s opening was not entirely smooth. As someone who previously worked in the video game industry as an art manager, Heiberg is a predominantly creative person. While that may not be a bad thing, when it comes to business and the cut-and-dry logistics, he admits that creativity can be inhibiting.
“I had the ability to dream about it and create pre-visualizations, but putting numbers to it was something out of my expertise,” he explains. That’s where Michael Whitesel comes in.
After meeting Whitesel during their involvement on the board of the Northwest Trail Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes mountain biking and trail stewardship groups in the Northwest, Heiberg pitched his idea to Whitesel on a wet, muddy ride sometime in 2010. Having already assisted several businesses get their start, and being the entrepreneur that he is, Whitesel believed in the idea and thereafter the two formed a partnership that was needed to breathe life into the facility.
“My partner gave me the opportunity to put a business model to the dream,” Heiberg says of Whitesel, who helped find a location, put the Lumberyard team in place, and help turn the ideas in Heiberg’s mind into a reality that visitors can see and appreciate today.
Despite all the help, going through the process of bringing the Lumberyard to fruition took a lot of time, effort and perseverance. After acquiring financial investors based on their business model, the biggest hurdle, according to Heiberg, was finding an actual building to house the park in. After about a year of searching, they finally found an old bowling alley that was adequate in size. Then, they had to work on getting a permit for a mountain biking park, a difficult feat since there are no real guidelines to ensure all ramps and features are safe and they didn’t have many other facilities to get information from.
“Even in the parks that exist, a lot of them didn’t do any research or go through the permitting process,” Heiberg says. “That wouldn’t work in Seattle and Portland but in Cleveland, things work differently. There’s a lot more leeway.” So, the Lumberyard team had to personalize their guidelines and it took a total of nine months. Ultimately, though, Heiberg explains that it was worth it because now they have a blueprint for constructing the next facility they plan on building. Not to mention, having legitimate permits makes the park a lot safer.
Now that it’s officially open, the only problem according to Heiberg is not having enough hours in the day to accomplish everything he wants to get done. It’s obvious he’s proud of the scene they are creating at the Lumberyard.
“Everyone coming in has left with a huge smile,” he remarks. “So far everything is exceeding expectations.” Heiberg emphasizes how lucky he is to have such a great team working at the Lumberyard. His lead builder, Joe Prisel, has about 20 years of experience in his field. Another employee, Joshua Hutchen, has managed bike shops his whole life. Heiberg mentions he recently brought an amazing restaurant consultant on board as well.
“I’m surrounded by really smart people,” he remarks happily.
Currently, the 41,000-square-foot park houses beginner and intermediate technical sections and jump lines, a pump track, a singletrack loop, as well as a restaurant and kid’s riding area for those still learning. However, this is just the beginning, as Heiberg reveals that this is only phase one of a three-phase plan.
Phase two, he says, will consist of a 20,000-square-foot area with a 40-foot-tall ceiling and will be located in another, adjacent building they are constructing. In it, there will be an expert jump line, a foam pit, a resi ramp (a jump with a padded landing), and a continuation of the singletrack loop from phase one. It’s anticipated to be finished in mid-September. Phase three, planned to be constructed this upcoming winter, will be in the original building’s basement and will include a 60,000-square-foot “urban grind,” with street sections and spines, small quarter pipes, grind rails, etc., giving the place a skateboard park atmosphere.
Heiberg’s mission is to take the idea of an outdoor bike park to the next level and make it a place where families can go to have some fun.
“You can be a parent and you’ve got a place to hang out and plenty of places to sit, and a restaurant to watch the game and have a beer or a sandwich or whatever,” he says. Anyone who has been to any kind of indoor park can see the brilliance of such an idea — it’s always a hassle to pay for a day pass, leave to eat, and then come back. In addition, allowing the whole family to come to the same place and do different kinds of activities makes it easier (and more fun) for everyone, giving parents the option to either ride alongside their child or sit back and watch.
Furthermore, visitors can obviously bring their own bike and helmet, but they also have the option to rent on site, making it even more accessible to anyone of any ability, or even to regulars who want to try a different bike or stop by between errands or after work.
Heiberg’s objectives don’t end there, though, as he also hopes the park can become a gym replacement for customers.
“If I could just bike more I could skip the gym,” he remarks. And now he and his customers have the opportunity to do just that.
The Lumberyard team also has in place a number of events to entice more people to explore the facility. Mondays feature Ladies Night, and women are offered free mini yoga sessions and chair massages until 9 p.m. Passes for the night are only $19.95, five dollars cheaper than the regular price, and the cost for rental bikes is half off. On Tuesdays, the Lumberyard has BMX Night. All bikes and wheel sizes are welcome, but the focus is on BMX bikes.
In addition, the facility is also offering five-day bicycle training summer camps for youths nine to fourteen years old.
“It’s going to be a lot like taking a week of ski classes at a ski resort,” Heiberg explains. “Participants have to have the fundamentals of balance and braking and we’ll start from there and work their way up to learning how to do tricks and jumps and more advanced stuff.” The first camp will be July 23-27 and the second session will run August 6-10, taught by IMIC certified instructors. IMIC is the industry leading mountain bike certification provider, a prestigious standardized program that requires the applicant to pass a written and practical test. For older riders who want to build up their cycling skills, there will soon be additional clinics taught by certified Lumberyard employees.
As for the future of the facility, Heiberg reveals that he and Whitesel are planning to open more parks in multiple areas and are currently researching California, the Seattle area and even further north for potential locations.
“I’m hoping we can really put it all together,” he says. The founders have already sensed a certain level of success and adding a few more locations will no doubt be easier as they gain more experience. With such an impressive start and already some terrific reviews, the Lumberyard may be the next big thing.
For more information on hours, location, pricing and the summer camps, visit lumberyardmtb.com.