Sk8 Church finds new home
After years of searching, group is building indoor skate park, lounge and meeting area
January 17, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Construction at the Sk8 Church building in Riverside Plaza is ramping up — literally. The west Steamboat Springs space, leased by Sk8 Church for at least the next 18 months thanks to an anonymous grant, will have a meeting area, offices, lounge and, most important, an indoor skate park.
Buck and Tara Chavarria, who started the church four years ago, have been looking for a place to call home since they started packing their house, bowling alleys, hotel conference rooms and other meeting spots with teens for weekly services.
"We're the only skate church with no skating eight months out of the year," Tara Chavarria said, but that started to change when they talked to the owner of Steamboat PowerSports, who owns the building and agreed with the vision the Chavarrias presented.
Michael Graves, one of the co-owners of the building, said he was taken by the presentation by Sk8 Church about the need for a teen meeting place.
"There is a large population here of young adults who need things to entertain themselves with and don't have anywhere to go," he said. "Once I was made aware of that, it really tugged at my heart, and I convinced (co-owner) Greg (Witherspoon)."
Witherspoon and Graves decided to split the rent with Sk8 Church. Construction began after the other half was paid by the grant.
"This is the start of the dream," Buck Chavarria said as he surveyed the empty space buzzing with Sk8 Church youths taping off overhead lights in preparation for painting and building scaffolding over the first ramp installed in the building as they put padding in place.
Once the space is complete, the Chavarrias want to use the 4,800 square feet, including a 2,000-square-foot skate park, for Sk8 Church's weekly meetings and meals. As the project progresses, they also want to open the building to outside groups. In evenings when the groups aren't using the space, they hope to also open the skate park as a teen rec center. The mini-ramp, bowl, rail and other skate features could be used for skate clinics, and the offices could be used by social workers to hold meetings with at-risk teens, the Chavarrias said.
The new building also is along the bus line, creating easier access for teens who can't drive. The space will be drug- and alcohol-free, and all volunteers will be screened before working.
Several of those plans are months from realization, but after an anonymous donor provided rent and utilities for 18 months, the work can begin.
Tara Chavarria said that since the construction started, other donations have come pouring in, including design work from Vertical Arts, painting from Spiegel & Son and donations of metal and other materials from businesses across town.
In the shell of an office at the back of the space, there is a list of additional donations the center still needs: couches, tables, chairs and other basic materials still are on the list but coming in every day.
By having a building, the church also hopes to expand its membership. Brooke Johnston, 16, said she isn't a skateboarder but that she continues to attend the church's weekly meetings because it feels more comfortable than a traditional church setting and that she likes the people who go there.
"What Buck and Tara are trying to do in the community really struck me," she said.
In a more laid-back service and environment, "you can be yourself completely," she said.
The church also has been a saving force for some members, including 21-year-old Dakota McBryar, who moved to Steamboat two years ago to kick a heroine addiction.
"It's just a great, sober environment," he said, and the church, along with the Chavarrias, has helped him change his life.
"The path I was on before I met them, I'd probably be dead" by now, he said.
He said that since he joined the church a year ago, he has found it to be a safe environment and that he now hopes to mentor younger members as the church grows.
Luke Anderson, who has been a member of Sk8 Church since it began, said he expects the congregation to grow and noted that it will be the only real indoor skate park in the area.
"I've gone to parking garages, and otherwise you have to go to Denver," to skate in the winter, he said.
With the lounge, complete with computers and a gaming area, Anderson said the church and space likely would draw more teens.
"I think it will bring a lot more people here, not just Sk8 Church," he said.
After the skate church building is up and operating, the church then faces the challenge of making the operation sustainable. Buck and Tara Chavarria said they would look to grants and other private donations to be able to continue the operation after the 18-month grant expires. Tara Chavarria said the church could prove itself in those 18 months.
"We can show the community why we need it and what we're going to do so we have more credibility when we ask for more," she said.
A grand opening is tentatively planned for March after the skate park is built and the space is renovated.
To make donations, or for more information, call the new Sk8 Church office at 879-2222.