BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — In May 2016, Andrew Wichterman and his friends had to close the only indoor skate park in the city: Battleground Skate House. It was on Michigan Avenue and within 2 1/2 years it'd become a hotspot among the skating, indoor-action sports crowd. However it was too costly to keep open. By November, that will all change.
“It’ll feel nice,” laughed Wichterman. “We’ve had kids all over us. They wanted to know when we’re going to re-open, if we’re going to re-open.”
Battleground, as everyone called the nonprofit organization, has found a new home at Lakeview Square Mall and is scheduled to open on November 1. Wichterman said talks about relocating to the mall began back in January. They’ve raised $27,000 — since closing last year — and have already moved into the 9,000 square foot space. Passersby in the mall have already peeped their heads inside to get a sneak peak.
“It’s been pretty intense,” said Wichterman about the response. “[Our] FaceBook page has had close 20,000 hits.”
The new space, which was once a woman’s clothing store, is already filled with lumber for the new ramps. Wichterman said they’re planning to hire the labor to get that done before November and then tear down the ceiling, which will give them an extra 4-6 feet more room to do flips and tricks.
“At the old site on a busy day we’d have 100 skaters and parents come through our door,” said Wichterman. “So I think it’ll help the foot traffic because they’ll come and they’ll stay for 2-3 hours.”
In recent months, Lakeview Square Mall on Beckley Road has lost two of its biggest stores: Macy’s and J.C. Penney. Wichterman hopes their business will attract others to the mall.
“I think some of these places that are struggling are going to have to go to the activity-oriented or experience-oriented things to make it,” said Wichterman. “That’s one of the reasons I think we fit well is we’ll bring a lot of people in.”
Wichterman hosted a open house Wednesday night about Battleground at their new location. There they talked about the logistics of the organization: when they'll re-open, offering church for teens on Tuesdays -- like they did in past -- and emphasized the focus will alway be on the youth.
“The ministry is very important and near and dear to us,” said Wichterman. “I set this up to really be therapeutic for some kids. You come in, you’re accepted. You’re welcomed. You have a family now.”