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Black Diamond Closing 'Devastates' Kids and Parents

The expansion of the theater at the Moorestown Mall is driving out the decade-old skatepark, but the owner's not giving up on a South Jersey location.

After more than a decade serving the local (and not-so-local) skateboarding/biking community, the skatepark at the Moorestown Mall will shut down permanently March 31.

The park, originally owned by Vans, was bought by Dan McCollister in December 2006 and reopened as Black Diamond Skatepark. Since then, the park has in many ways thrived—while other parks floundered—due in part to its status as one of the very few indoor skateparks in southern New Jersey.

However, following the in November, PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust) has moved full steam ahead with its plan to rebrand the mall with the addition of four new restaurants and . Unfortunately for Black Diamond, it sits behind the existing four-screen theater—right where PREIT wants to put eight new screens.

McCollister—who owns two other Black Diamond skateparks at Franklin Mills Mall, in Pennsylvania, and Discover Mills Mall in Atlanta, GA—isn’t bitter about PREIT’s decision to terminate his lease.

“Is it what we would like to see happen? Absolutely not … So we’re sad to see it go,” he said. “(PREIT) made a business decision. I can’t fault them for that. I’m a businessman myself. I can’t fault them for doing what they think is best for their business.”

McCollister’s patrons, using the Black Diamond Facebook page as a forum to vent, have been a little less diplomatic and a little more colorful with their language.

“There is nowhere else to skate! This sucks!” wrote one boy.

“NOO!! This is horrible!!” wrote another.

“Take away something that keeps people active and incorporate something that makes them lazier .. makes sense .... sorry to hear,” one commenter wrote, followed by another who simply wrote, “Occupy movie theater.”

The page is filled with dozens of other comments—several of which are unfit to print on Patch—all following the same general theme: “This sucks.”

“I’ve been coming here all my life. It’s sad, man,” said Luke LeMire, of Tabernacle, taking a break from his two-hour skate session at Black Diamond Wednesday night.

Nick Clark, 18, of Reading, makes the hour-plus drive to the skatepark about once a month because it’s the closest indoor park he actually likes. It’s a shame to close the park, he said, because skateboarding is “one of the hardest sports to do because people are always giving you a hard time … and now they’re going to get mad when they’re skating in the streets.”

Kim Filderman, of Clementon, said her sons—Shawn, 24, and Jake, 9—have grown up at Black Diamond. Jake wants to be a professional biker, so he’s at Black Diamond about five times a week, Filderman said. Everyone knows him. The older kids have taken him under their wing.

“I am devastated,” she said. “All these kids I’ve gotten to know.”

“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Jake’s grandmother, Christine Deevey, “to see them do away with something that’s so good for the kids.”

In fairness, McCollister said PREIT is working with him to relocate the Moorestown skatepark to Plymouth Meeting Mall, which PREIT also owns.

“That is their desire and our desire to do,” he said. “Nothing has been signed yet, but everything has been agreed to in principle.”

But that still leaves South Jersey minus an indoor skatepark (Moorestown has an outdoor skatepark—David Gentile Skatepark at ). McCollister said he’s looking for another location in the area and has received a couple emails about specific spots—including one in Moorestown—but nothing’s panned out yet.

Cathy Fierro, of Moorestown, said her 12-year-old son is also “devastated” by the closing of the park, so she’s “trying to beat the drum a little.”

Fierro supported PREIT’s referendums—believing it was best for the mall—but said she feels somewhat ambivalent now that she realizes the skatepark will be closed as a consequence.

“We came together on the liquor licenses … can’t we come together on this?” she said. “You talk about losing a skatepark, and the reaction is, ‘Oh, we don’t want those kids’ ... It’s really a nice group of kids that skate there. They’re not ‘those’ kids.”

Fierro said she approached the township, including director Theresa Miller, to see what could be done to save or relocate the skatepark. But since Black Diamond is a private enterprise, Miller said it’s not her place to get involved.

McCollister plans to move the retail side of Black Diamond’s business to Main Street in early March, right next to .

“That’s a sure, sure thing,” he said.

For more information about Black Diamond and its plans ahead of the closing, visit their webpage or Facebook page

John K January 19, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Thanks for the clarification and update, Rob.
Our Town January 19, 2012 at 10:42 PM
What's ironic is exchanging one cyclical business for one that is in the midst of a documented, steady decline. Skateboarders remain the red-headed step child of youth sports. Make way kids, a business decision was made to coddle a saturated market segment that enjoyed a 20% decline since 2010, so grind your way out to the parking lot and into the waiting arms of mall security for you are no longer welcomed here. Just wait until the shop opens on Main St. Applause from me for taking one of the many empty shops and making a business out of it, but oh will the pages of patch fill up quickly when the "we must get those dastardly kids and their damaging skateboards off our beloved Main St.", ninny set comes along. I say good luck to the owner. I spent many a year skating along when the only parks were Reading or later, Cheapskates. As I said, the popularity of skating comes and goes in cycles but one thing that remains, skaters will always be forced to make way for more palpable activities.
Laura Brodsky January 20, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Our Town- do you feel that the decision was made in an effort to get rid of the skaters? Were they causing any issues? I never saw any. I do agree, however, that with the state of movies being in rapid and consistent decline, a decision to invest this kind of money in a movie theater while also closing down a business that brings in a lot of foot traffic to the mall seems poorly conceived, at best. People go to the movies and leave. They don't then wander the mall. When the kids go to skate, they eat at the food court, perhaps visit the stores- for those kids that don't drive, the parent that drives them may spend the time shopping. It just doesn't add up.
Mall Fan January 20, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Interesting Laura ,, you think that the "skaters and bikers" will provide business to stores in the mall? Come on, the kids come in with their groups for which some have run unto people with their dirt bikes. And they leave together. This is as bad of an argument that when preit reps stated that "fine dining" restaurant customers will all shop at the stores before or after their meals. Really? That usually doesn't happen either . They will be there for the eats and booze and usually won't go shopping as well. As stared before, I don't think that they feel skaters and bikers" mix well with "fine dining".
Our Town January 23, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Hi Laura, As a long time skater in my younger days, I don't think the mall is intentionally targeting skaters to run them out but I'm under no allusion that anyone other than the skaters is losing sleep over it. Of all the times I've eaten at the food court, I've seen loads of kids from the park taking breaks to buy lunch, dinner, or simply a drink. How many movie goers are doing the same? The skatepark happens to be standing in the way of 'development'. I highlight development because usually that word signifies a positive step forward, perhaps skaters aren't floating a large amount of commerce towards the mall, but I can't imagine that injecting millions into a facility catering to a (documented) dying industry is going to keep commerce flowing to the mall over the long term. Another movie theater showing the same movies as what 4 other theater complexes within a few mile radius? I question the business accumen that deems this a prudent decision. Let's see, is it going to be Chipmunks 132 in 4D Aromascope at 7:15pm at Loews Cherry Hill or at 7:20pm in Moorestown? Decisions, decisions. In the meantime Moorestown's loss may be Cinnaminson's gain as their officials step up with the novel idea of actually courting business to their community to fill their vacancies. Perhaps Moorestown is above such nonsense, content to keep referring to some obscure rating from half a decade ago, from a magazine no one reads outside of a dentist's office.

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