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.
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